Details of Thesis

Title The Effects of Contextual Interference and Variability of Practice on the Acquisition of a Motor Task and Transfer to a Novel Task
Author Wrathall, Stephen
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2004
Abstract AIM  The purpose of this experiment is to assess whether the advantages of variable practice are due to schema formation or to enhanced information processing (contextual interference) alone.  DESIGN  The design involved a 2 (mode; cognitive and motor) x 5 (practice schedule; blocked, random, constant distance one, constant distance two, and constant distance three) between subjects design resulting in ten groups. One hundred participants were randomly chosen from Human Movement students at Australian Catholic University and assigned to each of the ten groups (n=10).  The cognitive mode involved the participants having to recognise the appropriate target from three geometrical shapes (triangle, square or circle), the triangle being the target in every case. The motor mode involved the participants having to tap on the target among three boxes that was merely filled in. The experiment consisted of ninety (3 blocks of 30) acquisition trials followed by ten transfer trials to a novel movement.  MAIN HYPOTHESIS  It was hypothesised that if facilitated transfer to a novel target occurs through schema formation, then there would be no differences between the motor groups and their corresponding cognitive groups. However, if facilitated transfer to a novel target occurs through enhanced information processing, then there would be differences between the motor groups and their corresponding cognitive groups.  RESULTS  Statistical analysis revealed a contextual interference effect for participants involved in the cognitive mode, in that the cognitive blocked group outperformed the cognitive random group in acquisition, but the reverse was the case in transfer. In the motor mode, the motor blocked group outperformed the motor random group in acquisition, and repeated the performance in transfer.  CONCLUSION  The results appear to indicate that for simple motor tasks it is the amount of variability of practice that is important for transfer to a novel task, while for tasks with a cognitive component, the schedule of practice is critical.
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