Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Optimizing Generalized Motor Program and Parameter Learning

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Optimizing Generalized Motor Program and Parameter Learning

Article excerpt

Two experiments examined generalized motor program (GMP) and parameter learning. Experiment 1 examined the effects of bandwidth knowledge of results (KR) about relative timing in constant and variable practice. The purpose was to determine if movement stability created by the bandwidth manipulation is associated with increased GMP learning and if bandwidth KR interacts with constant and variable practice. Participants were asked to depress four keys sequentially, using the same relative timing structure. Constant practice had one absolute timing requirement, whereas variable practice had three different absolute timing requirements. The results indicated that GMP learning was enhanced by constant practice (independent of the bandwidth KR condition) and by bandwidth KR, when variable practice was used. The findings suggest practice conditions (bandwidth KR, constant practice) that increase movement stability during practice enhance GMP learning. Parameter learning (during transfer), however, was enhanced by va riable practice. Experiment 2 attempted to determine how constant and variable practice conditions could be combined to enhance both GMP and parameter learning. The results indicated that developing a stable GMP early in practice--by providing learners with constant practice early in practice--and refining parameter learning later in practice--by providing them with variable practice late in practice--were effective for both GMP and parameter learning. This suggests a hierarchy in the development of programmed actions with a stable GMP being a requisite for developing an effective and stable parameter rule.

Key words: bandwidth knowledge of results, movement parameters, constant practice, variability of practice

A series of papers by Wulf and her colleagues (e.g., Wulf 1992; Wulf, Lee, & Schmidt, 1994; Wulf & Schmidt, 1989; Wulf, Schmidt, & Deubel, 1993; also see Lai & Shea, 1998) examined the effects of reduced frequency of knowledge of results (KR) in variable practice on motor performance and learning. In each experiment in this series, Wulf and her colleagues consistently demonstrated that reduced KR frequency enhanced the learning of the relative features of the movement (e.g., relative timing, relative force) but had no effect on, or even degraded, the learning of the absolute characteristics of the movement (e.g., absolute timing, absolute force).

Wulf et al. (1994), for example, asked participants to produce a 4-key sequence in either 900 (Task A), 1,125 (Task B), or 1,350 ms (Task C) with a relative timing structure of 22.2, 44.4, and 33.3% for all tasks. They manipulated the relative frequency of relative and absolute timing KR (50 % vs. 100 %) during serial (A, B, C, A, B, C...) practice. The 50% relative frequency of KR groups received KR for one sequence (A, B, C), with KR withheld on the subsequent sequence of three trials. Of particular concern for the present experiments were the findings related to manipulating the KR frequency about relative timing. The analysis indicated that relative timing errors were reduced during acquisition, delayed retention, and delayed transfer for the groups receiving reduced frequency of relative timing KR compared to the groups receiving relative timing KR after each trial. As might be expected, because absolute timing KR was not manipulated for these groups, the manipulation of relative timing KR did not resul t in acquisition, delayed retention, or delayed transfer differences in absolute timing. These findings, which were consistent with the results of their earlier experiments (e.g., Wulf, 1992; Wulfet al., 1993), have proven to be a remarkably stable finding under variable practice conditions.

These experiments are particularly interesting for two theoretical reasons. First, the experiments evaluate performance on the basis of the relative and absolute dimensions of the task. This is important, because these dimensions coincide with theoretical constructs developed as an outgrowth of schema theory (Schmidt, 1975). …

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