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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Perceptions of performance success and motor learning Ong, Nicole Tai Tee


Though acknowledged to play a role in motor learning, motivation was thought to mainly exert temporary energizing effects on performance. More recently, motivational-related factors have been shown to impact motor learning more directly. Perceptions of success, somewhat independent of actual success and errors in practice, have impacted what learners retain over time. The aim of my thesis was to study how motor learning is affected by the subjective perceptions of errors and success over the course of learning and to test between competing theories and mechanisms which might underlie such advantages. In Studies 1-3, I manipulated dart-throwing practice difficulty by varying distance progressions (near-to-far/easy-to-difficult or far-to-near) and target size (large or small). These manipulations had no impact on performance or learning in all three studies, despite the fact that in Studies 2 and 3, perceptions of success had changed (i.e., perceived self-efficacy and competency). Due to the saliency of veridical error feedback (i.e., actual landing position), which could have moderated the effects of target size manipulations and the variability inherent in dart throwing accuracy, in Studies 4 and 5 I switched to study learning on a balance task. I manipulated the criteria used for feedback about success (accuracy) and compared groups that differed on the stringency of this criteria (fixed across practice or increasing/decreasing). Neither absolute changes to feedback, nor changes in the stringency affected behavioural measures of learning. Study 5 was a replication and extension of a well-cited study claiming benefits for comparative (better or worse than average), success-related feedback. Despite our ability to successfully change competency perceptions and intrinsic motivation, I did not replicate the behavioural results in terms of improved learning. Overall, these studies do not support predictions emanating from current theories about errors, success and learning (i.e., OPTIMAL theory and reinvestment theory). For success manipulations to impact learning behaviours, it is likely that tasks or groups are required where motivation to do well is low to start and/or no other performance indicators are present. Given these current data, I would recommend that efforts be directed to learning improvements through changes to actual behaviours, rather than perceptions.

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