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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Motor learning through a social lens Karlinsky, April Davis


The goal of this dissertation was to study the impact of a co-learner on individuals’ motor performance, learning, and perceptions of the practice experience. In Experiment 1, we introduced “concurrent” practice, where partners practiced and observed one another simultaneously. Concurrent practice promoted movement coupling within pairs and was perceived as more interfering than individual and turn-taking practice of a balance-related task. However, these differences did not impact error during practice or testing. In Experiment 2, we studied whether matching or mismatching a partner is better for multi-skill learning. Partners practiced the same or different golf-putting skills in alternation. Although contextual interference would be higher for the mismatched group, mismatching did not modulate performance in practice or retention compared to matching or pure physical practice. In Experiments 3–5, we studied multi-skill learning when learners have control over how to practice. Experiment 3 tested self- versus peer-directed practice, when one partner practiced and the other passively observed or made task-switching decisions for the performer. Both self- and peer-schedulers made performance-dependent decisions, choosing to switch tasks based on timing error. Although peer-schedulers chose to switch more frequently, the groups did not differ in retention. In Experiments 4 and 5, we assessed the impact of a partner on self-directed practice choices, when partners switched turns after 9-trial blocks or after every trial. Self-directed learners showed partner-dependent practice, with the partner’s practice impacting sequence selection and switching frequency. Importantly, self-directed learners did not sacrifice the performance-dependent nature of their task-switching, suggesting that some practice behaviours are resistant to a partner’s practice while others are susceptible to modulation. Overall, this dissertation provides evidence that practice in pairs influences the practice decisions/behaviours of learners and provides efficiency benefits, as two people can be trained in the time otherwise devoted to one learner. However, practice in pairs did not improve learning compared to practice alone. Merely practicing with a partner, even if they exert some influence on decisions, was not enough to yield motor learning benefits for the individual. There is a need for well-powered studies to explore the conditions which might promote such benefits.

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