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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Attention demands across extended practice of a bimanual coordination task Bredin, Shannon Stephanie Deanne


Five experiments were conducted, the overall purpose of which was to examine the effects of practice on attention demands of a new bimanual coordination task. In Experiments 1-3 participants received 1, 000 trials to learn a 90° out-of-phase task. The secondary task from which attention demands were derived was probe reaction time (probe-RT). Although cognitive demands decreased with practice, results showed that performance of the 90° pattern continued to demand attention, even after extended practice. Similar results were found in Experiment 4 when examining the attentional costs of performing naturally occurring coordination tendencies (i.e., in-phase, anti-phase). These findings indicate that a minimal level of cognitive control is required for the execution of newly acquired bimanual coordination tasks, as well as for the performance of intrinsic coordination biases. These experiments also examined the influence of continuous on-line visual feedback on learning and attention demands. Individuals received concurrent visual feedback for 65% of each practice trial (Experiment 1) or for only 35% of each trial (Experiment 2). Results showed that participants were highly successful at producing the required task when visual feedback was available, but were less able to inhibit the influence of pre-practice biases whenever visual feedback was unavailable to guide performance. Experiment 3 examined the influence of manual guidance on performance of the 90° pattern under limited conditions of visual feedback. When participants' limbs were physically moved through the required movement via servo torque motors individuals were better able to break away from pre-existing tendencies. Finally, Experiment 5 revealed that probe-RT was slower when performing in the absence of visual feedback, in comparison to its presence. Attentional requirements also increased whenever the dominant source of feedback was changed within a trial, although adding visual feedback to the perceptual display resulted in only a temporary increase in probe-RT. In addition to examining the attention demands of bimanual coordination, these investigations highlight the importance of exploring instructional strategies that reduce the negative effects of pre-existing behavioural tendencies on the learning of new complex motor tasks.

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