Especial Skills: Specificity Embedded Within Generality

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Katherine M. Keetch McMaster University

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Timothy D. Lee McMaster University

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Richard A. Schmidt University of California at Los Angeles

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Recent evidence suggests that massive amounts of practice of the basketball free throw (a “set shot”) results in the development of a specific memory representation that is unique to this one shot distance and angle, and that is distinct from set shots taken at locations other than the free throw line. We termed this unique capability an especial skill. In this article, we review the evidence and provide new data regarding the existence of especial skills. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for motor control theory and in terms of the broader context of specificity versus generality in the learning of motor skills.

Keetch and Lee are with the Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada, and Schmidt is with Human Performance Research, Los Angeles, and the Psychology Department, University of California, Los Angeles, CA.

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