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Dana Maslovat, Romeo Chua, Timothy D. Lee, and Ian M. Franks

This experiment examined contextual interference in producing a bimanual coordination pattern of 90° relative phase. Acquisition, retention, and transfer performance were compared in a single-task control group and groups that performed 2 tasks in either a blocked or random presentation. Surprisingly, acquisition data revealed that both the random and control groups outperformed the blocked group. Retention data showed a typical CI effect for performance variability, with the random group outperforming the blocked group. Neither the random nor blocked groups outperformed the control group, suggesting interference of a second task may be as beneficial to learning as extra practice on the initial task. No group effects were found during transfer performance. Results suggest that random practice is beneficial for learning only one task.

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Saša Krstulović, Andrea De Giorgio, Óscar DelCastillo Andrés, Emerson Franchini, and Goran Kuvačić

considerable decrease in the risk of fall-related injuries. In the motor learning field, numerous factors can influence the efficacy of skill practice. One of the learning phenomena that occurs during multiple skills practice is the contextual interference effect (CI). The interference is created when motor

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Jacqueline M. Edwards, Digby Elliott, and Timothy D. Lee

An experiment is reported that investigated the effects of contextual interference on motor skill acquisition, and transfer of training in Down’s syndrome adolescents. Twenty Down’s syndrome adolescents and 20 nonhandicapped mental age controls learned a coincident anticipation timing task using either a random or a blocked training schedule. For transfer to a novel but similar task, subjects from both populations evidenced beneficial effects due to random practice. These data are discussed in terms of recent developments for strategy enhancement in motor learning by mentally retarded individuals.

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David L. Porretta

This study investigated the effects of contextual interference on the immediate transfer and 2-day retention of a bean bag tossing task by mildly mentally handicapped children. A total of 24 boys and 24 girls with a mean chronological age of 10.2 years were randomly assigned to either a blocked, serial, or random practice condition. Following 48 practice trials with bean bags of various weights, subjects were transferred to two novel weighted bean bags. Both transfer and retention analyses showed that subjects in the random practice condition exhibited less error than subjects in either the blocked or serial practice conditions. However, these differences were not significant. Boys performed with significantly less error than girls on both transfer and retention, while regardless of gender, the heavier weighted bean bag resulted in significantly less error on transfer only. Results provide marginal support for the contention that greater contextual interference (random practice) leads to better transfer and retention than other types of practice conditions.

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Mary A. Painter, Kathleen B. Inman, and William J. Vincent

The effects of contextual interference on motor skill acquisition and retention were examined in 24 subjects (mean age 13.9 years) with mild mental retardation and 24 chronologically age-matched subjects (mean age 13.11 years) with no disabilities. Subjects from each group were assigned randomly to either a blocked or a random practice schedule. All subjects performed 15 practice trials for each of three different beanbag throwing tasks, 45 trials total. Following a 10-min filled retention interval, 2 trials of each throw (6 total) were performed in a random order by all subjects. Accuracy scores were measured as absolute error from the target. The data revealed a significant interaction between ability groups and practice schedule. Post hoc analyses revealed that the retention scores of the mildly mentally handicapped subjects practicing under blocked conditions were significantly less accurate than scores of any of the other three acquisition groups. Significant effects in variable error retention scores indicated that subjects in the random practice condition performed more consistently than subjects in the blocked condition.

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Robert W. Christina

By 1967, motor control and learning researchers had adopted an information processing (IP) approach. Central to that research was understanding how movement information was processed, coded, stored, and represented in memory. It also was centered on understanding motor control and learning in terms of Fitts’ law, closed-loop and schema theories, motor programs, contextual interference, modeling, mental practice, attentional focus, and how practice and augmented feedback could be organized to optimize learning. Our constraints-based research from the 1980s into the 2000s searched for principles of “self-organization”, and answers to the degrees-of-freedom problem, that is, how the human motor system with so many independent parts could be controlled without the need for an executive decision maker as proposed by the IP approach. By 2007 we were thinking about where the IP and constraints-based views were divergent and complementary, and whether neural-based models could bring together the behavior and biological mechanisms underlying the processes of motor control and learning.

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April Karlinsky and Nicola J. Hodges

Giving learners a choice over how to schedule practice benefits motor learning. Here we studied peer scheduling to determine whether this benefit is related to the adaptive nature of practice or decisions about how to switch between skills. Forty-eight participants were paired and assigned to self- or peer-scheduled groups. Within each pair, one person (Actor) physically practiced 3 keystroke sequences, each with different timing goals. Self-scheduled Actors chose the sequence before each practice trial while their Partner watched. Peer-scheduled Actors had their practice directed by their Partner. Both peer schedulers and self-schedulers showed performance-dependent practice, making decisions to switch based on timing error. However, peer schedulers generally chose to switch more than self-schedulers although this was not related to retention for either group. Importantly, self-scheduled Actors did not differ in retention from peer-scheduled Actors, but the Actors generally performed with lower error in retention than that of their partners. Peer-scheduled practice was rated as more motivating and enjoyable than self-scheduled practice. In view of the lack of difference in retention and the positive ratings of peer-scheduled practice, we conclude that it is the adaptive nature of practice that is important for learning and that peer-directed practice is an effective alternative practice method to self-directed practice.

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Craig A. Wrisberg

Laboratory research in motor behavior has consistently demonstrated higher transfer when practice occurs under conditions of high contextual interference/variety (e.g., Lee & Magill, 1983; Shea & Morgan, 1979). In the present study, an attempt was made to determine whether contextual variety could be easily incorporated into a physical education class setting and whether it produced a significant influence on final skills-test performance. Four practice schedules differing in the amount of contextual variety were administered during a regular college physical education class. Beginning badminton students were matched for skill level and practiced the long and short serves according to their respective conditions at the beginning of each of six class periods. Students monitored each other’s practice sessions without significant alterations in normal class procedures. Conventional skills tests administered at the end of the semester revealed that the shortserve performance of the group receiving the highest level of contextual variety during practice was significantly superior to that of two of the other three conditions. The results are discussed in terms of possible theoretical significance for contextual-interference theory and practical relevance for physical education teachers.

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Patricia Del Rey and Deborah Stewart

An investigation was conducted with mildly mentally retarded subjects to investigate memory and transfer performance on a coincident timing task using 6- to 17-year-olds. Battig’s (1979) methodological and theoretical views on contextual interference were employed. Blocked and random practice schedules were administered during acquisition trials. In addition, a third acquisition group was created, identified as “sequenced,” which was characterized as a type of experimenter imposed strategy. This manipulation represented a practice schedule between blocked and random. The effects of these three practice schedules were investigated regarding their influence on retention and transfer. Support was found in retention for random acquisition and sequencing practice schedules. The use of strategic processes was viewed to have a positive impact on the retention of mentally retarded children and adolescents but the information was not transferable.

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Timothy D. Lee and Heather Carnahan

three influential research areas that emerged in the 1980s: contextual interference, augmented feedback, and constraints-led practice. In turn, these areas led either directly or indirectly to the plethora of motor learning research that we are seeing today. The most important contribution arose from