The Effect of Rewards and Punishments on Learning Action Selection and Execution Components of a Motor Skill

in Journal of Motor Learning and Development
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  • 1 Auburn University
  • | 2 University of Utah
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It is unknown whether rewards improve the capability to select appropriate targets for one’s movement (action selection) and/or the movement itself (action execution). Thus, we devised an experimental task wherein participants categorized a complex visual stimulus to determine toward which one of two targets to execute an action (putt a golf ball) on each trial under one of three conditions: reward, punishment, or neutral. After practicing the task under their assigned condition, participants performed an immediate, 24-hr, and 7-day post-test. Results revealed participants putted to the correct target more frequently during the post-tests than the first practice block, and putted more accurately during the post-tests than a pretest. However, the condition in which participants practiced did not moderate post-test performance (for either task component). Additionally, motivation scores explained action selection and action execution for the immediate post-test performance but not long-term retention, suggesting that motivation might be related to immediate performance, but not long-term learning. Further, the present task may be useful for researchers studying action selection and execution, since the task yielded learning effects that could be moderated by factors of interest.

Bacelar and Miller are with the School of Kinesiology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. Lohse is with the Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation, and the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA. Miller is also with the Center for Neuroscience Initiative, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA.

Bacelar (mzf0029@auburn.edu) is corresponding author.
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