Manipulating the characteristics of self-controlled feedback schedules


The "OPTIMAL" theory of motor learning suggests that self-controlled practice conditions—in which participants are asked to make task-relevant (e.g., feedback) or task-irrelevant (e.g., ball colour) choices during practice—enhance learning over no-choice yoked conditions because they support the learner's need for autonomy. Based on "OPTIMAL" theory, we predicted that participants in self-controlled groups would show enhanced learning relative to their yoked counterparts regardless of the characteristics of their feedback. One self-controlled group exercised choice over an error feedback schedule (e.g., -186 ms) and the other had choice over a graded feedback schedule (e.g., too fast). Corresponding yoked groups were collected. All participants (N=152) practiced an aiming task requiring a rapid 40-degrees extension movement in exactly 225 ms. Measures of intrinsic motivation, perceived competence, and perceived autonomy were collected before, during, and at the end of practice, and before the 24-hr retention and transfer tests. For the spatial and temporal goals, participants performed more accurately in the retention test than in the transfer test. We found a spatial learning advantage for graded feedback. Contrary to previous findings, we did not find a self-controlled learning advantage. Self-reported intrinsic motivation increased over time and participants who received error feedback reported higher perceived competence than those who received graded feedback. Consistent with previous findings, perceived autonomy was similar across groups. These data are not in line with tenets of the "OPTIMAL" theory and add to the growing evidence that self-controlled conditions should not be labelled as autonomy-supportive.

Acknowledgments: Supported by NSERC