Binary feedback prevents a self-controlled learning advantage


Giving learners the opportunity to control their feedback schedule during practice can lead to improved learning compared to when learners are not given this same choice opportunity. Within their "OPTIMAL" theory of motor learning, Wulf and Lewthwaite (2016) have argued that the mere opportunity for choice gives rise to this so-called self-controlled learning advantage as it creates an autonomy-supportive practice environment. To date, researchers have always provided error or finely-graded (e.g., -127 ms) feedback relative to the task goal(s) with self-controlled feedback schedules. As such, it has been difficult to dissociate any benefits arising from choice itself (Wulf & Lewthwaite, 2016) and those from the informational value, or usefulness, of an error feedback schedule (Carter & Ste-Marie, 2017). Here, we provided participants in a self-controlled group (n = 38) choice over a binary (i.e., hit or miss) feedback schedule to provide task-relevant feedback with low informational value. Participants in a yoked control group (n = 38) received the same feedback schedule created by a self-controlled participant, but without choice. All participants practiced a rapid elbow extension task to a 40 degree target in exactly 225 ms. Motor learning was assessed using retention (same task as practice) and transfer (same timing goal but 60 degree target) tests. Results revealed no group differences in practice, retention, or transfer, and neither group showed performance improvements in practice. Although the groups were not statistically equivalent, these findings are difficult to reconcile with the "OPTIMAL" theory and question the robustness of the so-called self-controlled learning advantage.

Acknowledgments: NSERC