The specificity and generalizability of practice when learning a motor task: A scoping review


Results in the motor learning literature regarding which types of tasks are specific to the context in which they are learned, and those that are generalizable to other tasks or contexts, are mixed and unclear. The purpose of this scoping review is to examine the range of results from studies in the existing literature that seek to assess how well a learned motor skill is transferable to a novel skill, task or context. The inclusion criteria for this scoping review include experiments using any motor task, a transfer task, and a retention period of at least 24 hours. The initial search contained 1266 articles. After removing duplicates, 946 abstracts were screened resulting in 345 full text assessments. Of these, 135 articles satisfied all inclusion criteria and are therefore included in this review. These articles are categorized into four broad categories: Those revealing no change (previous skill had no impact on the new skill); positive transfer (previous skill was beneficial to learning the new skill), negative transfer (previous skill was detrimental to learning the new skill), or mixed outcomes. Results of this review suggest that 36% of studies resulted in positive transfer, 25% resulted in no change, 25% in mixed results, and 14% of studies resulted in a negative transfer. These general classification results will be discussed in greater detail in the context of a taxonomy of underlying conditions that appear common to either specificity or generalizability of motor learning.

Acknowledgments: NSERC