Self-controlled feedback is effective if it is based on the learner's performance: A replication and extension of Chiviacowsky & Wulf (2005)


Self-controlled feedback schedules are more effective for motor learning compared to yoked schedules. These advantages have been attributed to motivational and/or cognitive processes with many researchers adopting the motivational perspective in recent years. However, Chiviacowsky and Wulf (2005) found that retention but not transfer performance could be equally optimised when the feedback decision is made before or after a trial. Chiviacowsky and Wulf (2005) concluded that motivational factors resulted in the similar retention performance, but the learning advantages of deciding after a trial as evidenced in transfer was hypothesised to emerge from cognitive processes. Here, we tested whether a positive additive effect of motivational and cognitive processes is a viable hypothesis for the learning benefits of self-controlled feedback. To this end, we included a Self-Both group that was able to request feedback before a trial but could then change or stay with their original choice after the trial. We also replicated the Self-Before and Self-After groups used in Chiviacowsky and Wulf (2005) whose decision was restricted to only before or after a trial, respectively. Corresponding Yoked groups were included for each Self-controlled group. Participants practiced a target aiming task whereby a slider was propelled down a track to a target distance with their non-dominant hand in the absence of vision. Contrary to the additive hypothesis, the Self-Both group did not outperform the other Self-controlled groups. Instead, the Self-After and Self-Both groups were not significantly different, but both demonstrated superior learning than the Self-Before group and their respective Yoked counterparts (p’s < .05). These findings indicate that the cognitive processes engaged during practice when participants are permitted to make their feedback decision following motor performance resulted in superior learning. These findings suggest that cognitive rather than motivational processes may have greater relative contributions to the learning benefits of self-controlled feedback schedules.

Acknowledgments: Funded by NSERC