Maxwell, J., Aston University, UK and Masters, R., University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR
Two studies examined whether the number of errors made in learning a motor skill, golf putting, differentially influences the adoption of a selective (explicit) or unselective (implicit) learning mode. Errorful learners were expected to adopt an explicit, hypothesis testing strategy to correct errors during learning, thereby, accruing a pool of verbalisable rules and exhibiting performance breakdown under dual task conditions, characteristic of a selective mode of learning. Reducing errors during learning was predicted to minimise the involvement of explicit, hypothesis testing leading to the adoption of an unselective mode of learning, distinguished by few verbalisable rules and robust performance under secondary task loading. Both studies supported these predictions. The golf-putting performance of errorless learners in both studies was unaffected by the imposition of a secondary task load, whereas, the performance of errorful learners deteriorated. Reducing errors during learning limited the number of error correcting hypotheses tested by the learner, thereby reducing the contribution of explicit processing to skill acquisition. It was concluded that the reduction of errors during learning encourages the use of implicit, unselective learning processes, which confer insusceptibility to performance breakdown under distraction.