The contextual interference effect in acquisition of dart-throwing skill tested on a transfer test with extended trials

Percept Mot Skills. 2001 Jun;92(3 Pt 1):910-8. doi: 10.2466/pms.2001.92.3.910.


Previous studies of contextual interference have shown that practicing several motor skills randomly (high contextual interference) facilitates retention and transfer in comparison to practicing the same tasks in a blocked order (low contextual interference). However, many studies have not supported this phenomenon in motor learning, and some researchers have questioned whether the effect can be tested by using only a few trials on the transfer test. The present study used a different methodological approach in which the number of test trials was increased to assess whether the contextual interference effect is sustained over an extended number of trials in the transfer phase. Undergraduate students (N=32) were randomly allocated to either a blocked or random group. The participants practiced 80 acquisition trials in the dart-throwing task from distances of 300 cm and 420 cm, using two different grips. The transfer test after a 10-min. interval consisted of 40 trials with a new grip at a distance of 360 cm. The results did not support the contextual interference effect since there were no significant differences between groups on transfer. These findings suggest that the contextual interference effect may not be a global learning phenomenon which can be generalized to all learning situations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Play and Playthings*
  • Random Allocation