Probing the allocation of attention in implicit (motor) learning

J Sports Sci. 2010 Dec;28(14):1543-54. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2010.517543.


We investigated the attention demands associated with implicit and explicit (motor) learning and performance using a probe reaction time paradigm. Two groups of participants learned a golf putting task over eight blocks of 50 trials performed from different distances. One group (errorless learning) began putting from the shortest distance (25 cm) and moved progressively back to the furthest distance (200 cm). A second group (errorful learning) began putting from the furthest distance (200 cm) and moved progressively closer (25 cm). Retention tests were used to assess learning in the two conditions, followed by transfer tests in which participants used either an unusual putter or a very unusual putter. Transfer to the unusual putters had an equivalent effect on the performance of both errorless and errorful learners, but probe reaction times were unaffected in the errorless learners, suggesting that execution of their movements was associated with reduced attention demands. Reducing errors during initial learning trials may encourage an implicit mode of learning and lower the demand for cognitive resources in subsequent performance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Female
  • Golf / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Motor Skills*
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Reaction Time*
  • Transfer, Psychology
  • Young Adult