In the OPTIMAL theory of motor learning [Wulf, G., & Lewthwaite, R. (2016). Optimizing performance through intrinsic motivation and attention for learning: The OPTIMAL theory of motor learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 23, 1382-1414], 3 factors are postulated to facilitate learning: enhanced expectancies (EE) for performance, autonomy support (AS), and an external focus (EF) of attention. In 3 recent studies, combinations of 2 of these variables resulted in superior learning relative to the presence of only 1 variable, or none. We examined whether the combination of all 3 factors would enhance learning relative to combinations of 2 factors. Our design included EE-AS, EE-EF, AS-EF, and AS-EE-EF groups. Participants threw balls at a target with their non-dominant arm. In the EE conditions, they received positive social-comparative feedback. In the AS conditions, they were allowed to throw with their dominant arm on trial blocks chosen by them. In the EF conditions, participants were asked to focus on the target. On a delayed retention test, the AS-EE-EF group outperformed all other groups. The findings provide evidence that enhanced expectancies, autonomy support, and an external focus can contribute in an additive fashion to optimize motor learning.
Keywords: Choice; Dopamine; Motor performance; Throwing.