Perceptions of competence and motor learning: performance criterion resulting in low success experience degrades learning

  • Suzete Chiviacowsky Federal University of Pelotas
  • Natália Maass Harter Federal University of Pelotas


Recent findings have provided converging evidence for the important role of perceptions of competence on motor learning. In the present study we asked whether thwarting learners’ need to feel competent by setting a relatively high criterion for “good†performance, thereby reducing their experience of success, would degrade learning. Participants practiced a coincident-anticipation timing task and received error feedback after every other trial (50%) during the practice phase. One group (low success or LS) was informed before the beginning of practice that an error of 4 ms or less would be considered a good trial, whereas another group (high success or HS) was told that an error of 30 ms or less would be considered good performance. A third (control) group was not given a performance criterion. During practice, participants in the LS and HS groups experienced good performance (i.e., were within their criterion range) on 6.3% and 57.8% of the feedback trials, respectively. On retention and transfer (non-dominant hand) tests without feedback one day after practice, absolute errors of the HS and control groups were significantly lower than those of the LS group. Participants in the HS group reported higher levels of self-efficacy than LS and control group participants. The results demonstrate that reducing learners’ opportunities to experience success during practice degraded learning. 


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