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Research Article

Learning a Motor Skill: Effects of Blocked Versus Random Practice a Review

Authors:

Sarah Merbah ,

Neuropsychology Unit, Department of Cognitive Science, University of Liège, BE
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Thierry Meulemans

Neuropsychology Unit, Department of Cognitive Science, University of Liège, BE
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Abstract

Procedural learning refers to the ability to learn new perceptual, motor or cognitive skills. While many studies have explored procedural learning abilities in patients with different types of brain damage, the cognitive mechanisms involved in the acquisition of a new skill are still not well understood. The present review focuses on the conditions that optimise skill acquisition, and more specifically on the contextual interference effect (CIE), which refers to the advantage of a 'random' over a 'blocked' practice condition in skill learning tasks. According to both the 'elaboration' and 'reconstruction' hypotheses, the CIE can be explained by the fact that the random schedule requires more cognitive activity than the blocked one. However, if the CIE has been consistently demonstrated in laboratory studies, it is not so clear in field-based studies. We discuss this 'laboratory and field dilemma', and suggest that two main factors – task complexity and individual variables – may explain the discrepancy between the two types of studies.
How to Cite: Merbah, S. & Meulemans, T., (2011). Learning a Motor Skill: Effects of Blocked Versus Random Practice a Review. Psychologica Belgica. 51(1), pp.15–48. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/pb-51-1-15
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Published on 01 Feb 2011.
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