Contextual Interference Effect in Motor Skill Learning: An Empirical and Computational Investigation

AbstractTo efficiently learn and retain motor skills, we can introduce contextual interference through interleaved practice. Interleaving tasks or stimuli initially hinders performance but leads to superior long-term retention. It is not yet clear if implicitly learned information also benefits from interleaving and how interleaved practice changes the representation of skills. The present study used a serial reaction time task where participants practiced three 8-item sequences that were either interleaved or blocked on Day 1 (training) and Day 2 (testing). An explicit recall test allowed us to post-hoc sort participants into two groups of learners: implicit learners recalled less items than did explicit learners. Significant decreasing monotonic trends, indicating successful learning, were observed in both training groups and both groups of learners. We found support for the benefit of interleaved practice on retention of implicit sequence learning, indicating that the benefit of interleaved practice does not depend on explicit memory retrieval. A Bayesian Sequential Learning model was adopted to model human performance. Both empirical and computational results suggest that explicit knowledge of the sequence was detrimental to retention when the sequences were blocked, but not when they were interleaved, suggesting that contextual interference may be a protective factor of interference of explicit knowledge. Slower learning in the interleaved condition may result in better retention and reduced interference of explicit knowledge on performance.

Return to previous page