Task Difficulty and the Time Scales of Motor Learning

Open Access
Joseph, Morina
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Karl Maxim Newell, Thesis Supervisor
  • Stephen Jacob Piazza, Honors Advisor
  • performance dynamics
  • fast time scale
  • slow time scale
  • task difficulty
Performance dynamics of learning can be decomposed into a slow time scale of persistent change over trials and sessions and a fast time scale of warm-up that appears at the beginning of a practice session. Purpose: To investigate the influence of task difficulty on the slow time scale of learning and the fast time scale of warm-up. Methods: Subjects (N = 24, 18-22 years old) were randomly assigned to groups, that were based on task difficulty, of easy, medium, and hard. The subjects completed a star tracing task for 40 trials per day over 3 consecutive days of practice. Results: Overall, movement time decreased over trials and days, with the largest movement times in the hard condition and the smallest in the easy condition. In addition, the hard condition had the most errors followed by the medium condition then the easy condition. Warm-up decrement appeared at the beginning of each practice session. Warm-up decrement in the hard condition was smaller than the warm-up in the other two conditions, but there was no difference in the exponent of the fast or slow time scales as a function of task difficulty. Conclusion: Task difficulty progressively affected the level of performance, but not the fast and slow time scales.