The effects of practicing a motor skill with the expectation of teaching it: Benefits to skill learning, potential underlying mechanisms, and effects on skill performance under psychological pressure
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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This dissertation describes a program of research (consisted of five studies) that focused on investigating a practical technique intended to enhance individuals’ motor learning. Specifically, I examined whether learners who practice a skill with the expectation of teaching it to another person would exhibit superior learning relative to learners who practiced a skill with the expectation of being tested on it. The first two chapters reveal expecting to teach enhances motor learning, as indexed by skill accuracy and precision as well as declarative knowledge about the skill during posttests. Both experiments suggest the learning benefit cannot be attributed to motivation or pressure, but the second experiment suggests expecting to teach may enhance learning by increasing the amount of time participants spend preparing movements for practice trials. The third and fourth experiments further explored motor preparation as a potential mechanism underlying the learning benefit of expecting to teach. Taken together, however, these experiments suggest neither the length of motor preparation time during practice nor the cerebral cortical dynamics during motor preparation while practicing explain the learning benefit of expecting to teach. The fifth experiment investigated a potential pitfall of expecting to teach. Specifically, I examined whether learning a skill with the expectation of teaching it impairs the skill’s performance under psychological pressure, due to the gains in declarative knowledge about the skill caused by expecting to teach. Results reveal expecting to teach does indeed cause learners to choke under pressure, but only to the extent that they exhibit performance equal to that of learners who practice without the expectation of teaching. Taken together, the five experiments indicate expecting to teach enhances motor learning, but this benefit is eliminated when the learned skill is performed under psychological pressure, although only to the degree that individuals who learn with the expectation of teaching perform equally well as individuals who learn without this expectation. The mechanisms underlying the benefit of expecting to teach remain elusive, leaving plenty of open questions for future research.