Lassoing Skill Through Learner Choice

Gabriele Wulf, Takehiro Iwatsuki, Brittney Machin, Jessica Kellogg, Clint Copeland, Rebecca Lewthwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The authors examined several issues related to the motor learning benefits resulting from giving learners choices. In 2 experiments, participants practiced a novel task, throwing a lasso. In Experiment 1, giving learners a choice ostensibly irrelevant to performance (color of mat under target) resulted in enhanced learning relative to a control group. The choice group also reported more positive affect. Experiment 2 compared the effectiveness of task-irrelevant (mat color) versus task-relevant (video demonstrations of the skill) choices. In both choice groups, each participant was yoked to a participant in the other group, and each received the same mat color or saw the video demonstration, respectively, as chosen by their counterpart in the other group. In the control group, participants were yoked to their respective counterparts in each of the choice groups. On a retention test, the 2 choice groups did not differ from each other, but both outperformed the control group. The affective and learning effects seen when learners are given choices, and the fact that task-relevant and task-irrelevant choices resulted in similar learning benefits, are consistent with a content-neutral mechanism for the effects of choice on learning, as described in the OPTIMAL theory of motor learning (Wulf & Lewthwaite, 2016).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-292
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of motor behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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