Context in Motor Recall
Hodge and Deakin’s (1998) review of deliberate practice research showed that elite athletes tend to enjoy deliberate practice contrary to Ericsson et.al.’s (1993) definition of deliberate practice. The characteristics of deliberate practice, as defined by Ericsson et.al. (1993), included:
- The greater the expertise of the individual, the more they engage in deliberate practice.
- Deliberate practice elicits the greatest improvements.
- Deliberate practice tends to be effortful and fatiguing which decreases the amount of time in which it can be engaged.
- Deliberate practice is highly relevant to performance but is not considered enjoyable.
Athletes typically report that the activities closest to actual performance as well as their work with their instructor or coach are the most relevant activities to improve their sport performance.
Hodge and Deakin (1998) examined the effect of context on motor recall in learning a kata by teaching a kata with and without context to a group of ten novice martial artists and a group of ten first degree black belts. The context the instructor used was a verbal description of a battle. Teaching in martial arts traditionally involves a whole-part-whole strategy in which the instructor will first teach the entire kata to give a sense of flow followed by breaking the kata down into parts to decrease the complexity of the learning requirements. Therefore, they used a three trial method in this research and examined improvement across the trials. Although the students rated the context-aided instruction as enhancing the memory process, the initial context trial showed decrease performance over the no context trial for the novices and no difference for the black belts. Interestingly, the black belt performance actually decreased in the third trial as compared to their second trial when context was present. The authors had not expected that black belt performance would be affected at all by context because their experience allows them to easily recognize meaningful associations and interpreted this finding as indicating that the black belts’ internally generated context may be more meaningful than the context provided. Overall, they did not find support for pairing verbal context with motor information to enhance performance.