The role of working memory in motor learning and performance

Consciousness and Cognition 12 (3):376-402 (2003)

Abstract

Three experiments explore the role of working memory in motor skill acquisition and performance. Traditional theories postulate that skill acquisition proceeds through stages of knowing, which are initially declarative but later procedural. The reported experiments challenge that view and support an independent, parallel processing model, which predicts that procedural and declarative knowledge can be acquired separately and that the former does not depend on the availability of working memory, whereas, the latter does. The behaviour of these two processes was manipulated by providing or withholding visual (and auditory) appraisal of outcome feedback. Withholding feedback was predicted to inhibit the use of working memory to appraise success and, thus, prevent the formation of declarative knowledge without affecting the accumulation of procedural knowledge. While the first experiment failed to support these predictions, the second and third experiments demonstrated that procedural and declarative knowledge can be acquired independently. It is suggested that the availability of working memory is crucial to motor performance only when the learner has come to rely on its use.

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