Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Jeffrey T. Fairbrother

Committee Members

Leslee A. Fisher, Schuyler W. Huck, Joe Whitney


Traditional explanations of motor learning contend that skills are learned explicitly in a process in which learners accumulate declarative knowledge and progress through distinct stages of learning (e.g., Fitts & Posner, 1967). More recently, implicit approaches to instruction have been used in an attempt to bypass accumulation of explicit knowledge. Such approaches have been shown to facilitate motor learning compared to explicit instruction by enhancing skill retention and transfer under conditions involving distraction, increased pressure, or physical stress (Masters & Poolton, 2012). One method thought to invoke implicit learning involves instructions in the form of an analogy (Liao & Masters, 2001). Researchers have typically compared the effects of a single analogy statement to those of explicit instructions consisting of up to 12 statements (Liao & Masters, 2001). Thus, observed differences between these approaches could be attributed to different attentional loading. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of analogy instruction on the performance and learning of a motor skill to those of explicit instruction consisting of a single statement (i.e., an equivalent amount of instruction). Participants (n = 48) practiced a 10-foot golf putt under one of four instructional conditions: Six-Rule Traditional Explicit Instruction (TEI), One-Rule Explicit Instruction (OREI), Analogy Instruction (AI), or no instruction (CTRL). Results indicated that the AI and OREI groups made more putts than expected during acquisition while the CTRL group made fewer. During Retention 1 and 2, however, the number of putts made was similar to what was expected, indicating that initial differences in performance of the primary task were eliminated with practice. During Transfer 1 (breaking putt), the TEI group made fewer putts than expected, suggesting that traditional explicit instruction can negatively affect adaptation to novel task demands. During Transfer 2 (attentional loading), the AI group made more putts than expected while the TEI and CTRL groups made fewer. These results suggest that when instruction is given, the length of such instruction may degrade performance under secondary-task attentional loading. Moreover, the use of analogy instruction may confer an additional benefit compared to an equivalent-length explicit instruction.

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