Motor Learning, Podcast, Season 1

The Unknown Truth about Learning Golf and Motivation with Dr. Gabriele Wulf and Dr. Rebecca Lewthwaite

There are two critical factors in motivational learning that most people ignore. We’re going to address these two factors in today’s episode of Golf Science Lab.

We’re talking with two experts in the field of motor learning, Dr. Gabriele Wulf and Dr. Rebecca Lewthwaite. Both have extensive experience in this topic and have written some of the papers that have defined the field of motivational learning. You’re not going to want to miss this!

The Power of Choices

    Anything you can do as an instructor to make people feel more confident, or increase their self-efficacy is beneficial for performance. Many studies have shown that confidence or self-efficacy is critical for optimal performance and learning. The other motivational variable that is also very powerful is learner autonomy.

Practice conditions that involve an opportunity to choose will support peoples’ need for autonomy. The choices you give to a learner don’t even have to be related to the task. You can give them an unrelated choice, such as which picture to hang in on the wall, and they will learn better.

It sounds kind of crazy, but totally unrelated choices support students’ need for autonomy and enhance their learning.

People like having choices and there’s also an effective component here that helps people learn. Positive effect turns out to be very important for learning. It tends to release dopamine, which is critical for learning, and so I think there are two things that play a role here.

One is self-efficacy or confidence being enhanced, and the other is the positive effect – the positive emotions that are associated with having a choice.

Be Positive (for better learning)

When we have three groups, a group that receives negative feedback, no feedback, or positive feedback.  Typically the negative feedback group, who  believe they are doing worse than their peers and the group that gets no information typically look like each other. Whereas the group that receives a sense of success or confidence tends to look different on those other two.

Whereas the group that receives a sense of success or confidence tends to look different on those other two. Studies have shown that the negative doesn’t appear to detract so much that the positive appears to enhance.  

How you define success equates to how people derive a sense of success, and this has implications for how you learn.

It’s important that you interpret the action (the performance) in a positive light. This has implications for coaches and teachers; if they get too hypercritical too fast, then there is this dampening of the learning effect.

It pays to accentuate the positive. One approach is to enhance the sense that someone has been successful as you go forward, and the other is to provide people with opportunities to choose or to have autonomy in their actions. One way you could pair these things is to tell people early on that it’s quite good if you can hit this target or be close to it in this way, and provide them with positive feedback. As an example, “For that early trial, it was excellent.” And then the next thing you said is, “Let me know when you would like to get some more specific feedback”. This is an invitation to take a little charge of when you go into further detail.

One way you could pair these things is to tell people early on that it’s quite good if you can hit this target or be close to it in this way, and provide them with positive feedback. As an example, “For that early trial, it was excellent.” And then the next thing you said is, “Let me know when you would like to get some more specific feedback”. This is an invitation to take a little charge of when you go into further detail.

About Our Guests

About Dr. Gabriele Wulf

Dr Gabriele WulfGabriele Wulf is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition Sciences at UNLV. Dr. Wulf studies factors that influence motor skill performance and learning, such as the performer’s focus of attention and motivational variables (e.g., autonomy support, enhanced performance expectancies).

Her research has resulted in 175 journal articles and book chapters, as well as two books. Dr. Wulf has received various awards for her research, including UNLV’s Barrick Distinguished Scholar Award. She served as the founding editor of Frontiers in Movement Science and Sport Psychology (2010-2012) and the Journal of Motor Learning and Development (2012-2015). Currently, she serves as the Past-President of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA).

You can check out Dr Wulf’s book here: Attention and Motor Skill Learning

About Dr Rebecca Lewthwaite

Dr Rebecca LewthwaiteRebecca Lewthwaite, PhD is Director, Rehabilitation Outcomes Management, and Director of Research and Education in Physical Therapy at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California (USC).

Dr. Lewthwaite has an active research program at the intersection of movement and psychological science, studying motivation and motor learning. She received her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles in (Psychological) Kinesiology. Together with Dr. Carolee Winstein, Dr. Lewthwaite designed the integrated approach to motor learning in clinical practice known as the Accelerated Skill Acquisition Program.

Dr. Lewthwaite is an investigator in the recent Interdisciplinary Comprehensive Arm Rehabilitation Evaluation (ICARE) Phase III RCT examining arm recovery after stroke, where she provided direction to the psychosocial content, measurement, and intervention aspects.

Some Interesting Papers Related to this topic:

Self-Controlled Learning: The Importance of Protecting Perceptions of Competence

Choose to move: The motivational impact of autonomy support on motor learning

Gabriele Wulf on Attentional Focus and Motor Learning

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Founder and chief curator of the Golf Science Lab. Documenting what's going on in the world of research and beyond that can help you play your best golf on the golf course (when it counts). Join the movement of researched based coaching over trusting beliefs and what worked for one person a few decades ago. Follow on Twitter