Self-controlled practice schedules have been shown to enhance motor learning in several contexts, but their effectiveness in structural learning tasks, where the goal is to eventually learn an underlying structure or rule, is not well known. Here we examined the use of selfcontrolled practice in a novel control interface requiring structural learning. In addition, we examined the effect of 'nudging'-i.e., whether altering task difficulty could influence selfselected strategies, and hence facilitate learning. Participants wore four inertial measurement units (IMUs) on their upper body and the goal was to use motions of the upper body to move a screen cursor to different targets presented on the screen. The structure in this task that had to be learned was based on the fact that the signals from the IMUs were linearly mapped to the x- and y- position of the cursor. Participants (N = 62) were split into 3 groups (random, self-selected, nudge) based on whether they had control over the sequence in which they could practice the targets. To test whether participants learned the underlying structure, participants were tested both on the trained targets, as well as novel targets that were not practiced during training. Results showed that during training, the self-selected group showed shorter movement times relative to the random group, and both self-selected and nudge groups adopted a strategy of tending to repeat targets. However, in the test phase, we found no significant differences in task performance between groups, indicating that structural learning was not reliably affected by the type of practice. In addition, nudging participants by adjusting task difficulty did not show any significant benefits to overall learning. These results suggest that although self-controlled practice influenced practice structure and facilitated learning, it did not provide any additional benefits relative to practicing on a random schedule in this task.
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© 2020 Lee, Jayasinghe. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.