The Education of Attention as Explanation of Variability of Practice Effects: Learning the Final Approach Phase in a Flight Simulator

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The present study reports two experiments in which a total of 20 participants without prior flight experience practiced the final approach phase in a fixed-base simulator. All participants received self-controlled concurrent feedback during 180 practice trials. Experiment 1 shows that participants learn more quickly under variable practice conditions than under constant practice conditions. This finding is attributed to the education of attention to the more useful informational variables: Variability of practice reduces the usefulness of initially used informational variables, which leads to a quicker change in variable use, and hence to a larger improvement in performance. In the practice phase of Experiment 2 variability was selectively applied to some experimental factors but not to others. Participants tended to converge toward the variables that were useful in the specific conditions that they encountered during practice. This indicates that an explanation for variability of practice effects in terms of the education of attention is a useful alternative to traditional explanations based on the notion of the generalized motor program and to explanations based on the notions of noise and local minima.

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