Teaching the Unknowable: Does Analogy Lead to Implicit Skill Acquisition in a Dart-Throwing Task?

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Sylvester, Michael Joseph
Adult Learning , Implicit Learning , Darts , Analogy , Procedural Learning
This experiment was conducted to examine the hypothesis that learning by analogy will invoke characteristics of an implicit mode of learning. On Day 1, dart novices learned to throw darts as close as possible to the centre of a target under one of three scenarios: control (without instruction), implicit (while performing a distracting secondary task), and analogy (while imagining an analogous physical image). Each participant threw 6 blocks of 40 darts, receiving repeated instructions before each block. The next day (Day 2), participants were tested for retention and for transfer by the addition of a secondary distracting task. The results showed that significant learning took place in all groups over a period of six learning blocks on the first day. There was also significant response to retention and transfer testing on Day 2. Learning to throw darts without instruction was shown to be superior to learning under both of the other conditions – analogy and secondary task. The study demonstrated that dart throwing instruction using analogy was insufficient to induce the beneficial features of implicit learning. The chosen elastic analogy, in fact, led to a significant deterioration of performance when compared to controls during transfer on Day 2. Sex and skill differences are unlikely to have played a significant role in the main findings. The findings are discussed within the framework of current literature.
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