Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Craig Speelman

Abstract

Cognitive research assumes that practice on a task can lead to improved performance, most often resulting in the attainment of automatic performance and possibly the transfer of this learning to another task. This study examined all of these questions through the use of a computer generated counting task that required participants, consisting of 60 randomly selected university students and friends and family of the researcher, to count stars on a display screen and determine if the number of stars presented was an odd or even number. Coefficient of variation (CV) measures that calculated the variability for a given level of RT were used to determine when automatic performance was achieved and at test of within subject means examined the data for evidence of transfer. The study found that practice could lead to improved performance, but that this improvement did not always guarantee the attainment of automatic performance. It also showed that in the absence of automatic performance the likelihood of transfer to another task was also decreased. These limitations appeared to be linked to questions of practice, attention, disruption and complexity of the task. Ultimately, the research highlighted the difficulty and inconsistency in achieving skilled or automatic performance, even on seemingly simple tasks, suggesting that the attainment of automatic performance and accordingly, transfers may be more susceptible to peripheral influences than had been originally considered. The implications of these finding will be in its influence on how future skill acquisition research may be structured, in relation to the type of task used and the length and type of practice that may be required, with possibly greater consideration also being given to the role of secondary influences on the attainment of automaticity and transfer.

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