The effect of induced effort, tracing and drawing on visual form discrimination learning
Mayer, Sylvia Rose
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INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM Among the conditions known to influence the acquisition and retention of responses is the amount of muscular effort expended during training. In the literature of psychology there are many empirical studies as well as speculative accounts which support the view that there is an optimal amount of experimentally induced muscular effort which facilitates the learning of verbal and motor tasks. From these demonstrations it seems reasonable to anticipate that this relationship would also obtain for the learning of perceptual skills. Accordingly, the present investigation was directed to an analysis of how experimentally induced muscular activity during the training procedure affects the recognition of visual forms. A. The General Pedagogic Conception of the Role of Muscular Effort on Learning Recognition of the influence of muscular tonus on performance has long been represented in the general pedagogical view that learning can be facilitated by the arousal of a hypothetical condition of "attention" which is produced either by the application of incentives or by requiring the learner to perform certain muscular responses during the acquisition process. B. The Use of Muscular Effort in Formal Perceptual Training When considering specifically the are a of formal perceptual training, educators have enlarged the restricted concept of muscular tonus as a learning facilitator to include the broader notion that patterns of muscular activity may act as facilitators. That the learning of visual form may be dependent on task-related muscular activity, (copying alphabet, etc.), has been explicity hypothesized, especially in relation to the process of learning to read and write (Freeman). SYSTEMATIC ANALYSES OF THE EFFECTS OF INDUCED MUSCULAR EFFORT A. The Experiments A systematic relationship between muscular effort and performance was first incidentally indicated in connection with simple sensory discriminations (Breese, Miller). The first investigations specifically designed to study the influence of experimentally induced effort on performance was that of Bills. He found that performance on several types of tasks was significantly improved if subjects gripped dynamometer handles during training. Following Bills' pioneer experimentation, many investigators using a variety of effort inducing techniques and a variety of tasks have attempted to test and specify Bills' general conclusion that experimentally induced tension facilitates performance. The diversified results of these experiments have served to focus experimental attention towards the determination of the conditions which apparently modify the facilitative influence of muscular effort on performance. Accordingly, the major investigations in this area have concentrated on studying the following variables: (1) The amount of induced muscular activity (Stauffacher, Courts); (2) The locus of induced muscular activity (Davis, Freeman); (3) The nature of the tasks (Freeman); (4) Practice effects (Courts); (5) Volitional and motivational factors (Bills); (6) Individual differences (Stauffacher, Courts). B. Explanations of the Experimental Results None of the theories attempting to account for the facilitative effect of muscular effort on performance have yet reached a systematic status. They have usually been offered by the various experimentalists as post hoc accounts for integrating the few facts that are available and thus tend to be accounts for specific experimental findings rather than broad theoretical systems capable of deductive elaboration. Nevertheless, taken as a group, these viewpoints are all characterized by the notion that induced effort can, to a greater or lesser extent, facilitate learning. This notion is directly contradictory to a more recent theory in which the effect of muscular effort is regarded as consistently inhibitory. While the primary concern of the present study is with the empirical relationship between effort and perceptual learning, the findings of the present investigation will be explored in regard to these two apparently contradictory viewpoints. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM The concern of the present investigation was an examination of the role of muscular effort in the process of visual form acquisition and retention. The expectation that effort would prove to be a significant determinant of learning efficiency was seen in the introduction where it was noted that (1) "attention" generated by muscular tonus facilitates learning, (2) patterns of task-relevant muscular activity facilitate form discrimination training, and (3) optimal points of muscular effort expenditure exist for various types of tasks. Accordingly, the role of effort in the acquisition and retention of visual form was studied in terms of an experimental design which involved various degrees of induced muscular task-irrelevant effort and two traditional techniques of form discrimination training in which muscular effort appears to be, at a common sense level, task-related in that it involves manual motor activity directly concerned with the reproduction of the visual pattern. EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURE A. Subjects A total of 51 male and female subjects served in a series of preliminary studies (for the purpose of devising suitable stimulus materials and procedures) and in the main experiment. B. Apparatus Apparatus for the main experiment consisted of: 1. an electronic tachistoscope for the presentation of the stimulus material 2. a hand dynamometer equipped with a buzzer signal and tachistoscope switch for induction of the task-irrelevant muscular effort conditions 3. 4" x 4 " white cards and black grease crayons for drawing in one condition of task-relevant induced effort 4. transparent plexiglass tachistoscope aperture covers and black grease crayons for tracing in the second condition of task-relevant induced effort 5. Ten-item sets of training targets and recognition tests made up of non-meaningful line drawings. C. Design A counterbalanced design was employed in which each of 28 male subjects participated in each of the seven effort conditions: 0, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 maximum dynamometer effort, Tracing, and Drawing. D. Procedure For each participant the training sessions took place twice a day within a maximum of five days. No two sessions were spaced at less than a three hour interval. The training-testing schedule consisted of a single 15 second viewing period per target with 20 second inter-target intervals. Between training and the recognition test a 10 minute rest interval was required. The recognition test interval was 5 seconds per target and 10 seconds between targets. The retention response measure was the number of correct selections of the learned targets from test cards consisting of one correct and three confusion targets. MAJOR RESULTS Data from the seven main experimental conditions were divided into two categories for analysis: the effects of task-irrelevant effort, and the effects of task-relevant effort on form retention. A. The Effect of Task-Irrelevant Effort on Retention An analysis of variance of recognition scores from conditions of 0, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 induced muscular effort resulted in an F value significant at the .01 level. A1 Fisher's t test was also applied to compare the scores of each fraction of induced effort against the zero condition. All the t values were significant at the .01 level. It was found that maximum recognition efficiency occurred at zero induced effort, i. e. Observation. The recognition curve from that point on appeared to be an exponential decay function of effort. B. The Effect of Task-Relevant Effort on Retention An analysis of variance of recognition scores from Tracing, Drawing, and Observation (zero induced effort) resulted in an F value significant at the . 01 level. Fisher's t test was used to compare Observation with Drawing, Observation with Tracing, Drawing with Tracing. These differences were all significant at least at the .01 level. Drawing resulted in the highest level of recognition efficiency, Tracing was lowest and equal to that of 1/2 and 3/4 induced effort. DISCUSSION The implications of the results of this study were examined with respect to three prevalent generalizations regarding the effect of induced muscular effort upon learning. The popular educational view that facilitating "attentional" factors arise from increased muscular tonus did not appear to apply in this study's perceptual learning task since even the smallest increase in muscular effort significantly reduced retention. The only extent to which this particular viewpoint could have meaning, is to regard the experimental condition of Observation as already having created the facilitating attentional factors prior to the introduction of muscular effort. The view that task-related muscular effort facilitates perceptual learning was, in part, supported by the results of this study. While Drawing produced maximum facilitation, the Tracing condition resulted in maximum decrement equal to that of the 1/2 a nd 3/4 task-irrelevant effort. This study also indicated that the view that induced muscular effort facilitates learning cannot be applie d to a perceptual task of this overall level of complexity. Rather, the results from the task-irrelevant conditions of this study provided evidence supporting the view that learning is a decreasing function of the work involved in the learning task. However, this notion cannot explain by itself the facilitation which resulted from the Drawing condition. It was concluded that no theoretical viewpoint was able at the present time to account for all the experimental findings although some were able to handle certain portions of the results. The present results indicated that any theory attempting to derive the effects of muscular effort on perceptual learning must make provision for the following: (1) that the more complex the target the less likelihood of facilitation from task-irrelevant effort, (2) in the case of visual form learning, the nature and influence of observational processes occurring in conjunction with different patterns of activity, and (3) the conditions which determine whether effort will facilitate or inhibit performance.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University