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Chapter 4

Chapter four textbook notes

Course Code
Daniela Palombo

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PSY260 Ch. 4: Skill Memory
4.1 Behavioural Processes
- Skill Memory: What a person knows how to do
- Since memories for events and facts depend on skill memories, it may be fair to refer to
declarative memories as non-skill memories
Skill MemoryMemory for events and facts
- long lasting and improved by repeated
- cant always be verbalized/difficult to
convey to other
- may be acquired and retrieved without
conscious awareness (non-declarative)
- For facts: long lasting and improved by
repeated experiences
- can be acquired in a single exposure
- contents consciously accessible
1) Perceptual-motor skills: learned movement patterns guided by sensory inputs
- Closed Skills: performing predefined movements. EX: Ballet dancers learn precisely
choreographed dance sequences
- In contrast to closed skills, Open Skills require participants to respond based on prediction
about changing environments: Ex: Salsa dancing at a party, depends to some extent on the
dancers predicting (or directing) their partners next move
- Most perceptual motor skills contain aspects of both closed skills and open skills
- In the lab researchers study simple skills such as pressing buttons because its easier to
assess quantitatively whether someones tracking abilities are improving than to measure
improvements in their dancing abilities
2) Cognitive Skills: requires the use of your brain to solve problems or apply strategies
- Researchers experiments the skills participants can learn relatively quickly such as Tower
of Hanoi (Figure 4.1)
- Rene Descartes: the ability to reason distinguishes humans from animals
- Many psychologists believe only humans reason

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PSY260 Ch. 4: Skill Memory
- Animals use tools which involves both perceptual-motor and cognitive skills
- By comparing different animals abilities to learn perceptual-motor and cognitive skills
and exploring which neural systems they use when forming and retrieving memories of
different skills, scientists are beginning to gain a clearer understanding of the brain
systems underlying skill memories
Expertise and Talent
- People who masters a skill without effort are described as having a talent/ gift for that
skill; Experts perform a skill better than most people
- Practice makes perfect!
- Study: Twins reared apart; Trained participants to perform the rotary pursuit task:
(Figure 4.3) requires precise hand-eye coordination. Have to keep the end of a stylus
(pointed stick) above a target drawn on the edge of a rotating disk. Get better with practice
- Identical twins abilities to keep the stylus on target became more similar as training
progressed whereas fraternal twins became dissimilar
- Performance was more correlated when twins shared 100% of genes
- An interpretation of this study: practice decreases effects of past experiences and
increases the effects of genetic influences. Genes increased role in behavior makes identical
genes have identical behavior
- Researchers conduct studies of skill memories in game players (ex: athletes) because:
1) Skill outside the lab are good examples of real world memories, 2) Not difficult to find
people with widely varying levels of experience, 3) games require a variety of perceptual-
motor and cognitive skills
- Edward Thorndike- Experiment: repeatedly asked blindfolded participants to draw a line
3 inches long. One half were told when their line was within 1/8th of an inch of their target
length, the other half go no feedback. Only participants who received feedback improved in
accuracy as the experiment progressed
- Feed back/ Knowledge of Results critical to the effectiveness of practice
Acquiring Skills
- Figure 4.4a shows that as participants practiced a reading task, the amount of time spent

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PSY260 Ch. 4: Skill Memory
reading each page decreased. Initially there was a large decrease in the time required to
read a page, but after initial improvement, the decreases in reading time gradually got
- Power law of Learning (Law of diminishing returns”): Initial gain in performance is the
largest. EX: typing- each additional year of practice after the first produces smaller
increases in typing speed; learning occurs quickly at 1st but then get slower
-Psychologists in many cases can use a mathematical function (power function) to describe
how rapidly individuals will acquire a skill
- Its possible to overcome this law and enhance practice effects
- Instructors, coaches and students discover through trial and error what types of feedback
works best. (Feedback improves performance)
- Massed practice: Concentrated, continuous practice which produces better performance in
the short term
- Spaced Practice: Spread out over several sessions leads to better retention in the long term
- Constant practice: practice with a very limited set of materials and skills. EX: repeatedly
attempting to throw a dart at the bulls eye under fixed lighting
- Variable practice: Practice with a varied set. EX: Attempting to hit each number
sequentially on a dartboard under various levels of lighting
- Several studies show variable practice leads to better performance than constant
practicestill a debate!
Implicit Learning: learn to perform certain skills without being aware learning occurred
- 1 st
form : Individuals performs a task and incidentally learn underlying skills
- Psychologists commonly use serial reaction time tasks to study this form of implicit
-2 nd
form : seen in individuals with Amnesia (EX: H.M. tracing the star task). They acquire
skills relatively normally from one session to the next even if they show no awareness of
practicing or even seeing the task
- Suggests that the neural systems underlying memories for skills are different from the
systems involved in storing and recalling memories for events and facts
- Currently no way of assessing whether implicit learning is more likely to occur during the
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