The Role of Frequency of Feedback in Motor Learning and Performance

Feedback plays a huge part in helping individual’s improve their ability levels in a specific task. Feedback has been defined as “any kind of sensory information about movement, not just that concerning errors” Schmidt (1991). Two different categories of feedback can be identified as intrinsic and augmented feedback. Intrinsic feedback is feedback which individuals receive after performing a specific skill (e.g. a rugby player converting a try, intrinsic feedback in this case would be if the try was converted successfully or not), and augmented feedback is feedback individuals receive from coaches or other environmental sources. Augmented feedback can be concerned with knowledge of the individual’s results (KR) or the individual’s knowledge of performance (KP).

Feedback can be categorized into different dimensions of feedback which are known as concurrent, terminal, immediate, delayed, accumulated, distinct, verbal and non verbal. Much research has looked at frequencies of feedback for knowledge of results and performance in specific tasks. The purpose of this essay is to review current literature and subsequently design an experiment.

Review Of Current Literature

In 1971 Adams craeted a open-loop theory which states that ‘if the stimuli are adequate, and the motivational and habit or perceptual states of the organism are sufficient, the response will occur, otherwise not.’ (Adams, 1971). Alongside this open-loop theory Adams also created a closed loop theory which states that for a theory to be a closed loop theory it ‘must be error-centred, with a reference mechanism against which feedback from the response is compared for the detection and correction of error (1971). Adams’s closed loop theory is based upon two traces, these being the memory and perceptual trace. The perceptual trace ‘is the construct which fundamentally determines the extent of movement’ (Adams, 1971) and Adams also states that the perceptual trace ‘is the memory of a past movement’ (Adams, 1971). The memory trace is slightly different to the perceptual trace but ‘relies heavily on the perceptual trace for the moment-to-moment guidance of behaviour’ (Adams, 1971) Based on the closed loop theory Adam’s conducted a study in 1971. The findings of the study found that a high frequency of feedback is better for success during practice.



Fifteen random male undergraduate subjects all of whom were studying Sport and Exercise Science at Nottingham Trent University provided voluntary consent to take part in the study. The age of the participants varied from 18-23 years old, the weight of the students was between 75-100kg and the height of the participants varied between 150cm-180cm. With the use of a performance pre-test, it was ensured that all of the participants were at a novice level in the task that they were going to be participating in during the experiment. The participants were also made aware that they could withdraw from the experiment at anytime but two days notice before they were going to withdraw was required in a written format. It was ensured that if one participant or more withdrew from the experiment then other participants were available to take their place.


The participants were randomly assigned to three equal groups each group containing different frequencies of feedback of knowledge of results (KR). The groups that they were split into are: 100% feedback (feedback after every trial), 50% feedback (feedback after every other trial) and 0% feedback (no feedback). Masking tape was used to mark out a distance, 2 meters away from a dart board positioned on a wall. The dart board was positioned 2 meters away as this is the competition distance, and using the competition distance will increase the ecological validity of the study. The experiment was completed for three days with participants each having 10 trials in a block, each completing 10 blocks per day. In each trial the participant had 3 darts, and a point scoring system (figure 1).

Participants only receiving 50% feedback wore occlusion goggles to occlude vision after releasing the dart, with their radial error score measured and relevant information given back to the participants on relevant trials. Participants who received 0% feedback wore the occlusion goggles with all vision occluded and the dart was released with assistance holding the dart correctly before releasing it to prevent injuries. On a 4th day a retention test whereby participants did 5 blocks of 5 of the same trials with no feedback given and this was completed to help conclude whether a high or low frequency of feedback was better for motor learning and performance.