Citation

Cabral, D. A. R., A. E. Wilson, and M. W. Miller. In press. The effect of implicit learning on motor performance under psychological pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology

Abstract

Motor skills learned implicitly should be less susceptible to deterioration under psychological pressure (i.e., choking) than skills learned more explicitly. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we investigated that prediction. A systematic search was conducted for articles that had participants learn a motor skill implicitly relative to a comparison group and had both groups perform the skill under low- and high-pressure conditions. Ten studies with a median of nine participants/group met inclusion criteria. Seven of ten studies reported an advantage of learning a motor skill implicitly when performing under psychological pressure. Moreover, a multivariate random-effects metaanalysis revealed that participants who learned a motor skill implicitly performed better under a high-pressure condition than a low-pressure condition, Hedges’ gav = −1.17, 95% lower CI [−1.61], upper CI [−0.74], whereas participants in the comparison group performed similarly between conditions, Hedges’ gav = 0.19, 95% lower CI [ −0.33], upper CI [ 0.71]. For the implicit learning group, a funnel plot of the relationship between effect size and standard error showed an asymmetrical distribution and a significant relationship, indicating bias. In conclusion, results confirm the prediction that implicit motor learning benefits performance under pressure. However, this effect might be distorted by bias and driven by underpowered studies, likely causing it to be overestimated. We suggest the advantage of learning a motor skill implicitly versus explicitly on performance under pressure be assumed to be moderately sized, pending future research, and encourage preregistered studies with larger sample sizes to estimate the effect more accurately.

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