Motor Learning Concepts - Optimizing Feedback Pt. 2
In the first part of this series of articles on feedback, we discussed the importance of distinguishing between the sources of information that are always available to you on the course (inherent feedback) and the sources that are not (augmented feedback.) But, inherent sources of feedback are not always clear or precise – in other words, we do not always know or understand what our body tells us. For example, we know that the putting stroke feels wrong because we can see that the ball is not going where we want it to go and because it just feels “strange,” but sometimes, that inherent information is not enough for us to understand why it is wrong and how to fix it.
This is where augmented feedback becomes important. Information from an external source such as a teaching professional, a launch monitor, a video, or even a training aid can serve to highlight salient information to the golfer that would otherwise go undetected. The information can also go a long way to helping the golfer to make corrections.
For more on Motor Learning, be sure to check out Matthew Cooke's FREE Online Motor Learning Course.
But, there is a down side to augmented feedback, too. The motor learning research has found that augmented feedback can have a negative effect on the golfer when it becomes a “crutch” for error detection and correction. The effect is seen when experimental participants become dependent on augmented feedback to perform a movement task and are then required to perform a retention or transfer test in which that augmented feedback is no longer available. For example, when participants are presented with augmented feedback after each and every practice attempt, their performance on a retention test is worse than when compared to participants who received the same feedback after, say, only one-third or one-quarter of the practice attempts. Similarly, research participants who are always presented with augmented feedback immediately after each practice attempt show poorer retention than those participants for whom the feedback is delayed for a short time, and especially when they are encouraged to guess or anticipate (during this delay period) what that feedback will be.
The explanation for these findings is simple. Providing augmented feedback too often, too soon, or in general, in such a way that it guides the learner towards understanding the nature of the error and how to correct it, becomes a liability when the learner must later perform in the absence of that augmented feedback. Essentially, this guidance role of augmented feedback blocks or prevents the golfer from learning to use inherent sources to obtain the same information. Reducing the “guidance effect” of augmented feedback, by reducing its frequency or delaying its delivery, enhances performance in later retention tests because it encourages the learner to rely more upon their inherent sources of feedback – those very sources that will still be available later in retention and transfer tests when the augmented feedback sources have been removed.
Does this sound familiar? The augmented feedback scenario is potentially what could, and sometimes does, happen to golfers. Augmented feedback is a powerful information source that is provided during practice and then becomes unavailable on the course. Error detection and swing corrections are much easier the make with augmented feedback readily available. However, its lure can also result in a dependency that ultimately lets down the golfer on the course when it is no longer available.
The final part in this series of articles on feedback explores ways to use augmented feedback in practice to learn how to interpret and use your inherent feedback to detect errors and make corrections.