The implicit benefit of learning without errors

Jonathan Maxwell, Richard Masters, E Kerr, E Weedon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

196 Citations (Scopus)


Two studies examined whether the number of errors made in learning a motor skill, golf putting, differentially influences the adoption of a selective (explicit) or unselective (implicit) learning mode. Errorful learners were expected to adopt an explicit, hypothesis-testing strategy to correct errors during learning, thereby accruing a pool of verbalizable rules and exhibiting performance breakdown under dual-task conditions, characteristic of a selective mode of learning. Reducing errors during learning was predicted to minimize the involvement of explicit hypothesis testing leading to the adoption of an unselective mode of learning, distinguished by few verbalizable rules and robust performance under secondary task loading. Both studies supported these predictions. The golf putting performance of errorless learners in both studies was unaffected by the imposition of a secondary task load, whereas the performance of errorful learners deteriorated. Reducing errors during learning limited the number of error-correcting hypotheses tested by the learner, thereby reducing the contribution of explicit processing to skill acquisition. It was concluded that the reduction of errors during learning encourages the use of implicit, unselective learning processes, which confer insusceptibility to performance breakdown under distraction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1049-1068
Number of pages20
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2001


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