Advances in Physical Education
2012. Vol.2, No.3, 82-87
Published Online August 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Timing of Tone Presentation Does Alter Training Performance but
Not Retention Performance of a Point-to-Point Sequence Task
Arend W. A. Van Gemmert
School of Kinesiology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, USA
Received June 1st, 2012; revised July 5th, 2012; accepted July 15th, 2012
Objective: To investigate whether the timing of presentation of tones while practicing a serial reaction
time task affects retention. Design: Thirty-eight young adults practiced 4 different 12-sequence aiming
tasks. There was one control condition without a tone and three experimental conditions in which a tone
was presented; i.e., a tone could appear before the next target onset, at the next target onset, or after the
next target onset. Sequence learning for each condition was assessed with a retention block in which no
tones were presented. Performance changes as compared to the control condition were analyzed to assess
if acquisition and/or learning was affected by the presentation of the tones. Results: Tone condition af-
fected mainly reaction time. It was shown that if a tone was presented 150 ms before displaying the next
target in the sequence the reaction time of the aiming movement decreased significantly. Furthermore, it
was shown that tone onset 150 ms before target presentation and tone onset at target presentation resulted
in a benefit during acquisition after block 5 and 6 respectively. However, the benefit disappeared during
retention, because none of the tone conditions showed differential performance as compared to the control
condition. Conclusions: Timing of tones affects the acquisition of serial reaction time tasks, but it does
not alter learning. It is suggested that this pattern of findings supports the notion that tones result in a
non-specific activation of the motor system, which affect immediate performance but not learning.
Keywords: Motor Learning; Activation; Sequence Learning; Serial Reaction Time (SRT) Task
The serial response time (SRT) task (Nissen & Bullemer,
1987) is the most used paradigm to investigate motor sequence
learning (Song, Howard, & Howard, 2008). It has been shown
that during training, reaction times decrease faster when stimuli
are repeated in a steady sequence than when stimuli are pre-
sented in random order (Nissen & Bullemer, 1987). This phe-
nomenon results in a steeper learning curve, which even can be
found if subjects seemed to be unaware explicitly of the pres-
ence of a repeating sequence (Nissen & Bullemer, 1987). The
latter finding led to questions about the amount (and more re-
cently the nature) of attentional resources needed for the occur-
rence of motor learning. These questions have led to several
experiments involving dual task performance paradigms to in-
vestigate how allocation of attention to a secondary task would
affect learning repeating sequences (Cohen, Ivry, & Keele, 1990;
McDowall, Lustig, & Parkin, 1995; Schumacher & Schwarb,
Researcher in a recent study noticed that, in support of earlier
suggestions (e.g., Nissen & Bullemer, 1987), learning of the
sequence did not seem to depend on significant awareness of
the pattern (Richard, Clegg, & Seger, 2009). The recent study
showed in addition that a sequence of direction without specific
location was learned if the response required a movement into
the required direction, while the sequence was not learned if the
response did not involve a movement. One of the suggestions
for the finding that direction was only learned when the re-
quired response includes a movement is that the execution of
the movement results in focusing attention to the dimension(s)
required to achieve the required goal (Richard et al., 2009).
Thus, it seems that an important factor to learn a sequence is if
attentional resources are devoted to learning the sequence.
A study that investigated the need for attentional resources
while learning a sequence employed a dual task paradigm in
which the secondary task was comprised of a tone pitch dis-
crimination task in which the low pitch tones needed to be
counted (McDowall et al., 1995). This study included a group
of participants who were trained to perform the SRT task with
the addition of secondary tone counting task, while another group
of participants were trained without the secondary counting task.
Although the secondary task did result in slower reaction times,
it was shown that the sequence was learned with and without
the secondary tone counting task. This study was comprised of
four experiments and the first experiment showed that the only
difference between the two groups was awareness of the se-
quence. When the participants learned the sequence without a
secondary task 67% noticed that there was a sequence, even
though only 11% were accurate in reproducing the entire 10
trial sequence. In contrast, when participants learned the se-
quence with the secondary task only 20% of the participants
noticed a sequence and none of them were able to describe the
entire sequence correctly. Thus, even though attentional re-
sources are needed it does not necessary needs to be conscious.
The other three experiments in this study basically confirmed
the initial premise that awareness is not necessary to have
(some) sequential learning effects in a SRT task. The latter
notion that sequential learning effects occurs when a secondary
task competes for resources needs some fine tuning, since it
was shown that sequence learning is impeded when processes
overlap in the dual task (Schumacher & Schwarb, 2009).
Most studies investigating the effects of a secondary task on
the acquisition of a SRT task have in common that the secon-
dary task was comprised of some sort of tone counting and/or
tone discrimination task in which the tones were presented
during the inter stimulus/sequence interval. Furthermore, these
studies emphasize the possible negative effects of these tones,
while research has shown that the mere presentation of the
tones could result in positive effects, most notably decreases in
reaction time if presented before the go-stimulus, as result of a
non-specific activation of the motor system (Van Gemmert &
Van Galen, 1994, 1997, 1998). In addition, the non-specific ac-
tivation effects are assumed to be transient and to decay fast, so
when the presentation of a tone occurs before the execution of
the motor task, the negative effects as result of non-specific
activation are expected to be minimal or gone at the time of
onset of the movement. In contrast, when the presentation of
the tones, resulting in non-specific activation of the motor sys-
tem, occurs during the execution of a motor task with high ac-
curacy demands, the non-specific activation results in an in-
crease of noise in the system which negatively influences the
motor performance (Van Gemmert & Van Galen, 1998). Thus
timing of tone presentation could have influenced the results of
these studies. The latter suggestion that timing of the secondary
task presentation is important together with the instruction given
to participants has also been suggested by Schumacher and
Schwarb (2009). They showed in their experiments and with an
analysis of 21 studies that deterioration of SRT task perform-
ance occurs when the dual task requires higher demands due to
instruction and/or timing of the presentation of the stimulus of
the secondary task. Although, timing of the presentation of the
stimulus for the secondary task is considered a factor for dete-
riorated performance, Schumacher and Schwarb (2009), like
most researchers in this field, did not address the possibility
that some deterioration could have been neutralized as result of
the activational properties of a tone for the motor system (Van
Gemmert & Van Galen, 1994, 1997, 1998).
Another caveat of most studies is that the paradigm em-
ployed usually has limitations to reveal motor performance
difficulties as it relates to the reaction and/or movement com-
ponents of the performance, because these studies usually util-
ize a key press protocol which results in a motor response that
is difficult to parse into separate movement components. There-
fore, these studies are difficult to interpret as to location of its
effects on the motor system beyond its general effects on the
entire response. To investigate the possibility that the motor
system is activated by tones, which possibly could lead to im-
proved performance acquisition for some or all components of
the response and maybe could result in (some) improvements in
sequential learning, a variation on the classic SRT task was
used in the current study. In this task participants had to make
point-to-point movements with a stylus on a digitizer tablet
allowing parsing responses in a reaction and movement com-
ponent. Further more, to explore the effects of activation on the
different components of the response three experimental condi-
tions were administered in which the tones were presented ei-
ther 150ms before the appearance of the next target, at the same
time the next target appeared, or 150ms after the target had
appeared. These conditions were contrasted to a control condi-
tion in which no tones were presented. The hypothesis investi-
gated in the current study was that activation due to the presen-
tation of a tone before each movement sequence improves ac-
quisition of the SRT task, while activation during the execution
of a sequence movement segment will adversely affect acquisi-
tion. The effects predicted during acquisition should remain
during retention if acquisition is affected by the tones. Thus, as
compared to acquisition in the control condition retention of the
SRT task will show more efficient performance for sequences
acquired with a tone presented before each movement segment,
and the SRT task will show less efficient performance for se-
quences acquired with a tone presented during each movement
Thirty-eight students of Louisiana State University between
the ages of 20 and 30 years (Mean = 21.29 ± 1.87 years; 26 fe-
males, 12 males) participated in the experiment. All participants
used their right-hand and they all reported to be right-hand
dominant. Before participating, participants received an expla-
nation of the experiment and they signed an informed-consent
form. Participants filled out a short health history questionnaire,
and anyone who indicated to have history of neurological prob-
lems, had current vision, or hearing problems, or were unable to
hold and/or use a pen due to dexterity problems, were excluded
from further participation. The protocol of the study was ap-
proved by the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board of
Louisiana State University.
Task and Design
Participants were seated comfortably in a chair in front of a
50 × 30 cm monitor and a digitizer tablet (WACOM Intuos2 12
× 19). The tablet recorded the x- and y-position of an electronic
pen with a sampling rate of 200 Hz and spatial resolution of
0.001 cm. The experimental conditions were controlled by a
program written in OASIS (KIKO Software, Doetinchem, The
Netherlands). Participants Subjects were instructed to hold the
pen using their normal pen grip and to draw lines from appear-
ing circle to the next appearing circle as quickly and as accu-
rately as possible. Target circles had a radius of 0.5 cm and did
not disappear until the next target circle appeared which oc-
curred 300 ms after the participants’ pen arrived in the target
circle. If the participant moved out of the target circle before
the next target was presented, the next target would not appear
and the participant was required to move the pen back in target
circle. If this occurred this movement segment was deleted
from the sequence. The distance between the targets was 7.5 cm.
During the experiment, the monitor provided visual feedback of
the target circles and the on-line trajectory of the tip of the pen.
A shield occluded vision of the participant’s hand, forearm, and
movement trajectory (see Figure 1).
There were three experimental practice conditions and one
control practice condition. The order of conditions was coun-
terbalanced according to a Latin-square design across partici-
pants. In the control and experimental conditions each trial
consisted of a sequence of 12 targets in which 6 targets were
located in the center of the screen (and digitizer) and 6 targets
were located on the screen (and digitizer) at a 7.5 cm at one of
the 12 outward positions at 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150, 180, 210,
240, 270, 300, and 330 degrees of the center target (see Figure
2). Each trial consisted of the same sequence of targets. How-
ever, each participant got a different sequence for each condition,
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 83
in which 6 of the 12 outward targets each only appeared once.
In an attempt to keep the complexity of each sequence the same
only 24 predetermined sequences were used. To control for the
possibility that one sequence would bias the results, each of the
orders was at least used once in a particular tone condition
across all participants, and none of the sequence orders was
used more than twice in a particular tone condition across all
participants. Before the experiment started participants were
familiarized with the pen and with the point-to-point movement
task by performing one trial of a movement sequence (without
tones and headphones) which was not used in any of the condi-
tions during the experiment.
The participants were only informed that 8 aiming sessions
would be presented of which 4 of the sessions would be rela-
tively long and 4 of the sessions would be relatively short. They
were also informed that in some of the longer conditions it was
possible that they would hear tones. No matter if they heard
tones or not, they were instructed to concentrate on drawing a
line ending in the target as fast and as accurate as possible.
Thus, participants were not informed when tones would occur,
and they were also not informed about the number of trials,
when a trial started or ended, how many targets occurred in a
trial, and the repetition of the same sequence in each trial.
Figure 1.
Experimental setup.
Figure 2.
Display of the task.
Participants received 40 practice trials and 4 retention trials
60 seconds after each practice session. Participants were re-
quired to wear headphones (Bose Quiet Comfort 15 Acoustic
Noise Cancelling headphones, Bose Corporation, Farmingham,
MA, USA) during the entire experiment. During the experi-
mental practice trials an 80 ms tone was presented. In the three
different experimental practice sessions the 80 ms tone was
presented 150 ms before the target appeared (–150 condition),
at the same time when the target appeared (0 condition), or 150
ms after the target appeared (+150 condition). No tones were
presented during the control practice trials (No tone condition)
and the retention trials.
Data Analysis
The recordings were processed with a custom program de-
veloped in OASIS (KIKO Software, Doetinchem, The Nether-
lands). The position signals were dual pass filtered with a But-
terworth 4th order filter with a cutoff frequency of 7 Hz. The
onsets and offsets of pen tip movements were estimated by an
algorithm that first located the 5% criterion of the peak in the
absolute velocity profile. Then the algorithm went backwards
from the 5% location to locate the onset to find the first location
on the absolute velocity profile where absolute velocity was
zero, stayed the same for 10 ms, or was found to be the smallest
in a period of 20 ms. The same algorithm in reverse was used
for movement offset. The dependent variables included dura-
tion of the whole sequence (DSeq), reaction time (RT), move-
ment time (MT), number of velocity peaks (NVP), percentage
of the duration of the total movement time spend in the primary
sub-movement (PSMT) and accuracy of movement after the
primary sub-movement (A-P-M). DSeq was defined as the time
it took to make the 12 point-to-point movements. All other
variables were determined per point-to-point movement. RT
was defined as the time between appearance of the next target
and the onset of the movement and MT was defined as the
stroke duration between the onset and offset of the movement.
NVP was determined by the number of local peaks in the tan-
gential velocity profile; note that if a point-to-point movement
is made in one smooth movement the tangential velocity profile
will be bell-shaped with one single peak, if more than one peak
occurs in the profile the movement is less smooth and assumed
to be less automated (Meulenbroek & Van Galen, 1988; Tucha,
Mecklinger, Walitza, & Lange, 2006). The primary sub-move-
ment was defined as the distance between the location of the
second zero crossing of the acceleration profile and the center
of target (Ketcham, Seidler, Van Gemmert, & Stelmach, 2002;
Romero, Van Gemmert, Adler, Bekkering, & Stelmach, 2003);
note that if the velocity profile of the movement is perfectly
bell-shaped with one single peak and no inflections, the primary
sub-movement and the total movement are the same. To deter-
mine how efficiency of the movement was affected by condi-
tion and/or training PSMT and A-P-M were used. If the point-
to-point movement shows a perfectly bell-shaped velocity pro-
file with one single peak and no inflections, PSMT would be
100% and A-P-M would be 0 mm. Thus, it is expected that when
participants are learning the sequence they will get more effi-
cient and thus PSMT should increase together with a decrease
of A-P-M. Trials were divided in blocks of 4 and the average of
the 4 trials were used to analyze effects of practice and reten-
tion resulting in 11 blocks in which the first 10 blocks were
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
comprised of the 40 practice trials and the last 4 trials were
comprised of the 4 retention trials. Thus repeated measures
ANOVAs with two factors (4 conditions × 11 blocks) were
applied to all dependent variables. To determine practice and
retention effects the first block was used as baseline perform-
ance, the 10th block was used as performance after training
when tones were still present, and the 11th block was used to
determine retention performance without tone present. Further-
more, if an interaction was found for blocks by tone conditions
additional repeated measures one-way ANOVAs with the 4
tone conditions as factor per block were performed to determine
which blocks showed significant effects of tone condition. For
all significance levels of the ANOVAs Huyn-Feldt epsilon was
used to adjust for possible violations of sphericity. If the ANOVAs
showed significance bonferroni corrected t-tests with alpha set
at 0.05 were applied to determine the locus of significance.
Sequence Duration
It was shown that tone condition marginally affected sequence
duration (DSeq), F[3, 111] = 2.277, p = 0.085, ε = 0.984).
Blocks did significantly affect DSeq, F[10, 370] = 75.959, p <
0.001, ε = 0.486. Although inspection of Figure 3 suggests that
some interaction may occur, the interaction between tone con-
dition and blocks failed to reach significance for DSeq, F[30,
1110] = 1.279, p = 0.233, ε = 0.371.
Bonferroni corrected t-tests showed that DSeq reduced sig-
nificantly from block 1 to 2, and from 2 to 3, after which reduc-
tions in DSeq became more modest. This resulted in the finding
that blocks 1 and 2 differed significant from all other blocks,
while block 3 did not differ significantly from block 4, 5 and 6,
it did significantly differ from all blocks after the 6th block. A
final finding was that DSeq of block 7 and 9 was significantly
smaller than DSeq of all blocks previous to block 6 (see Figure
3). This latter finding that block 7 and 9 differed significantly
from blocks 4 and 5 in addition to the blocks 1, 2 and 3 may
have been caused by the decrease in DSeq of the –150 ms con-
dition for these blocks even though an interaction between blocks
and tone condition did not reach significance (see Figure 3).
Figure 3.
Sequence duration as function of tone condition and blocks (Ret = re-
tention block; No tone = no tones were presented; Minus150 = tone 150
ms before target presentation; At0 = tone when target is presented;
Plus150 = tone 150 ms after target presentation).
Reaction Time
Reaction time (RT) was significantly affected by tone condi-
tion (F[3, 111] = 5.279, p = 0.002, ε = 0.981), and blocks, F[10,
370] = 83.159, p < 0.001, ε = 0.480. The interaction of tone
condition and blocks on RT approached significance, F[30,
1110] = 1.732, p = 0.054, ε = 0.417 (see Figure 4).
Follow-up analysis showed that RT was significantly smaller
when the tone occurred 150 ms before the target was displayed
(i.e., –150 ms tone condition) as compared to the condition
where the tone occurred 150 ms after target presentation (i.e.,
150 ms tone condition) or when no tone occurred (i.e., control
Similarly to findings for effects of blocks for DSeq, bon-
ferroni corrected t-tests showed that RT reduced significantly
from block 1 to 2 and from block 2 to 3, after which reductions
of RT became more moderate, resulting in the finding that
blocks 1 and 2 differed significant from all other blocks, while
the reduction in RT from block 3 to 4 was not significant, but
was significant when block 3 was compared to 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
Again RT in block 7 and 9 was significant smaller than RT of
all block previous to the 6th block. In contrast to DSeq, RT of
the retention block was significantly larger than block 7 and 9,
even though it was significantly smaller than the RT in block 1
and 2.
Analysis per block showed that the interaction of tone condi-
tion by block was caused by a gradual separation of the –150
ms and 0 ms tone conditions from the 150 ms and control tone
condition during training which all again united in the retention
block. In particular RT started to be significantly smaller than
RT of 150 ms and the control condition in block 5 for the –150
ms tone condition and RT of the 0 ms tone condition started to
become smaller in block 6 (see Figure 4).
Movement Time
Movement time (MT) was not affected by tone condition,
F[3, 111] = 0.644, p = 0.579, ε = 0.871. The main effect of
blocks on MT proved to be significant, F[10, 370] = 30.103, p
< 0.001, ε = 0.489. The interaction of tone condition and blocks
on MT did not show a significant effect, F[30, 1110] = 0.904, p
= 0.517, ε = 0.280.
Figure 4.
Reaction time as function of tone condition and blocks (Ret = retention
block; No tone = no tones were presented; Minus150 = tone 150 ms be-
fore target presentation; At0 = tone when target is presented; Plus150 =
tone 150 ms after target presentation).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 85
Bonferroni corrected t-tests showed that MT was signifi-
cantly reduced from block 1 to block 2, while the reductions on
average after block 2 did not differ significant from each con-
secutive block. The small reductions of MT after block 2 lead
finally to a significant smaller MT in block 11 (the retention
block) as compared to block 2 (see Figure 5).
Number of Velocity Peaks
The pattern of results for number of velocity peaks (NVP)
mirrored those of the MT, NVP was not affected by tone condi-
tion, F[3, 111] = 1.474, p = 0.226, ε = 1.0. The main effect of
block on NVP proved to be significant, F[10, 370] = 13.330, p
< 0.001, ε = 0.455. And the interaction of tone condition and
block on NVP did not reach significance, F[30, 1110] = 0.781,
p = 0.677, ε = 0.420.
Again a similar pattern of results as found for MT emerged
for NVP. Bonferroni corrected t-tests showed that NVP was
significantly reduced from block 1 to block 2, while the reduc-
tions on average after block 2 did not differ significant from
each consecutive block. The small reductions of NVP after
block 2 lead finally to a significant smaller NVP in block 11
(the retention block) as compared to block 2 (see Figure 6).
Figure 5.
Movement time as function of tone condition and blocks (Ret = re-
tention block; No tone = no tones were presented; Minus150 = tone
150 ms before target presentation; At0 = tone when target is pre-
sented; Plus150 = tone 150ms after target presentation).
Figure 6.
Number of velocity peaks as function of tone condition and blocks
(Ret = retention block; No tone = no tones were presented; Mi-
nus150 = tone 150 ms before target presentation; At0 = tone when
target is presented; Plus150 = tone 150 ms after target presentation).
Sub-Movement Measures
The percentage of the duration of the total movement time
spend in the primary sub-movement (PSMT) and the accuracy
of movement after the primary sub-movement (A-P-M) were
not changed as result of tone condition, F[3, 111] = 1.588, p =
0.206, ε = 0.803, and F[3, 111] = 1.947, p = 0.148, ε = 0.695,
respectively. Whereas the main effect of block on PSMT did
not show significance (F[10, 370] = 1.612, p = 0.126, ε =
0.756), the factor block showed a significant effect on A-P-M,
F[10, 370] = 1.928, p = 0.050, ε = 0.868. The interaction of
tone condition and block on both PSMT and A-P-M proved to
be marginally significant, F[30, 1110] = 1.542, p = 0.054, ε =
0.728, and F[30, 1110] = 1.449, p = 0.087, ε = 0.709.
Even though A-P-M showed a significant effect of blocks
and a marginal significant interaction of tone condition and
blocks, the post-hoc analysis did not reveal that any of the
blocks and/or tone conditions differed significantly from each
other. In fact the largest difference on average between two
blocks was 0.80 mm (block 1 = 10.87 mm; retention block =
10.07 mm) and if changes over blocks in A-P-M were taken for
each tone condition separate than the no tone condition showed
an improvement from block 1 to the retention block of 0.97 mm.
Even if tone conditions were compared per block the largest
difference was found to be pretty small, because the largest
difference found was 1.67 mm between the +150 condition in
block 6 (9.53 mm) and the no tone condition in the same block
(11.20 mm). Also PSMT did not show any large differences,
whereas the average improvement from block 1 (88.45%) to the
retention block (89.84%) was only 1.39%, the largest difference
was found in the –150 condition where the retention block
(89.79%) improved 1.82% compared to block 1 (87.97%). In
summary, the kinematic structure of the sub-movements cannot
explain the learning and/or tone presentation effects found in
the overall measures.
It was shown that tones, when presented before sequence
segments in a SRT task, resulted in a trend that showed shorter
overall sequence durations during acquisition. However, the
small benefits of tones observed during acquisition trials did not
result in learning benefits. Moreover, the benefits disappeared
during retention trials when tones were not presented and the
learned sequence showed similar retention performance as the
control condition without tones. Thus, it seems that the addition
of tones to a motor sequence learning protocol does not alter
learning. This latter finding is perhaps important to note, since
it means that the tones did not improve or hamper learning,
even though during acquisition they did benefit performance.
Traditionally tone presentation during the acquisition of a
motor sequence has been used to investigate attentional resources
(Bullemer & Nissen, 1990; McDowall et al., 1995; Nissen &
Bullemer, 1987). However in the current study, participants
were instructed to concentrate on drawing a line ending in the
target as fast and as accurate as possible and they were told that
should focus on the motor task at hand no matter if they heard
tones or not. Therefore this study cannot be interpreted as to its
effects on attentional resources from a dual-task perspective.
Nevertheless, attention could have played a role. It is feasible to
envision that a tone occurring before execution of the move-
ment sequence will act as a warning stimulus, while a tone
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 87
occurring at the same time as when the next target appears will
improve detection of the go-stimulus. Both of these tone condi-
tions could result in narrowing the focus of attention on the
point-to-point aiming task which means that all available atten-
tional resources would be directed to the most optimal per-
formance of the task. Furthermore, when the tone is presented
during execution it could act as a distraction resulting in dimin-
ishing some of the resources used to execute the point-to-point
aiming task. When compared to the condition when no tones
were presented during acquisition, these assumptions about
tones affecting attentional resource allocation should have re-
sulted into improved retention performance for the two tone
conditions and deteriorated performance for the condition in
which a tone was presented during execution of the aiming
movement. Moreover, this prediction for the pattern of reten-
tion is based on the view that when more attentional resources
are dedicated to the acquisition of a task, the task is learned
better and thus performance during retention should be better
than retention performance when less attentional resources were
dedicated to the task during training. In the current study this
pattern of retention performance was not found, because reten-
tion performance was the same for all conditions, therefore it is
deemed to be unlikely that the tone presentation in the current
study altered normal management of attentional resources. Off
course, it should be noted that the current study did not include
conditions in which the participants were instructed to attend to
the tones so one cannot make strong arguments about the use of
attentional resources and its effects on task performance.
In depth analyses, in which each movement sequence was
parsed into a reaction and execution portion, showed that reac-
tion time decreased, in addition to the normal reductions ob-
served during acquisition, when tones were presented before
and at the same time as the presentation of the movement target.
Nevertheless, these benefits for reaction time during acquisition
did not translate to additional benefits for retention performance
when compared to retention performance without tones.
Whereas reaction time was affected by tones during acquisi-
tion, movement speed, smoothness, and execution efficiency
were not altered by the tones as indicated by the findings that
tone condition did not show main effects for movement time,
number of velocity peaks or any of the sub-movement time meas-
ures. Therefore, it can be concluded that only transient prepara-
tory processes which are only involved in movement initiation
related activities benefit of the tones. When assumed that the
task is easy or becomes very fast easy with practice, the results
that the tones benefit preparatory processes is in line with the
theoretical perspective that tones increase non-specific activa-
tion in the motor system, which benefits simple aiming tasks
(Van Gemmert & Van Galen, 1998). Another possibility for
improvements in reaction time during acquisition is that the
organization of the trials was very consistent, and it has been
suggested that learning depends on practicing run of trials that
are consistently organized (Stadler, 1995). However, this ex-
planation has difficulty to explain the finding that improve-
ments in reaction time do disappear during retention when the
trials do not include a tone. Moreover, since the trials during
acquisition include tones and the trials during retention do not
include tones, it is expected that reaction time would be worse
than retention for the no tone condition, because the latter con-
dition has consistency of organization across acquisition and
etention, while the experimental conditions are not consistent
in organization across acquisition and retention.
In summary, the current study showed evidence that tones
affect acquisition performance depending on the time of pres-
entation, however, it does not alter learning. More specifically,
the tones prove to be performance variables that do not alter the
execution phase of performance, but it has a direct impact on
reaction time. This pattern together with the finding that tones
do not alter learning supports the hypothesis that these tones
result in a non-specific activation of the motor system (Van
Gemmert & Van Galen, 1997).
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