Constant or Variable Practice: Recreating the Especial Skill Effect

Gavin Breslin, Nicola Hodges, Andrew Steenson, A. Mark Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


An especial skill occurswhen performance of a single action fromwithin a class of actions produces an advantage in performance. This advantage in a single action over others in the class is presumed to result from large amounts of practice performing the specific action (Keetch, Schmidt, Lee, & Young, 2005). In an experiment involving the learning of a basketball set shot, practice was manipulated to identify whether an especial skill effect emerges at the free-throw line as a result of constant practice conditions in novice performers. After a pretest, which involved set shots across five distances, participants were randomly assigned to one of two intervention groups. A constant practice group (n=10) performed 300 trials of the set shot at the 15 ft free throw line only, whereas a variable practice group (n=10) performed 300 trials across five distances. Shot accuracyincreased for both groups as a result of practice at the 15′ distance. However, on the posttest, a significant difference was reported between actual and expected scores for the constant practice group only. This finding provided evidence that an effect similar to that seen for especial skills emerges as a result of constant practice. Although an especial skill effect could result frommassive amounts of practice, we show it can emerge as a resultof short term repetitive practice, indicating that the type, rather than amount, of practice is important
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-157
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 9 Apr 2012


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