The relationship between perceived competence and intrinsic motivation and motor skill retention: An exploratory analysis


In OPTIMAL theory it is argued that autonomy-supportive practice conditions improve motor performance and learning through increased perceptions of competence and intrinsic motivation (Wulf & Lewthwaite, 2016). Recently it has been found that these effects are not always consistent on the group level wherein increased perceptions of autonomy do not coincide with improved motor learning on the group level. There has instead been growing interest in these effects at an individual participant level. These findings, however, have been mixed, thus further investigation is required to better understand the role of an individual’s psychological constructs on motor learning. To this end, an exploratory secondary analysis was conducted on two experiments where increased perceptions of autonomy did not translate to improved retention on a group level. To investigate the predictions forwarded in OPTIMAL theory, we examined performance on retention of a cup stacking task in two experiments as a function of perceptions of competence and intrinsic motivation at the participant level. Motor learning was not enhanced in participants who reported higher perceived competence or intrinsic motivation as there was no relationship between either psychological construct and stacking time at retention. Sophisticated statistical techniques may be required to better understand whether there is a causal relationship between psychological constructs and motor learning. Currently, these findings add to the growing body of evidence that autonomy-support, perceived competence, and intrinsic motivation may not have a direct influence on motor learning as predicted in OPTIMAL theory.