Date of Completion


Embargo Period



transfer, variability, levels of learning, stabilization

Major Advisor

Claudia Carello

Associate Advisor

James Dixon

Associate Advisor

Adam Sheya

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


In the domain of skill learning, transfer refers to the influence of a learned task—the transfer task—on the acquisition of a new task—the criterion task. Three experiments examined transfer using a virtual implementation of the pub game skittles. The primary focus was on whether the structure of variability during learning determines the nature of transfer. The structure of variability was quantified by the TNC-Cost Method (for tolerance, noise, and covariation), an analytic method that shows how the variability of execution (i.e., movement) relates to the variability of a result (i.e., error). A secondary focus was on the amount of practice of the transfer task, namely, just until stabilization or extending well beyond stabilization. Experiment 1 established the amount of practice needed to stabilize three skittles tasks: hitting a stationary target at one position, a stationary target at different position, and a moving target. Using this baseline, Experiment 2 compared a stabilization group and an extensive practice group using one stationary target as the transfer task and the other stationary target as the criterion task. Although performance suffered with the introduction of the criterion task, positive transfer was observed equally for both practice groups. Furthermore, variability profiles did not differ for the two groups. Experiment 3 again compared a stabilization and an extensive practice group, each within two transfer groups, stationary target to a moving target, and moving target to a stationary target. Once again, the amount of practice did not matter. However, while performance suffered with the transfer from a stationary target to a moving target, performance improved with the transfer from a moving target to a stationary target. Interestingly, the variability profile for one measure, the covariation cost, resembled the error profile of performance. Results were discussed in terms of the relevance of synergistic regulation for transfer among these tasks, in particular, and their implications for the ecological approach to perception-action and learning in general.