A multi-representation approach to the contextual interference effect: effects of sequence length and practice

Willem B. Verwey, David L. Wright, Maarten A. Immink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


The present study investigated the long-term benefit of Random-Practice (RP) over Blocked-Practice (BP) within the contextual interference (CI) effect for motor learning. We addressed the extent to which motor sequence length and practice amount factors moderate the CI effect given that previous reports, often in applied research, have reported no long-term advantage from RP. Based on predictions arising from the Cognitive framework of Sequential Motor Behavior (C-SMB) and using the Discrete Sequence Production (DSP) task, two experiments were conducted to compare limited and extended practice amounts of 4- and 7-key sequences under RP and BP schedules. Twenty-four-hour delayed retention performance confirmed the C-SMB prediction that the CI-effect occurs only with short sequences that receive little practice. The benefit of RP with limited practice was associated with overnight motor memory consolidation. Further testing with single-stimulus as well as novel and unstructured (i.e., random) sequences indicated that limited practice under RP schedules enhances both reaction and chunking modes of sequence execution with the latter mode benefitting from the development of implicit and explicit forms of sequence representation. In the case of 7-key sequences, extended practice with RP and BP schedules provided for equivalent development of sequence representations. Higher explicit awareness of sequence structures was associated with faster completion of practiced but also of novel and unstructured sequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1310-1331
Number of pages22
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • motor learning
  • Random-Practice (RP)
  • Blocked-Practice (BP)
  • contextual interference (CI)


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