The self: Your Own Worst Enemy? A Test of the Self-Invoking Trigger Hypothesis.

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The self-invoking trigger hypothesis was proposed by Wulf and Lewthwaite [Wulf, G., & Lewthwaite, R. (2010). Effortless motor learning? An external focus of attention enhances movement effectiveness and efficiency. In B. Bruya (Ed.), Effortless attention: A new perspective in attention and action (pp. 75–101). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press] as a mechanism underlying the robust effect of attentional focus on motor learning and performance. One component of this hypothesis, relevant beyond the attentional focus effect, suggests that causing individuals to access their self-schema will negatively impact their learning and performance of a motor skill. The purpose of the present two studies was to provide an initial test of the performance and learning aspects of the self-invoking trigger hypothesis by asking participants in one group to think about themselves between trial blocks—presumably activating their self-schema—to compare their performance and learning to that of a control group. In Experiment 1, participants performed 2 blocks of 10 trials on a throwing task. In one condition, participants were asked between blocks to think about their past throwing experience. While a control group maintained their performance across blocks, the self group's performance was degraded on the second block. In Experiment 2, participants were asked to practice a wiffleball hitting task on two separate days. Participants returned on a third day to perform retention and transfer tests without the self-activating manipulation. Results indicated that the self group learned the hitting task less effectively than the control group. The findings reported here provide initial support for the self-invoking trigger hypothesis.