Objective. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether practicing a complex self-care occupation in a contextually relevant environment would enhance the learning and transfer of skill.
Method. The design consisted of an acquisition phase, a rest period, and a transfer phase. Fifty-six women were recruited for this study and randomly assigned to one of three groups: (a) a contextually relevant (CR) group that practiced tying a necktie knot onto a mannequin, (b) a non-contextually relevant (NCR) group that practiced tying the same type of knot with a rope onto a wooden pole, and (c) a control group that did not practice at all during the acquisition phase. Participants in all three groups tied a necktie onto themselves during the transfer phase. Dependent variables were movement time, movement units, and the quality of the necktie knot.
Results. No difference in the rate of performance change was found during the acquisition phase between the CR and NCR groups. The difference among the CR, NCR, and control groups’ initial transfer phase performance was near significance for movement time and movement units. A significant difference in the rate of performance change was found among the three groups in movement time and movement units during the transfer phase but not in the quality of necktie knot measures.
Conclusion. The degree of similarity during the acquisition of a dressing skill may influence the rate of performance improvement in a similar dressing skill during a transfer phase. Until further research has been established, generalization of these results to special populations should be done conservatively.