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Psychology Mirror Tracing Lab Report

The purpose of this laboratory experiment was to determine how the learning of new hand-eye coordination took place when a pattern of a star was traced by looking at its mirror image. It was first hypothesized that trial and error learning would occur, in which, one learns by repeating the procedure numerous times. It was also predicted that negative transfer would occur, where a long-standing habit in either hand would interfere with new motor skill learning. In addition, it was also hypothesized that learning in one hand would facilitate learning in the other hand as a positive transfer.

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Subject. The subject was a right-handed, approximately twenty-two year old male. The subject did not receive any monetary compensation for his participation, however, served as a subject for partial fulfillment of a course requirement.

Apparatus. One apparatus used in this experiment was a mirror tracing apparatus, which consisted of a mirror placed at a 90 degree angle standing perpendicular to the flat surface where the stimulus sheet was placed. This mirror tracing apparatus also consisted of a shield which was parallel to the flat surface and blocked the direct view of the stimulus sheet from the subject. The other apparatus used was a stimulus sheet that was repeatedly used by the subject. This sheet contained many small circles, which formed the outline of a star, and served as a stimulus to the subject. The stimulus pattern could only be seen from the reflecting surface.

Procedure. The subject was tested 16 times, and the procedure was done in the following order. To begin the experiment, the subject was instructed to trace the stimulus pattern looking directly at it in order to get a baseline time. This procedure was done twice. The first test was done with the subject’s skilled hand, which is his right or dominant hand. The second baseline trial was with the subject’s unskilled left hand, which is less dominant. For the next trials, the stimulus sheet was placed on the apparatus so that the subject could view it only in the reflective surface. For the first trial, the subject was instructed to trace the stimulus pattern with the skilled hand, only looking at the reflected image in the mirror apparatus. The next two trials were done with the subject using his unskilled hand. The next nine consecutive trials done were with the subject’s skilled hand. In addition, the last two trials concluded by the subject using the unskilled hand to trace the stimulus pattern. The pattern was traced counterclockwise with the skilled hand, and clockwise with the unskilled hand. All times taken to complete tracing stimulus were recorded by the experimenter on a data sheet.

The following data table presents the results as they were collected for the trials done with the skilled and unskilled hand.

Data chart of trials done and times associated with each trial.
The following graph compares the skilled performance with the unskilled performance beginning at the baseline.

It was originally hypothesized that three occurrences would take place during this experiment. The first is that of trial and error learning, and the positive transfer of learning, and the negative transfer of learning that would occur. In reference to the first hypothesis of trial and error learning, it is evident that trial and error learning took place. The trial and error learning hypothesis was supported. This is where one learns by repeating a procedure numerous times, which can be seen through a general reduction in time as trials progressed. Established learning patterns took place throughout time, which accounted for the skilled hand taking longer to master the new hand-eye coordination. In addition, the second hypothesis of positive transfer of learning, which is when a skill learned with one hand is transferred to the other. It was apparent that after doing nine consecutive trials with the skilled hand, and switching to the unskilled hand, that transfer of learning took place. The positive transfer hypothesis was supported. The unskilled hand improved 28 seconds between the second and third trial. In addition, the third hypothesis of negative transfer of learning, which is when long standing habits interfere with learning a new skill, it was confirmed that it took the subject much longer to trace the pattern while looking at the mirror image as composed to the baseline times when the subject looked at the image directly. The negative transfer hypothesis was supported.

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