Arnett, M. G., DeLuccia, D., & Gilmartin, K. (2000). Male and female differences and the specificity of fatigue on skill acquisition and transfer performance. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 71, 201-205.

An anaerobic fatiguing task, the Bachman ladder (the sum of rungs climbed in three trials), was used for skill acquisition and transfer in groups divided into control (nonfatigue-learning) and fatigue-learning groups balanced by gender. Fatigue was induced by riding a cycle ergometer for one minute at 70% of the mean power calculated from a 30-s Wingate Test. This equalized the fatigue levels between Ss.

Blocks (12) of skill acquisition were performed. For the fatigue group, a block consisted of the fatigue task followed by climbing the ladder for three trials, the three trials taking no more than 30 seconds. The control group followed the same sequence but rested for one minute between ladder climbing tasks. While resting, they performed a mentally demanding irrelevant task to prevent mental practice. After the skill acquisition task, the control group performed 12 rides on the ergometer to control for a possible training effect. The next session consisted of performing three blocks of transfer performance, each block consisting of the fatiguing task followed by the ladder climb.

Male and female Ss in the control (non-fatigued) condition acquired the skill more rapidly than the gender-fatigued groups. Gender differences were displayed in the transfer task. In men, the fatigue group performed better in the fatigue transfer test than did the control group, with the control group's scores actually declining to mid-acquisition level. The opposite occurred for females, the control group transferred better than the fatigue group. The control group declined to about mid-acquisition level, and the fatigue group remained at the level of the latter half of the acquisition trials. In females, acquisition was so much greater in the control condition that even with the decline, the level of performance was still greater than any level achieved in the fatigued condition.

These results promote the following conclusions.

Thus, specific-fatigue learning in males did slow acquisition rates but enhanced transfer to fatigued performance conditions. Such specific transfer was not exhibited in females.

Implication. Whether learning in fatigued conditions to perform in fatigued conditions is beneficial for specific transfer is still an equivocal question. Males benefit from specific-fatigue skill acquisition for transfer, whereas fatigue interferes with both acquisition and transfer in females.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.