I'm a fan of games and activities with steep learning curves and high skill ceilings, and very precarious lines between success and failure. Such success may not be strictly linear or predictable (e.g. a significant difference in batting averages—0.300 vs 0.350—will not be immediately obvious from just a few at-bats; two chess players cannot have their ELO compared by just a couple game results), but one expects that one's "skill" or "rate of success" as a reified concept is monotonically nondecreasing with respect to time invested.
My question is about the exceptions to this intuition. What are factors that lead to such exceptions (either as a real phenomenon, or as an illusory perception)? Have any such hypotheses been experimentally tested in laboratory conditions?
I can come up with a slew of hypotheses, but don't know to what degrees they've been confirmed as significant by research:
- Perception: Pareidolia/losing streak/reading into unfavorable random noise; pessimist's form of confirmation bias to deal with frustration; failures are being overcounted.
- Perception: Expectations which grow at a faster rate than can be accommodated by skill growth; failures are not being overcounted per se but the standards of success/failure are in flux.
- Reality: Performance anxiety (cf. 2) and losing streak mentality (cf. 1) objectively impacting measured achievement.
- Reality: "Settling down" into one known way of attempting a thing eliminates pathways for success present while in an earlier, more freeform stage of learning.
- Reality: Changes in the body in response to learning (e.g. developing motor neural pathways) throw off the learner's performance temporarily as they adjust to their (hopefully better) bodily circuitry.
- Reality: Other means of "learning the wrong things" whether that be muscle memory, fallacious strategy, etc.