Visualisation Makes Perfect



It’s long been known that visualising a task at hand can lead to improved performance but how does it fair against actually practising the said task?

According to a recent paper from Vanderbilt University – it trumps it!

By getting subjects to mentally visualise a simple target-finding task, the authors showed that performance in the task was increased (they were quicker at successfully finding the target ‘c’ amongst a distracting background), compared to those subjects who actually had a practice run before the test trial.

Importantly, participants who imagined searching for the target showed bigger improvements in performance across visual trials than the participants who actually practiced the visual search – pointing to potential long-term benefits, as well as the short.

A famous technique already used by many in the world of sports, it was actually an interview with legendary tennis player Billie Jean King that was inspiration for the paper. And whilst this may not be the best news for brain-training buffs, as pointed out by co-author Professor Geoffrey Wooman, the results are promising for the future of this preparatory technique: ““This study indicates that some of the success of imagery for learning in sports, music, and clinical settings is due to how well our sensory systems process inputs. So using imagery can change information processing in the brain at the earliest levels.”

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Max Sanderson

Science Communicator & Neuroscientist

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