This study compared varying ratios of physical to mental practice on cognitive (pegboard) and motor (pursuit rotor) task performance. Subjects (36 males and 36 females) were randomly assigned to one of six conditions experiencing different amounts of combined mental and physical practice. Seven practice sessions (four trials per session for the pegboard and eight trials per session for the pursuit rotor) were employed. ANOVA results showed that all treatment conditions, except the pegboard control group, showed significant differential pre- to posttest improvement. Furthermore, effect sizes and significant linear trends of posttest scores from both tasks showed that as the relative proportion of physical practice increased, performance was enhanced. In support of previous meta-analytic research, for all treatment groups, the effect sizes for the cognitive task were larger than for the motor task. These findings are consistent with the symbolic-learning theory explanation for mental-practice effects. In addition, the results indicate that replacing physical practice with any mental practice would be counterproductive.
The authors are at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-0611. J.S. Hird is a doctoral student in the Dept. of Counseling Psychology, College of Education. D.M. Landers and J.R. Thomas are with the Dept. of Exercise Science and Physical Education. JJ. Horan is with the Dept. of Counseling Psychology.