What is Learned in Mental Practice of Motor Skills: A Test of the Cognitive-Motor Hypothesis

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology

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E. Dean RyanUniversity of California

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Jeff SimonsUniversity of California

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To test the cognitive-motor hypothesis, mental practice effects were examined using two tasks judged to differ only in the degree of motor involvement. Male college students (N = 60) learned either the high motor task or the low motor task under conditions of physical practice (PP), mental practice (MP), or no practice (NP). On each task, the PP group received 12 physical trials; the MP group received one physical, nine mental, then two physical trials; and the NP group received one physical trial, a rest period, and then two physical trials. As predicted, the relative effectiveness of mental practice differed between the two tasks. On the low motor task there was no difference between MP and PP and both groups were superior to NP (p < .05). For the high motor task MP was no better than NP and PP was superior to both (p < .05). It was concluded that performance improvement through mental practice takes place predominantly within the cognitive aspects of motor skills.

Requests for reprints should be sent to E. Dean Ryan, Department of Physical Education, University of California, Davis, California.

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