To date, it is commonly agreed that physical practice, as well as mental types of practice, have the potential to bring about improvements in motor performance and to induce motor learning. The perceptual-cognitive representational background of these changes, however, is still being debated. In this experiment, we investigated the influence of observational practice on the performance and the representation of the golf putt. With this we aimed at adding to the ongoing debate on the particular contribution of observational practice to motor learning. Novices were assigned to one of two groups: observational and combined observational and physical practice. Motor performance and mental representation were measured prior to and after practice and after a three-day retention interval. Performance improved in both practice groups from pre- to retention-test. Together with performance improvements, mental representation structures developed functionally and became more elaborate over the course of the experiment. Interestingly, however, the pattern of changes over the course of the experiment and across the two practice types was different. Combined practice led to improvements in motor performance from pre- to post-test with representations developing alongside these improvements. Observational practice alone did not lead to performance improvement until after task execution, as shown by improvements in motor performance from post- to retention-test, even though mental representations changed from pre- to post-test. From this, observational practice seems to promote the development of representational frameworks of complex action, and thus action-related order formation in long-term memory.
Cornelia Frank, Gian-Luca Linstromberg, Linda Hennig, Thomas Heinen and Thomas Schack
A team’s cognitions of interpersonally coordinated actions are a crucial component for successful team performance. Here, we present an approach to practice team action by way of imagery and examine its impact on team cognitions in long-term memory. We investigated the impact of a 4-week team action imagery intervention on futsal players’ mental representations of team-level tactics. Skilled futsal players were assigned to either an imagery training group or a no imagery training control group. Participants in the imagery training group practiced four team-level tactics by imagining team actions in specific game situations for three times a week. Results revealed that the imagery training group’s representations were more similar to that of an expert representation after the intervention compared with the control group. This study indicates that team action imagery training can have a significant impact on players’ tactical skill representations and thus order formation in long-term memory.