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Dave Smith and Dave Collins

The aim of these two studies was to examine the application of Lang’s (1979, 1985) bioinformational theory to the mental practice (MP) of a strength task, the maximal voluntary contraction of the abductor digiti minimi, and the MP of a computerized barrier knockdown task. Study 1 divided 18 males into three groups: a physical practice (PP) group; a stimulus and response proposition mental practice (SRP) group; and a stimulus proposition mental practice (SP) group. Each participant either physically or mentally practiced 40 contractions twice a week for 3 weeks, and electroencephalograms (EEGs) were recorded during testing sessions. All three groups significantly increased abduction strength, but there were no significant between-group differences in the magnitude of the improvements. In addition, late contingent negative variation (CNV) waves were apparent prior to both real and imagined movements in all conditions. Study 2 allocated 24 participants to PP, SRP, SP, and control groups. Participants performed 120 imaginary or actual barrier knockdown trials, with EEGs recorded as in Study 1. A Group × Test ANOVA for movement time revealed that the PP and SRP groups improved to a significantly greater degree than the SP and control groups. Also, the late CNV was observed prior to real and imagined movement in the SRP group, but not prior to imagined movement in the SP group. These results support bioinformational theory with respect to cognitively oriented motor tasks, but not strength tasks.

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Steven G. Zecker

Although mental practice has often been demonstrated to result in improved learning of a motor skill, theoretical accounts of the reasons for this improvement are lacking. The present experiment examined the role of knowledge of results (KR) in motor skill learning, because KR is believed to be crucial to such learning, yet is lacking during mental practice. Subjects in four conditions (mental practice, physical practice, physical practice without KR, and control), tossed beanbags at a target. Results showed that of the four conditions, mental practice showed the largest performance increment, whereas physical practice showed a decrement attributed to massed practice without adequate rest periods. Results suggest that (a) knowledge of results is not always essential for improved performance; (b) mental practice is most beneficial following sufficient experience with the task; and (c) mental practice may be best suited for a massed practice learning situation.

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Deborah L. Garza and Deborah L. Feltz

This study examined the effectiveness of mental practice techniques for improving figure skating performance, self-efficacy, and self-confidence for competition. Two interventions, paper freestyle drawing (PFD) and walk through on floor (WTF), were compared to a stretching control group. Participants (n = 27), ages 10 to 18 years, were members of the United States Figure Skating Association and were randomly assigned to one of the three groups. The study included procedural reliability checks such as pre- and post-manipulation checks; structured seminars; and homework workbooks. Results indicated that the two mental practice groups significantly improved their performance ratings in jumps and spins, and their competition confidence compared to the stretching control group. Results also indicated that the WTF mental practice group increased their spinning self-efficacy beliefs compared to the PFD mental practice treatment and the stretching control group.

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Jeffrey S. Hird, Daniel M. Landers, Jerry R. Thomas and John J. Horan

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.

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Deborah L. Feltz and Daniel M. Landers

A longstanding research question in the sport psychology literature has been whether a given amount of mental practice prior to performing a motor skill will enhance one's subsequent performance. The research literature, however, has not provided any clear-cut answers to this question and this has prompted the present, more comprehensive review of existing research using the meta-analytic strategy proposed by Glass (1977). From the 60 studies yielding 146 effect sizes the overall average effect size was .48, which suggests, as did Richardson (1967a), that mentally practicing a motor skill influences performance somewhat better than no practice at all. Effect sizes were also compared on a number of variables thought to moderate the effects of mental practice. Results from these comparisons indicated that studies employing cognitive tasks had larger average effect sizes than motor or strength tasks and that published studies had larger average effect sizes than unpublished studies. These findings are discussed in relation to several existing explanations for mental practice and four theoretical propositions are advanced.

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E. Dean Ryan and Jeff Simons

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.

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Shawna L. Palmer

This study investigated the influence of two distinct mental practice techniques on figure skating performance. Twelve prenovice and novice level competitive figure skaters each performed two figures which were assessed as a pretreatment measure. In Phase 1 the subjects were assigned to one of three groups: Martin self-talk technique, paper patch technique, or a notreatment control group. Following a 4-week period of using the assigned technique, a second performance assessment revealed no significant differences between the Martin group and the control group, while the paper patch group showed significant improvements over both. In Phase 2 a multiple-comparison-across-subjects design was used. A third assessment was completed after an additional 4-week period which demonstrated that a significantly greater number of skaters using the paper patch technique improved in performance. This study reveals the importance of investigating the efficacies of different types of mental practice when applied to specific sporting or performance activities.

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Jennifer L. Etnier and Daniel M. Landers

Despite evidence that mental practice (MP) improves performance (Feltz & Landers, 1983), the parameters that define the MP period have not been systematically examined. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of the order of presentation of MP and physical practice (PP) and of the duration of MP on subsequent performance. Subjects (N = 153) were randomly assigned to 1 of 9 groups that consisted of a control group (3-min PP) and 8 groups composed of either 1-, 3-, 5-, or 7-min MP, with 3-min PP. 4 of these groups performed MP first and the other 4 performed PP first. Subjects performed a 3-min basketball shooting task for Trial 1, practiced, performed Trial 2, practiced, and performed Trial 3. Results indicated that the order of presentation of MP and PP significantly impacted performance, such that groups who received MP first improved more than did PP-first groups. The duration of the MP period also impacted performance, such that groups who received 1 min or 3 min of MP improved more than the control group or groups who received 5 min or 7 min of MP.

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Cornelia Frank, Gian-Luca Linstromberg, Linda Hennig, Thomas Heinen and Thomas Schack

named tic-tac-toe. After practicing the game physically by way of trial and error, participants practiced one of four conditions during the learning of new strategies: physical practice, mental practice, combined physical and mental practice, and irrelevant practice. Decision-making quality improved in