The effect of mental practice immediately prior to performance on the acquisition of a motor skill

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The use of mental practice to facilitate the acquisition of a motor skill was investigated. A transfer design was used to determine if the facilitation of mirror tracing performance could be attributed to learning. Following two trials on the mirror trace subjects performed either mental practice, a reading task, an attentional focus task, or massed practice. Subjects then performed trial 3. Then 52 subjects transferred to the nonpreferred hand for trials 4 and 5. The remaining subjects continued to trace with the preferred hand for trials 4 and 5.

Subjects in the mental practice group traced faster than subjects in the reading task and massed practice groups, although they did not trace significantly faster than the attentional focus group. Mental practice subjects did not make significantly fewer errors than subjects in the other groups. An analysis of the transfer task indicated that the faster tracing by the mental practice group might not have been the result of learning. Females tended to trace faster and make fewer errors than males.