The power of imagination: Investigating the automatic effects of mental practice.

01 January 2017 → 31 December 2020
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Other biological sciences
    • Other natural sciences
Project description

Psychology has always been fascinated by the question of how practice leads to skilled behavior. This question has been tackled by focusing on the emergence of automatic behavior on the basis of overt practice. Practice, however, is not confined to the overt execution of behavior. More covert forms of practice exist, which also lead to performance improvement, namely mental practice. Mental practice can be defined as the symbolic rehearsal of a physical activity in the absence of any gross muscular movements. Whereas automatic behavior on the basis of overt practice has been richly documented in the past decades, automatic behavior following mental practice remains largely underspecified. This is surprising in view of the prolific use of mental-practice techniques in a variety of domains such sports and music. Accordingly, the present project investigates automatic behavior following mental practice. A dominant hypothesis in the field of skill acquisition is that mental and physical practice are equivalent. However, this hypothesis has been challenged in recent years by findings suggesting that mental and physical practice are based on different cognitive processes. The present project offers a new angle on this debate by investigating if mental practice is valuable pathway for creating automatic behavior.