Mental and physical practice schedules in acquisition and retention of novel timing skills

Percept Mot Skills. 2004 Aug;99(1):51-62. doi: 10.2466/pms.99.1.51-62.


Research has indicated that random physical practice of a motor skill enhances effects of long-term learning more than blocked practice. Moreover, the use of mental rehearsal coupled with physical practice has been shown to accelerate motor skill acquisition in many different contexts and is better than no practice at all. Others have found that some mental rehearsal strategies are better than others for maximizing performance. This study examined how combinations of mental and physical practice schedules affected the learning of a coincidence timing task. 30 college students were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups involving combinations of imagery and physical practice. Three tasks were utilized, each involving a particular speed (slow, medium, fast) on the Bassin Anticipation Timer. Conclusions were based on a three-way analysis of variance, using type of mental practice, type of physical practice, and sex as between-group factors, conducted separately for acquisition and retention trials. Type of physical practice was significantly related to performance. On the acquisition trials, random practice was associated with larger mean errors than blocked practice; however, the reverse was true for retention trials. There was no significant effect of type of mental practice in either the acquisition or retention phase. Sex was significantly related to performance for the retention trials only, where the 15 men made smaller errors than the 15 women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Mental Processes*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Motor Skills
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Retention, Psychology*
  • Time Perception*