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PART III. Improving Motor Performance
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Mental Pract ic 1 . A Rev ed Heta-analysis of the Mental Practice Literature on Motor Sk Deborah L. Feltz ill Learning Mich iga n S tat e Uni ve rs ity Da nie l M . Lande rs Ariz one State Uni ve rs ity Betsy J. Becker Michigan State Univers ity Running hesd: MENTAL PRACTICE Send correspondence to Deborah L . Fe ltz Rm. 210, I.M. Sports Circle School of Health Education, Couns e li ng Psy ch olo gy and Huma n Pe rf ormance Michigan State University Eas t Lsnsing, MI 48824
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M e nt a 1 P ra c t i c e Abstract The effect of mental practice on subsequent performance of a motor skill has been the subject of many reviews. The present review of mental practice effects differed from previous reviews by examining: (1) learning effects by means of effect sizes for pretest-to-posttest differences, (2) mental practice effects compared to no practice, physical practice, and mental and physical practice, and (3) effect sizes using more contemporary meta-analytic procedures recommended by Hedges and Olkin (1985). An overview of meta-analytic procedures is also presented. From the 48 studies identified as having pretest/posttest comparisons, the overall average effect size for all practice conditions was 0.43 p<.05). Analysis of categorical comparisons among practice conditions revealed that physical practice had the largest effect size followed by combined practice, mental practice, and no practice (control) conditions. This ordering of effect sizes was also found for moderating variables of task type (motor tasks) and dependent measures (accuracy tasks). None of the other moderating variables were statistically significant. These findings are discussed in relation to: (a) the conclusions advanced by previous reviewers of the mental practice literature, and (b) varying ratios of physical to mental practice for enhancing learning of motor skills.
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M e nt a 1 P ra c t i c e A Revised Meta-analysis of the Mental Practice Literature on Motor Skill Learning Concomitant with the cognitive revolution in psychology has been the resurgence of research on mental practice. As a specific form of practice, mental practice has also been referred to as symbolic rehearsal (Sackett' 1935) ~ imaginary practice (Perry, 1939), covert rehearsal (Corbin, 1967), implicit practice (Morrisett, 1956), mental rehearsal (Whiteley, 1962), conceptualizing practice (Egstrom, 1964), mental preparation ('Weinberg, 1982), and visualization (Seiderman & Schneider, 1983). According to Richardson (1967, p. 95), "mental practice refers to the symbolic rehearsal of a physical activity in the absence of any gross muscular movements." Such covert activity is commonly observed among musicians and athletes prior to their performances. For example, when a gymnast imagines going through the motions of performing a still ring routine he is engaged in mental practice. Since the 19 30s there have been over 100 studies on mental practice. The specific research question addressed in these studies has been whether a given amount of mental practice prior to performing a motor skill will enhance one's subsequent motor performance. Unfortunately, definitive answers to this question have not been readily forthcoming. Although there are existing narrative (Corbin, 1972; Richardson, 1967 a, b; Weinberg, 1982) and meta-analytic (Feltz & Landers, 1983) reviews of the mental practice literature, the conclusions have been contradictory. There is a need, therefore, to conduct a comprehensive review of the mental practice literature using more sophisticated meta-
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M e nt a 1 P ra c t i c e 4 analytic procedures and examining more s tudy f eatures than used in previous studies (e . g., Feltz & Landers , 1983) . MENTAL PRACTI CE PARAD IGMS Most experiments on skill acquisition have been variants on a research design which employs four groups of sub jects randomly selected f ram a homogeneous parent population or equated on initial levels of performance. These groups have been (a) mental practice, (b) physical practice, (c) combined physical and mental practice, and (d) no physical or mental practice (i.e., control). Most studies compared the performances (pre-post) of sub jects who had previous mental practice to a control group that had not received mental ins tractions . In the mental practice group the time intervening between pre and posttest was usually occupied in sitting or standing and rehearsing the skill in imagination for a set amount of time. The members of the no practice group were simply instructed not to practice the skill physically or mentally during the interval. A more appropriate control has required members of the no practice group to participate in the same number of practice sessions as the mental and physical practice groups, but with activity that has been irrelevant to the task. Quite often, these groups were also contrasted to a physical practice group and a group receiving combined mental and physical practice. A practice period was then instituted which varied cons iderably in the number of trials in each practice session and in total number and spacing of trials. In combined mental-physical practice groups ~ practice periods involved either
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Mental Pract ice alternating mental and physical practice trials, mentally practicing a number of trials followed by physical practice, or physically practicing a number of trials followed by mental practice. Following this practice Period, the sub Sects' skills were tested under standard conditions to determine whether their performance scores differed as a result of the practice condition administered. The scope of the present meta-analytic review is considerably broader than in previous reviews. Whereas Feltz and Landers (1983) limited their review to only comparisons between mental practice and no practice, all four groups are compared in the present review. The previous meta-analytic study included only studies that had pretest scores or a control group with which to be compared. By contrast, the present review included only single or multiple group studies having pre and posttest scores. The use of pre-post designs permitted a determination of a change-score effect size for each group examined in this set of mental practice studies. PREVIOUS REVIEWS Research studies examining the effects of mental practice on motor learning and skilled performance have been reviewed on a selective basis. The reviews by Richardson ( 1967a ~ and Corbin (1972) included from 22 to 56 studies and provided contradictory conclusions . Richardson ~ 1967a ~ reviewed studies of three types: (a ~ those that focused on how mental practice could facilitate the initial acquisition of a perceptual motor skill, (b) those that focused on aiding the continued retention of a motor skill,
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Ment al Pra ct ice 6 and (c ~ those that focused on improving the immediate performance of a skill. He concluded that in a ma jority of the studies reviewed, mental practice facilitates the acquisition of a motor skill. There were not enough s tudies to draw any conclusions regarding the effect of mental practice on retention or immediate perf ormance of a task. Five years later, Corbin ( 1972) who reviewed many other factors that could affect mental practice was much more cautious in his interpretation of the effects of menta' practice on acquisition and retention of skilled motor behavior. In fact, he maintained that the studies were inconclusive and that a host of individual, task and methodological factors used with mental practice produced different mental practice results. In a 1982 review of "mental preparation, ~ Weinberg reviewed 27 studies dealing with mental practice. Although Weinberg noted the equivocal nature of this literature, he maintained that the following consistencies were apparent: (a) physical practice is better than mental practice; and (b) mental practice combined and alternated with physical practice is more effective than either p by s i ca 1 p ra c t i ce or me nt a 1 p ra ct i c e a 1 o n e . Th e 1 a t t e r conclusion is similar to Richardson's (1967a) cautious inference that the combined practice group is as good as or better than physical practice trials only. Another conclusion reached by Weinberg ~ 19 82) was that f or mental practice to be effective individuals had to achieve a mi ni mu m s k i 1 1 p r o f i c i e n c y . H ow e vie r , i n t h e i r me t a -a na ly s i s , Feltz and Landers ~ 1983) found no significant differences between
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M e nt a 1 P ra c t i ce the effect sizes determined for novice and experienced p e r f or me r s . It is not surprising that with all of the significant and nonsignificant findings in the numerous mental practice studies, it is exceedingly difficult in these narrative reviews (Corbin, 1972; Richardson, 1967; Weinberg, 1982) to obtain any clear patterns. The insights about directions for future research that were provided in previous reviews by Richardson (1967), Corbin (1972) and Weinberg (1982) were helpful. In the above reviews, however, the conclusions about mental practice effects may have been distorted for one or more of the following reasons: (a) too few studies have been included to accurately portray the overall empirical findings in the area; (b) only a subset of possible studies was included, leaving open the possibility that bias on the reviewers' part may have influenced them to include studies that supported their position, while excluding those that may have contradicted their beliefs; (c) although the reviewers speculated about a range of variables that may influence the effectiveness of mental practice, the style used in these reviews was more narrative and rhetorical than technical and statistical, thus making it difficult to systematically identify the variables; and (d) the reviews have ignored the issue of relationship strength, which may have allowed weak disconfirmation, or the equal weighting of conclusions based on f ew studies with conclusions based on several studies (see Cooper, 1979). In other words, they had a smaller pool of studies, and at that time, more sophisticated tools for research
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Mental Pract ice integration were not widely available. Thus, some of their conclusions may no longer be tenable. Given the current confusion that may have resulted from the basic limitations of previous reviews, there is a need for a more comprehensive review of existing research, using a more powerful method of combining results than summary impression. The methodology recommended for such a purpose is meta-analysis, which examines the magnitude of differences between conditions as well as the probability of finding such differences. AN OVERVIEW OF META-ANALYSIS TECHNIQUES This section provides an overview of the concept and practice of meta-analysis, the quantitative synthesis of research findings. A brief introduction is followed by a discussion of Cooper's (1984) formulation of the process of integrative research reviewing. The effect size, 85 popularized by Glass (1976), is next introduced: this measure serves as an index of the effectiveness of mental practice training in our review. A Overview of hypotheses tested by statistical method designed specifically for analyzing effect-size data (e.g., Hedges & Olkin, 1985) concludes the section. In t r o d u c t i o n "Meta-analysis," (Glass, 1976) or the analysis of analyses, is an approach to research reviewing that is based upon the quantitative synthesis of results of related research studies. Although the idea of statistically combining measures of study outcomes is not new in the agricultural or physical sciences
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Ment al Pra ct ice 9 (e.g., Birge' 1932; Fisher, 1932), used to summarize research results Glass ( 1976) proposed the idea of meta-analysis rt i c ~ ~ ~ i: i ~ n t: this approach was not often in ache social sciences until mete -a na lys i s . Glass described meta-analysis as "a rigorous alternative to the casual, narrative discussions of research studies which typify our attempts to make sense of the rapidly expanding research literature" (1976, p. 3). The book by Glass, McGaw, and Smith (1981) presents an overview of the process as it was first conceptualized. In Glass's view, the task of the meta-analyst is to explore the variation in the findings of studies in much the same way that one might analyze data in primary research. Questions of the effects of differences in study design or treatment implementation on study results are addressed empirically. Thus we avoid the practice of eliminating all but a few studies not believed to be deficient in design or analysis, and basing the conclusions of the review on the remaining results . Some critics (e.o., Eysenck, 1978; Slavin, 1984) have claimed that meta-analysis (as it is generally applied) is littl snore than the thoughtless application of statistical summaries the results of studies of questionable quality. In fact, as is true for some published primary research, some published meta- analyses are flawed because of problems in data collection, data analysis, or other important aspects. However, when thoughtful! conducted, a meta-analysis can provide a more rigorous and objective alternative to the traditional narrative review. Additionally, the development of statistical analyses designed to
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M e nt a 1 P ra c t i ce 56 Egs from, G . HI. 1964 Effect of an emphasis on conceptualizing techniques during early learning of a gross motor skill. Research Ouarterlv, 3 5, 47 2-481 . Eideness, C.L. 1965 The effect of physical, mental-physical, and mental practice on the learning of a motor skill. Unpublished _ a~ master's thesis ~ South Dakota State University. Epstein, M.L. 1980 The relationship of mental imagery and mental rehearsal to perf ormance of a motor task. Journal of Sport Psychology, 2, 2 11-220 . - Eysenck ~ H. 1978 An exercise in mega-silliness. American Psychologists 33, 5 17 . Feltz, D.L. and Landers, D.M. 1983 The ef f ects of mental practice on motor skill learning a n d p e rf or ma n c e : A met a -a na ly s i s . Jo u rna 1 0 f Sp 0 r t Psychology, _, 25-57 . Fisher, R.A . 1932 Statistical Methods for Research Workers ~ 4th ed. ). London: Oliver & Boyd. Glass, G.V. 1976 Primary, secondary, and meta-analysis of research. Educational Researcher, 5, 3-8. - Glass, G.V., McGaw, B., and Smith, M.L. 1981 Meta-analysis in Social Research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage ~
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Mental Practice 57 Gondola, J.C. 1966 A comparison of the effectiveness of programs of physical practice, mental practice, and a combined physical and mental practice on the performance of a selected test of balance. Purdue University. Unpublished master's thesis, Hall, E.G. 1981 The effect of positive visual imagery on free throw accuracy of intercollegiate women basketball players. Unpublished manuscript. (Available from E.G. Hall, School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803~. Harby, S.F. 1952 Comparisons of mental and physical practice in the learning of a physical skill. U.S.N. Spec. Dev. Cen. Tech. Rep. S.D.C.' 269' 7-25. Hedges, L.V. 1981 __ Distribution theory for Glass's estimator of effect size and related estimators. Journal of Educational Statistics, _' 107-128. 1982a Estimation of effect size from a series of independent experiments. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 490-499. 1982b Fitting categorical models to effect sizes from a series of expe riments . Journal of Educational Statistics, 7, 119-137. 1982c Fitting continuous models to effect size data. Journal of Educational Statistics, 7, 245-270. _
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Ment al Pra ct ice 58 19 8 3 1 9 8 4 A random effects model for effect sizes. Psychological Bulletin, _, 388-39 5. Advances in statistical methods for meta-analysis. In W.H. Yeaton and P.M. Wortman (Eds. ). Issues in Data Synthesis. New Directions for Program Evaluation, no. 24. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Hedges, L.V. and Olkin, I. 1985 Statistical Methods for Meta-analysis. New York: Academic Press. Howe, D.P. 1967 Jackson' G.8. The influence of five schedules of mental practice upon ~ _ , . _ . the physical performance of a novel gross motor skill ~ _ _ after a criterion measure of skill has been attained. _ _ . ~ Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Texas Woman's University. 1980 Methods for integrative reviews. Review of Educational Research, 50, 438-460. Johns on, B . L . 1967 Kelsey, I.B. An examination of some factors which might be related to effective utilization of mental practice in learning a gross motor skill. Unpublished master's thesis, Uni ve rs ity of Oregon. 1961 Effects of mental practice and physical practice upon muscular endurance. Research Quarterly, 32, 47-54. Kovar, S.V. 1969 The relative effects of physical' mental, and combined
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Mental Practice 59 mental-physical practice in the acquisition of a motor skill. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Illinois. LaLance, R.C., Jr. 1974 A comparison of traditional instruction, mental practice, and combined physical-mental practice upon ~ . the learning of selected selected motor skills. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Middle Tennessee State University. Luebke, L.L. 1967 A comparison of the effects of varying schedules of - mental and physical practice trials on the performance of the overarm softball throw. Unpublished master's thesis. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Maxwell, Jew. 1968 The effect of mental practice on the learning of the ~ . _ _ ~ _ ~ overhand volleyball serve. Unpublished master's thesis, Central Missouri State College. McKeown, B.C. The effect of physical, mental-physical, and mental practice on the learning of the modified triple jump. Unpublished master's thesis, South Dakota State Uni ve rs i ty . ~ Uno btai nab le Mendoza, D., ~ Wickman, 1978 " Inner" darts: 1967 H. Effects of mental practice on perf ormance of dart throwing. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47, 1195-1199.
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M e nt 8 1 Practice 60 Murphy' T.J 1977 Noel, R.C. 1980 The effects of mental warm_up on Jump shooting accuracy ~ _ ~ _ among selected boys' high school basketball players. Unpublished master's thesis, South Dakota State Univers ity. The e f f e ct of vi s u o -ma t or be h a vi or re h ea rs a 1 on t e nni s performance. Journal of Sport Psychology, 2, 221-226. Oxendine, B. 1969 Effect of mental and physical practice on the learning of three motor skills. Research Quarterly, 40, 755- 763. Perry, H.M. 1939 The relative eff iciency of actual and imaginary practice in five selected tasks. Archives of Psychology, _ , 5-75. G.E. Negative and positive mental practice in motor skill acquisition. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 37, 312. ~ . _ Pruner' S.W. 19 71 The ef feats of three methods of practice on improving the performance of a modified free-throw by sixth grade girls. Unpublished master's thesis . University. Raudenbush, S.W. and Bryk, A.S. 1985 Empirical Bayes meta-analysis. Statistics. 10. 75-98. North Texas State Journal of Educational -
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Ment al Pra ct ice 61 Rawlings, East., & Rawlings, I.L. 1974 Rotary pursuit tracking following mental rehearsal as a f un at i on of vo lu nt a ry c ant r o 1 of vi sue 1 i ma ge ry . Perceptual and Motor Skills, 38, 302. Rawlings , E.I., Rawlings, I.L., Chen, S.S., and Donis Yilk, M. 1972 The facilitating effects of mental rehearsal in the acquisition of rotary pursuit tracking. Psychonomic Science, _, 71-73. Ri ch a r ds on, A . 1967a Mental practice: A review and discussion. Part I. Research Quarterly, _, 95-107. 1967b Mental practice: A review and discussion. Part II. Research Quartlery, 38, 264-273. Rodriguez, G.J. 19 67 A comparison of the effects of mental and physical practice upon abdominal strength ~ n high school girl s . Unpublished master's thesis, University of North Caro line at Greens boro. Ros enthal, R . and Rubin D .B . 1982 Comparing effect sizes of independent studies. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 500-504. Ryan, D.E., and Simons, J. 1981 Cognitive demand, imagery, and frequency of mental rehea rsa 1 as f a at ors inf luencing 8 cquis ition of mot or skills . Journal of Sport Psychology, 3, 35-45 . 1982 Efficacy of mental imagery in enhancing mental rehearsal of motor skills. Journal of Sport Psychology, 4, 4 1-51 .
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Ment al Pra ct ice 62 1983 What is learned in mental practice of motor skills: A tes t of the cognitive-motor hypothes is . Journal of Sport Psychology, 51, 419-426. Sackett, R . S . 1935 The relationship between amount of symbolic rehearsal and retention of a maze habit. Journal of General Psychology, _, 113-128 . , A. and Schneider, S. The Athletic Eye. New York: Hearst Books. ~ . - _ M.F. An investigation of the relative effects of mental ~ _ ~ _ practice and physical practice in improving the efficiency of the breast stroke. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Oregon. Slavin, R.E. 1984 Meta-analysis in education: How has it been used? Educational Researcher, 13, 6-15. Smith, L.E., ~ Harrison, J.S. 1962 Comparison of the effects of visual, motor, mental and guided practice upon speed and accuracy of pe of or man ce of a simple eye-hand coordination task. Research Quarterly, 33, 299-307. Smyth ~ M .M ~ 1975 The role of mental practice in skill acquisition. Journal of Motor Behavior, 7, 199-206. Spears (Alexander I, C .L. 1966 The effect of mental practice and physical practice in ~ _ . ~ _ S ei de r ma n 1 9 8 3 Sheldon, 1 9 6 3
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M e nt a 1 P ra c t i ce 63 learning the running high jump for college wome n. Unpublished master's thesis, Arkansas St-ate College. S t a n d ri d g e, J .0 . 1971 The effect of mental, physical, and mental-physical ~ _ . ~ practice in learning the whip kick. Unpublished _ a_ , master's thesis, University of Tennessee. Sta rt, K . B . 1 9 6 2 The influence of subjectively assessed games ability on gain in motor perf ormance after mental practice. Journal of General Psychology, 6 7, 169-172. Stebbins, J. 1968 A comparison of the effects of physical and mental practice in learning 8 motor skill. Research Quarterly, 39, 714-720. Stephens, M.~. 19 66 The relative ef festiveness of combinations of mental and physical practice on performance scores and level of aspiration scores for an accuracy task. Unpublished ~ _ master's thesis, University of North Carolina at Gre e ns ho r 0. Surburg, P.R. 1968 Audio, visual, and audio-,risual instruction with mental practice in developing the f orehand tennis drive. Research Quarterly, 3 9, 728-734 . Aging and effect of physical-mental practice upon acquis ition and retention of a motor skill. Journal of Gerontology, 31' 64-67. 1976
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Ment al Pra ct ice 64 Trussell, E.M. 19 52 Mental practice as a factor in the learning of a complex motor skill. Unpublished master's thesis. University of California at Berkeley. Tuf ts, S .A. 1963 The effects of mental practice and physical practice on the scores of intermediate bowlers. Unpublished . , , master's thesis, University of North Carolina at G re ensboro. Twining, W. E . 1949 Mental practice and physical practice in learning a motor skill. Research Quarterly, 20, 432-435. R . S . Th e re la t i on s h ip be t w e e n me nt a 1 p re p a ra t i on s t ra t e gi e s and motor perf ormance: A review and critique. Ques t, 3 3, 19 5-213 . White' K.D., Ashton, R., and Lewis, S. 1978 Learning a complex skill: Effects of mental practice, physical practice, and imagery ability. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 10, 71-78. Whitehill, H.P. 19 64 The ef fects of variations of mental practice on learning a motor skill. Unpublished master 's thesis, Uni ve rs ity of Ore gon . The effects of mental practice on children's learning and retention of gross-motor skill s . Unpublished d o ct or a 1 di s s e rt a t i on . Uni ve r s i t y of O re go n . Weinberg, 1982 19 65
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Mental Practice 65 Whiteley, G. 1962 The effect of mental rehearsal on the acquisition of ~ ~ . _ - ~ , _ motor skill. Unpublished diploma in education dissertation, University of Manchester, 1962. Whitworth, P. 1986 Effects of internal imagery and experiental state on _ the performance of intercollegiate smallbore rifle shooters. Unpublished Master's thesis. Department of Physical Education, Western Kentucky University. Wills, B.J. 1966 Mental practice as a factor in the performance of two motor tasks. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Wills, K.C. 1965 The effect of mental practice and physical practice on learning a motor skill. Unpublished master's thesis' Arkansas State College. Wilson, M. 1960 The relative effect of mental practice and physical ~ _ ~ practice in learning the tennis forehand and backhand _ ~ . ~ . drives. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, State University of Iowa. Woolfolk, R.L., Murphy, S.M., Gottesfeld, D., and Aitken, D. 1985 Effects of mental rehearsal of task motor activity and mental depiction of task outcome on motor skill performance. Journal of Sport Psychology, 7, 191-197.
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