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Does learning using visualization work?

Learning Using Visualization?

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Can we improve learning using visualization? That’s a question that Professors Judd Blaslotto and L. V. Clark wanted to answer. To help them answer this question they conducted a two-week study of high school basketball players.

The Experiment Design

The experiment design was simple. They divided the athletes into three groups. Each athlete’s free throw ability was measured at the beginning by recording their successful free throws. This established a baseline to compare each group’s results.

The first group was the control group. They followed their usual routine. They did nothing extra to improve their free throw skills.

The second group put in an hour a day of extra practice. This group used their time to shoot free-throws.

The third group also put in one hour of extra practice time a day. Instead of shooting free throws this group used their time imaging or visualizing. They imagined making perfect free-throw shots. They did no “extra, real” physical practice.

The Experiment Results

The first group performed as expected. Their percentage of shooting free throws didn’t change or improve. On average they made the same number of free throws at the start of the experiment as the end.

The second group improved their free-throw percentages on an average of a full 24%. This shows that practicing makes a big difference.

The third group improved their free-throw skills by a whopping 23%. This was nearly the same as the group that did “real” practice.

How Visualization Effects Learners

The basketball experiment shows us practice can make learners better. It also shows learning using visualization is effective. It can help people improve a skill.

Imagery or visualization is defined as the process of mentally rehearsing a motor act without moving the body. Brain image studies show that imagining motor actions involves the same brain regions as actually performing the motor movements. To our brains, physical practice or visualization are the same thing.

Using visualization, learners can learn the new task in about the same time as doing the motor movements. They can also do it nearly as well.

Final Thoughts on Learning Using Visualization

Further studies have found that learning using visualization works best when combined with physical practice. Here a learner observes, practices and then visualizes the task in a series of cycles. They practice, then visualize, then practice, then visualize. Using this process, learners gain better results.

So, finding ways to incorporate visualization into your training can cut down on your training time and improve your results. What trainer or teacher could ask for more?