Overthinking skilled motor performance: Or why those who teach can't do

Kristin E. Flegal, Michael C. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Skilled athletes often maintain that overthinking disrupts performance of their motor skills. Here, we examined whether these experiences have a basis in verbal overshadowing, a phenomenon in which describing memories for ineffable perceptual experiences disrupts later retention. After learning a unique golf-putting task, golfers of low and intermediate skill either described their actions in detail or performed an irrelevant verbal task. They then performed the putting task again. Strikingly, describing their putting experience significantly impaired higher skill golfers' ability to reachieve the putting criterion, compared with higher skill golfers who performed the irrelevant verbal activity. Verbalization had no such effect, however, for lower skill golfers. These findings establish that the effects of overthinking extend beyond dual-task interference and may sometimes reflect impacts on long-term memory. We propose that these effects are mediated by competition between procedural and declarative memory, as suggested by recent work in cognitive neuroscience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927-932
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Volume15
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008

Keywords

  • PERCEPTUAL EXPERTISE
  • SENSORIMOTOR SKILL
  • EXTERNAL FOCUS
  • MEMORY-SYSTEMS
  • HUMAN BRAIN
  • ATTENTION
  • PRESSURE
  • CHOKING
  • EXECUTION
  • EXPLICIT

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