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Visualization: A Better Way to Learn

A little known theory of learning is making a come back in understanding learning. Perceptual Control Theory can be applied to amateurs or skilled performers alike says psychologist Dr Warren Mansell, from The University of Manchester.The theory argues that when trying to improve performance, teaching people what to do is less effective than teaching them how to picture the outcome.It has been already been used to accurately model the skills necessary for fielders to get to the right location on the pitch to catch a ball, such as in baseball or cricket.

To test the theory, the 48 participants in Dr Mansell’s study were asked to draw images using different instructions.The images ranged from complex to simple symbols and participants were asked to either copy them directly, copy from memory, or copy by giving instructions on how to move the pen. They were also told draw the image after being told what it looked like.Describing the image led to significantly more accurate drawings than giving the instructions for what movements to make.

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