Thursday, September 19, 2013

The cognitive benefits of movement reduction.

This piece by Warburton et al. shows another example of how musical, artistic, or athletic performance can be enhanced by subtle mimicking of the final full-out performance. I certainly use this technique in my piano playing. I notice many more possible refinements, errors, and nuances to tweak during either imagining play or playing very slowly and softly than in the normal more robust performance. Their abstract:
In a number of domains, humans adopt a strategy of systematically reducing and minimizing a codified system of movement. One particularly interesting case is “marking” in dance, wherein the dancer performs an attenuated version of the choreography during rehearsal. This is ostensibly to save the dancer’s physical energy, but a number of considerations suggest that it may serve a cognitive function as well. In this study, we tested this embodied-cognitive-load hypothesis by manipulating whether dancers rehearsed by marking or by dancing “full out” and found that performance was superior in the dancers who had marked. This finding indicates that marking confers cognitive benefits during the rehearsal process, and it raises questions regarding the cognitive functions of other movement-reduction systems, such as whispering, gesturing, and subvocalizing. In addition, it has implications for a variety of topics in cognitive science, including embodied cognition and the nascent fields of dance and music cognition.

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