Mental representation and mental practice: imagery rehearsal and the change of mental representation structure

Acronym: 
MentR+P
Research Areas: 
B
D
Abstract: 

MentR+P is designed to answer the question if and how mental representations of complex movements change over the course of practice. Specifically, the project focuses on the impact of mental practice on mental representation structure in long-term memory. Building on empirical findings eliciting differences in novices’ and experts’ mental representation structures, we aim to extend those findings by showing how such mental representation structures develop over time using the structural dimensional analysis - motoric.

Methods and Research Questions: 

Mental representation structures in human long-term memory are assumed to play a central role in the organization of actions. These representations are thought to provide the basis for motor control and motor learning in human action. In this project, we focus on questions dealing with the representations’ potential to change.

From research up to now, experts and novices have been shown to have distinct differences in the structure of their mental representations. Specifically, experts’ representations are shown to be organized in a distinctive hierarchical tree-like structure, which corresponds to the functional demands of the task. Furthermore, the organization of experts’ representations is remarkably similar between individuals. In contrast, novices’ representations are organized in a less hierarchical structure, do not match well with the functional demands of the task, and are more variable across individuals. Such differences in the mental representation structure between novices, intermediates, and experts point towards the idea that mental representations of complex movements change as a function of skill-level. Thus, we presume that mental representation structures develop with practice. The purpose of this project is to examine the development and change in the structure of mental representations over the course of practice, and especially mental practice. Hence, questions we aim to answer with our research are: Do mental representation structures of complex movement change with practice? Do mental representation structures of complex movement change with mental practice? How do such mental representation structures change over the course of physical practice, mental practice, and a combination of both?

To investigate mental representation structures of complex movement, the structural dimensional analysis - motoric (SDA-M) is used. This method provides psychometric data of mental representation structures in long-term memory. In particular, it displays information on relational structures in a given set of basic action concepts with respect to goal-oriented actions. The SDA-M consists of four steps: (1) Distance scaling between the basic action concepts (via split procedure) (2) Transformation of the set of basic action concepts into a hierarchical structure (via hierarchical cluster analysis) (3) Determination of dimensions in this structured set of basic action concepts (via factor analysis) (4) Testing for invariance within and between groups (via analysis of invariance) In this project, we focus on the above described method in conjunction with practice – either physically, mentally, or a combination of both.

Outcomes: 

The main expected outcome of the project is threefold: (1) to provide insights on the change of mental representation structures over the course of practice, (2) to provide insights on such changes over the course of mental practice, and (3) to develop an imagery rehearsal building on individual mental representation structures. Preliminary results reveal changes in mental representation structures of complex movement over the course of practice: while pre-test showed no clustering of basic action concepts, post-test and retention-test indicated changes in the group’s mental representation structure. Specifically, the group’s mean dendrogram displayed several clusters which already pointed towards the functional structure of the movement. Future work will shift the focus from physical to mental practice, which is extending these results to imagery rehearsal and relating them to performance. In summary, this research intends to shed further light on the nature of mental representation structures, namely the potential to change and to develop such structures as a basis for future applications in sports, robotics, and other fields of interest.

 

 

 

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