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Mackenzie Manning, Hannah Walker, Joy Carlson, Hannah Dresner, Marcos Daou. Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC.

BACKGROUND: Determining practical ways to improve motor skill learning and approaches to perform under-pressure are crucial to enhance adaptive behavior. Utilizing visualization technique while practicing a skill may yield benefits to skill acquisition. To address this question, the present study aimed to investigate whether the combination of physical and mental practice (visualization) of a dart-throwing task would enhance motor learning. METHODS: Thirty participants were divided in 2 groups (15 visualization/dart group; and 15 only dart group) and required to perform 3 dart-throwing phases (pretest: 10 trials; Practice: 6 blocks x 10 trials; 3 immediate Posttests [20 minutes after practice] in random order: Retention: 10 trials - Transfer: 10 trials - High-pressure: 10 trials). Importantly, visualization group “visualized” the skill during the 1-min breaks between practice blocks, while the Dart only group read a nutrition paper during breaks to prevent visualization. Participants threw darts to a target positioned 1.73 m off the ground; and 2.37 m from the throwing line for pretest; practice, retention and high-pressure posttests; while a transfer test was performed from a 3.37 m line. Before practice phase, participants received instructions about dart-throwing skills. Between the practice and posttests phases, participants filled out questionnaires related to Psychological Skills (such as, motivation, competence, anxiety). RESULTS: To assess motor learning, a 2 (Group) by 3 (Posttest) mixed-factor ANCOVAs (with repeated measures on the second factor) were conducted for radial error (accuracy) and bivariate variable error (precision), with pretest radial error and bivariate variable error serving as the respective covariate. On these preliminary results (30 participants data collected out of 56 expected) there was a main effect of group p = 0.041; a main effect of posttest p = 0.023; but no group by posttest interaction p = 0.251. Mean posttests scores showed superior performance for the visualization group [depicted in bold] (lower scores representing better learning): retention test (10.82 cm ± 3.44 cm vs 8.43 cm ± 2.39 cm); transfer test (18.32 cm ± 5.41 vs 14.35 cm ± 4.12 cm); high-pressure test (11.49 cm ± 4.2 cm vs 7.85 cm ± 2.5 cm). CONCLUSION: The combination of visualization and dart practice enhanced motor learning by showing less errors - superior accuracy results in all posttests).

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