Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered that making subtle changes to your practice routine can help you learn a skill faster than practicing it over and over in the same way.
Senior study author Pablo Celnik, M.D. says, "What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row."
In the study, 86 people were trained on a new computer skill, involving moving a cursor by squeezing a small device instead of using a mouse. Those people were then divided into three groups, spending 45 minutes practicing their new skill. After six hours, group one repeated the same training exercise. Group two repeated the training exercise with a slight variation — using a different amount of force to move the cursor. Group three acted as a control, only completing the first session.
After the training sessions, the participants were tested on their ability to quickly and accurately perform their newly learned skill. Celnik noted that the levels of accuracy and speed in group two were nearly doubled compared to group one. Group three (only participating in one session) performed approximately 25% worse than group one.
“Our results are important because little was known before about how reconsolidation works in relation to motor skill development. This shows how simple manipulations during training can lead to more rapid and larger motor skill gains because of reconsolidation,” says Celnik. “The goal is to develop novel behavioral interventions and training schedules that give people more improvement for the same amount of practice time.”
Read more about the study on the Johns Hopkins website.