University of St Andrews - Talking a bad game

February 5, 2009

The secret of golfing success is to stop thinking about your putting technique, psychologists have suggested. Cognitive neuroscientist Michael Anderson of the University of St Andrews and Kristin Flegal at the University of Michigan monitored 80 skilled and novice golfers, and found that the former were reduced to novice levels after describing their putting. Professor Anderson said: "It's a fairly common wisdom in sport that 'thinking too much' hurts performance. During a game it can be an obvious distraction. However, what we found surprising is that simply describing one's putting skill after it has been executed can be incredibly disruptive to future putting performance. In skilled performers particularly, we found that describing their skill simply impaired its retention." Their research paper, "Overthinking skilled motor performance; or why those who teach can't do", was published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

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