Practice makes perfect. But imaginary practice? Elisa Tartaglia of the Laboratory of Psychophysics at Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and team show that perceptual learning-learning by repeated exposure to a stimulus-can occur by mental imagery as much as by the real thing. The results, published in Current Biology, suggest that thinking about something over and over again could actually be as good as doing it.
"When trained, radiologists are able to detect anomalies on medical images which are extremely hard to detect for untrained people," Tartaglia says. "The results of our study would predict that mental imagery training, hence, repeatedly mentally visualizing the anomalies that one wants to detect, would be sufficient to become able to detect them."
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