Reaction to “Re-imagining motor imagery” by Moran, Guillot, MacIntyre, & Collet (2012)

Reaction to Moran, Guillot, MacIntyre, & Collet (2012) by Richard Thripp
EXP 6506 Section 0002: Fall 2015 – UCF, Dr. Joseph Schmidt
October 26, 2015 [Week 10]

As a piano player, this quote was very salient to me: “Note, however, that there are some instances where slow/fast imagery might still be beneficial to performers, such as during the early stages of motor learning where slow imagery is useful for helping athletes to assimilate key components of the motor task” (Moran, Guillot, MacIntyre, & Collet, 2012, p. 235). When I was teaching myself piano at 10, I would use the digital display on a Casio electronic keyboard to learn to play pieces including abridged versions of “Let it Be” by the Beatles, “Hungarian Dance No. 5” by Johannes Brahms, and “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin. I would use slow imagery by slowing the tempo of the playback down to 20 beats per minute—the lowest the keyboard would allow. The display would indicate the keys currently being depressed at that point in the piece, and I would mimic the display throughout the piece, hundreds of times, until I could play at the correct tempo. Since this is how I began to learn the piano, I was not only learning patterns and movements for specific musical pieces, but I was also learning the motor task of playing piano in general. It is a large shortcoming, in my opinion, that the authors talk about athletes at length but give no notice to musicians!

It is somewhat counter-intuitive that motor imagery takes roughly the same amount of time as physical motor action. Why are we seemingly incapable of visualizing motor imagery at a much faster pace? Is it possible to train ourselves to become faster at visualizing motor imagery? I have many questions, and there are presently few answers.

I particularly enjoyed the section on confounding and confusing visualization instructions (pp. 229–230). The criticism of instructing participants to visualize themselves golfing in first-person but to imagine a shot “easily reaches the green,” which will elicit a third-person perspective for some subjects, was powerful (p. 230). Being clear and isolating the type of visualization you are trying to study is a mighty task in and of itself. The tone and body language with which the instructions are communicated could even be important—we may not get the whole picture just from a textual printing of the prompts. English is a peculiar language, varying by region and culture; certain instructions may elicit conflicting visualizations from different people, based on their respective backgrounds. The aim should be to be as clear as reasonably possible—perfection is impossible. However, the standards of present research are too low.

The grievance of motor skills research having been focused on simple, constrained movements (p. 237) parallels the problems with generalizing auditory processing research to speech perception. When we have been focused mainly on “simple sounds such as tones, clicks, and noise bursts” (Holt & Lotto, 2010, p. 10), how can we accurately infer these to speech perception, which is much more complicated? How can we apply constrained finger movements to real athletic activity (Moran et al., 2012, p. 237)? The dichotomy of naturalistic versus controlled research is ever-present. It would appear that both groups of authors would like to see a greater number of naturalistic studies. Such studies might identify threads to isolate in future controlled studies, though naturalistic observation cannot infer causality due to a plethora of potential confounds.


Holt, L. L., & Lotto, A. J. (2010). Speech perception as categorization. Author manuscript, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

Moran, A., Guillot, A., MacIntyre, T., & Collet, C. (2012). Re-imagining motor imagery: Building bridges between cognitive neuroscience and sport psychology. British Journal of Psychology, 103, 224–247. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.2011.02068.x

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