Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just Do It

Talking while doing something non-verbal can throw you off. In fact, many athletes believe that being in their head too much can disrupt performance - so they focus on the action of the moment.

Researchers from the University of Michigan Psychology Department and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland agree. They found that, for some, trying to verbalize a performance distracted the brain by putting the focus on language. This is called verbal overshadowing and has been shown to interfere with the non-verbal aspects of a memory, resulting in a decreased performance on tasks. For more, read here

I can relate to this phenomenon. I can cook a great meal, sink a golf putt or drive the quickest way to a destination, but ask me to explain what I'm doing as I'm doing it and my performance will suffer. So, verbal overshadowing when performing can be a good thing or it can throw a monkey wrench into your world. See how this works for you and adjust accordingly.

Me? I'll be the quiet one on the Just-Do-It bench.


Jade said...

Interesting post. I find that things I am very confident in I am able to explain while doing, such as training and explaining to someone how to run a lesson while demonstrating it at a case. Or even something as simple as explaining a soccer move and its intricacies while doing it. Situations such as these are done smoothly

When it comes to explaining while doing something I'm not so confident in...well thats a completely different issue. I stumble and fumble my way through it which then adds to the lack of confidence.
Interesting post! :-)

phd in yogurtry said...

This perfectly explains the dilemma of new drivers. Trying to drive a car while the instructor or parent is verbalizing instructions fouls it all up.

Big Brother said...

I especially get this when I'm doing something on a computer and I have to explain to someone what I'm doing. It frustrates me to no end because when I verbalize it I have to think about just what I'm doing instead of just doing it instinctively.

jumpinginpuddles said...

oh we can explain it whilst doing it but unfortunately we also dont concentrate too well on our speech so the swear words come just as fast as well:P:P:P

Palmtreechick said...

As an athlete, I know that thinking too much can totally mess with one's performance, well for me it did at least. Once I started thinking and not just doing my performance started suffering. It's hard to get your head out of that spot too because then you start thinking about why you're "sucking" at your sport so much. Ugh.

IntelligentLayPerson said...

Something interesting we noticed in art class was that some of the students could not talk and work at the same time while others did just fine.

Our professor had noted that she sees a consistent difference in her students ability to talk while working on 2d and 3d projects such as clay sculpting, yet not be able to draw while talking.

Do you think this has to do with spatial skills that are inherited and not only developed? Sort of like being ambidextrous. You can learn to use both hands but one typically lacks in fine motor skills but once in a while you run into a freak that can use both hands.

For example there are teachers that write and teach while talking all the time. There are cooking shows where they talk and work and do very well. The same thing with different arts and crafts demonstrators.

So now I will have to go back and read the article/links and see if it mentions anything about that.

James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. said...

That explains why I can't talk and drive well. Wait until I tell my wife I'm not senile :)

Teresa said...

I can't walk and chew gum at the sametime :)

alan said...

Being very capable of overthinking, I'd be much better off spending time at that bench with you!


Teresa said...

I could relate, too. If I have a new job and they are trying to train me, telling me what to do, I cannot think or restore anything.

I need to do it myself and learn from my mistakes...then the memory card in my brain is filled.

Ms.L said...

oooh that must be why it's so hard for me to learn to drive!
I keep telling my husband to let me take the car out on a logging road and figure it out for myself(just DO it) but he doesn't think I'll learn that way. HA,now I can something to bolster my cause.

kenju said...

It works the same for me when I am designing a flower arrangement. I simply can't do it and talk about it simultaneously.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear JAde,
I can't talk and walk so this is me. I envy those who can do the simultaneous like you!

Dear Yogurtry,
Yes, I agree.

Same with me!

I can relate.

Back in my "fitter" days, I could not be in my head when playing a sport. If I was, I'd be awful.

I wouldn't be able to be on a tv show to demonstrate and talk about what I'm doing at the same time. I marvel at that too!

Dr Hubbard,
Isn't it great when data can support something we do!

Yup. Me too.

I'd love to sit on the bench with you. There'd be so many good things to talk about.

Isn't it interesting how some of us can do the simultaneous while others like you and me, can't. Viva la difference.

Yup, now you have data to support it!

I have to stop what I am doing to verbalize what I was doing a minute ago. I can so relate to what you're saying!

Carrie said...

Dr. Deb,

I'm great at multi-tasking - as long as the required results aren't perfection! ;-)

To truly stay in the moment I must focus. It has always been my challenge to be present. Thinking everything away is much easier...

Trudy said...

I wrote a blog about this, i was soo intrigued with verbal overshadowing when i first learnt about it.
Verbal Overshadowing also occurs in relationships. If partners try to explain to another person, why they love their parnter. It's stuffs up the basis of their love. We don't often know the reasons why we love someone, because it is often something biological that attracts us to them, and by trying to explain it in words we are only trying to justify something we don't even know the reason for.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful blog Dr. Deb. I just discovered it. Great stuff.

These tasks are stored in procedural memory. Prodedural memories are notoriously difficult to retrieve. And, as I'm writing, I'm wondering if they're hard to get laid down because they take so many trial and error's got to be a jumble of neuropathways in the brain. I've actually never heard a neuroscientist explain it that way, but it's a thought. And so, in the same way they're hard to get out.

I wrote an article about procedural memory that explains it a bit more. There's a fun exercise included to help folks get the idea better. (Not sure of the protocol of listing my own article but feel free to take it out if you feel it doesn't fit.)

Thanks for the post,