Altering Mindset Can Enhance Motor Learning in Older Adults

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Abstract

Beliefs about personal capability have been shown to affect performance. Lowered ability expectations due to older age may themselves contribute to a decline in performance. In the present study, we investigated whether enhancing older adults' performance expectancies would facilitate the learning of a novel balance task. In Experiment 1, providing older women (71 years) with fabricated feedback indicating that their performance was above average reduced their ability-related concerns and nervousness, and resulted in more effective balance learning, compared with a control group. In Experiment 2, also involving older women (64 years), a simple statement made at the beginning of practice, suggesting that their peers usually do well on that task, enhanced participants' self-efficacy and learning of the task. These results demonstrate that motor performance and learning in older age can be influenced quickly and positively by enhancing individuals' ability perceptions.

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