Practice doesn’t always make perfect

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Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes - but it may not be so true after all, according to new research by scientists at Sheffield University.

In fact when it comes to learning quickly it’s the way you practise not how often you practise, says a study by psychologist Dr Tom Stafford.

Dr Stafford analysed data from 854,064 players on an online game, looking at how practice affected subsequent performances. The game tested rapid perception, decision making and motor responding.

Some players registered higher scores than others despite practising for the same amount of time.

The study suggests those who did display an ability to learn more quickly had either spaced out their practice or had registered more variable early performances – suggesting they were exploring how the game works – before going on to perform better.

Dr Stafford said: “The study suggests that learning can be improved. You can learn more efficiently or use the same practice time to learn to a higher level. As we live longer optimal learning skills become increasingly relevant to everyone.”