Practice makes perfect: we hear it all the time. However, studies suggest that continually practising simple skills without taking a break can result in learning less efficiently.Picture by Phil Walter/Getty Images
A study published in the Proceedings Of The Royal Society and conducted by Soren Ashley and Joel Pearson at the University of New South Wales compared three groups of people who were trained in a simple task detecting whether a group of dots were moving left or right:
Three groups were tested on day 1 and again 24 hours later, on a motion-discrimination task. Participants who had a 1 hour break between the two training sessions on the ﬁrst day displayed improved accuracy on the second day, or learning. Subjects who only completed the ﬁrst training session on day 1 also exhibited learning. However, individuals who completed two blocks without a break, ‘over-training’ showed no improvement in accuracy on day 2.
The takeaway? You need to regularly practise to acquire new skills, but you also need to take regular breaks and make sure you sleep well. That said, don't rest on your laurels: continued practising will ultimately improve your performance.