Too Much Practising Can Make You Less Skilled

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.


    There are some really interesting reads here, but drivel like this makes a lot of people reconsider whether it is worth removing you from feeds

      Maybe you should take a break from commenting and hope you get more skilled.

    There's no such thing as a 'takeaway' from a single study. The study might be crap. Or it might be first-rate, but in error for unforeseeable reasons. Or its results might happen to form a statistical outlier. The study needs to be replicated, criticised, and then its results/conclusions integrated with other related research by someone who knows the field, before anything can be concluded.

    I'm not suggestion (Angus) that it's not worthy of being reported on. Just leave the 'takeaways' for articles on food.

    i was always told perfect practice makes perfect.

      makes you perfect at practicing at least :P

    Is that what happened to Tiger Woods?

    Is read about this before - it's actually the break that makes it easier to learn, especially if you are changing subjects.

    "However, suggests suggest that continually practising simple skills without taking a break can result in learning less efficiently."

    studies suggest?

    "[...] can make you less skilled" != "[...] showed no improvement [...]"

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now