Many people who read this blog are familiar with what I call passive learning — the phenomenon that causes one to be far better at doing a task after returning from not doing it for a while.
Example: I play Table Tennis (not to be confused with ping pong), and when I come back from a layoff of a few months I play at a level even greater than what I left with. The interesting part about this is how shortlived this period of superior play is. It usually only lasts for a couple of hours or so, after which I return to my old habits and previous level of play.
I’ve been contemplating recently what it is that really happens during these periods of enhancement, and I think it’s fairly simple. I think that geeks (and probably everyone to some degree) literally think themselves to better performance. There is something to be said for mental practice, in other words.
When we move mentally, we imagine ourselves doing the movements of professionals we have seen on T.V. or in videos. As a result of this, when we first attempt the task after the hiatus we have a period of mimicking those movements in real life. The effect is short lived, though, and we soon regress to our previously inferior muscle memories.
I think an interesting field of research would be to try and train people using enhanced versions of these techniques in addition to standard, repetition-based physical training. Actually, I’m quite sure that the technique is so powerful that it’s probably already being done. There just seems to be too much to this to ignore.