This morning’s email from Dr. Noa Kageyama “the Bulletproof Musican” brought an exciting revelation for me. It seemed like something out of Bizarro world, or maybe a selection from the Oblique Strategies card deck – Do the Opposite!
In his article, When Mistakes Are Good: A Counterintuitive Strategy for Rapidly Fixing Bad Habits in Our Technique, he describes research from the University of Verona published 2008 in “The Sport Psychologist”, where they describe something they call the Method of Amplification of Error (MAE).
Dr. Kageyama briefly talks about traditional approaches of telling versus showing [versus feeling, wherein a skilled dance teacher can lead/follow you, demonstrating “your” wrong way versus “the” right way]. My personal experience certainly bears out his assertion that changing bad habits seems to take forever.
How can we, and how do we, recognize a poor action in time to inhibit it and replace it with something more effective? I’ve often worked on and advised others to exaggerate the desired behavior, but that only goes so far, because we must first recognize where/when to apply the (toned down) exaggerated action.
Well now here comes the MAE suggesting that we amplify the error, and it promises reduced learning time and increased teaching effectiveness.
So here’s the concept in brief:
- The student wants to perform some action more effectively, so the teacher observes, identifies, and conveys (tell, show, feel) the main error that the student is doing. (There may be secondary errors, but some of these may be accommodations for the main error. It’s important to work on one error at a time, then see where that leads.)
- Now the student performs the action exaggerating as much as possible the main error that the instructor identified.
- Next the student has a “free try” in which they perform the action in their most resourceful way. From this the teacher can assess whether the student really understood the point of the correction – and its opposite.
- Repeat the process with the next main error.
The article points out that, “Consistent, habitual errors indicate the presence, rather than the absence of learning. What matters is that the participant knows how to perform the movement incorrectly; the mistake represents the limits of the participant’s knowledge about a movement.” “By asking participants to amplify their principal error during a given performance, they achieve a better understanding of what not to do.”
The researchers reported dramatic improvements in performance, and I’ve no doubt that this Method of Amplification of Error, thoughtfully applied, will produce similar results in our dancing.