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The Limits of Cognitive or Mental Skills

The human brain works on many levels and all to often people mistake the mind for the brain. This causes great confusion and chaos in the training industry.  The brain can see things that the eyes and cognitive mind can't.  As a matter of fact, our perceptual reality arises from the brains interpretation of billions of bits of sub-conscious sensory information that are being processed continually. 

Baseball and softball have been operating in “gray” areas for many, many years due to a lack of clarity regarding the brain and mind.  Coaches have had the luxury of “benefit of doubt” because of the lack of scientific evidence disproving the value of “their drills”. Recent legal actions against Lumosity (mental skills / brain games) by the Federal Trade Commission established precedence within the training world and mentioned sports in particularly in the lawsuit

The FTC quantified that benefits associated with “cognitive exercises” are limited to the task performed and have no collateral benefits to brain health. The FTC prohibited Lumosity from falsely advertising about the benefits of cognitive exercises associated with sports performance. The crossover has no statistical foundation for the claim of benefiting athletes in their particular fields. 

Psychology isn't science. Good strides have been made in psychology over the past 25 yrs but most in the scientific community view them as pseudoscience; a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method. In recent years there has been enormous amount of emphasis placed on "mental skills" at the college and pro levels of competition causing an influx of mental skills coaches. This trend of hiring cognitive coaches will subside over time due to the lack of objectivty within the field.  

Cognitive approaches to improving offensive output have extreme limitations when measured at the game day level of performance. In short, faster thoughts associated with faster judgments and cognitive memory doesn’t correlate to higher strike swinging efficiency. The strike zone has no mental or cognitive attributes, which means; the human mind can’t make or develop a functional strike zone from a thought, prior association or mental representation

For that reason, a major shift is taking place in baseball. The shift is away from cognitive or psychological ideologies toward neurology and neuroscience principles. I walked through the vendor area of the ABCA and NFCA conventions this year and was amazed at the number of training tools being sold as scientific.  A vast majority of them could have and should have been labeled as “novelty” items. Some barrier of protection needs to be put in place to help coaches understand and quantify the value of products. A drill aware warning would be useful in informing coaches that do less reading or research than others. Some coaches never study current trends and simply use their ears to validate training drills and methods. For their sake, each drill should have a rating or identifying label to protect players from over exposure to insignificant drills. Something as simple as explicit or implicit would be a good starting point.

Without some form of regulation or safeguard coaches will be at risk of being misled by pseudoscience and the status quo bias that is prevalent within the sports community. A prime example is the thousands of coaches that attended the NFCA and ABCA conventions this year. Multitudes of coaches were exposed to "cognitive" approaches to training pitch recognition, strike zone development and swing alterations. 100% of the convention speakers could have been labeled experts in explicit cognitive training in those areas. There wasn’t a single “non-cognitive” or implicit alternative view point presented at either convention. Therefore the “status quo” remained intact and thousands of coaches left their respective conventions believing that “cognitive drills” and cognitive skills improve game day performance.

The emotional bias or attachment to “the way we’ve always done it” is very strong in baseball and softball. Hopefully the two million dollar fine levied against Lumosity by the FTC will open some eyes and minds to the realization that cognitive exercises have extreme limits and that blatantly ignoring established scientific principles has consequences.  

The Limits of Cognitive or Mental Skills

The human brain works on many levels and all to often people mistake the mind for the brain. This causes great confusion and chaos in the training industry.  The brain can see things that the eyes and cognitive mind can't.  As a matter of fact, our perceptual reality arises from the brains interpretation of billions of bits of sub-conscious sensory information that are being processed continually. 

Baseball and softball have been operating in “gray” areas for many, many years due to a lack of clarity regarding the brain and mind.  Coaches have had the luxury of “benefit of doubt” because of the lack of scientific evidence disproving the value of “their drills”. Recent legal actions against Lumosity (mental skills / brain games) by the Federal Trade Commission established precedence within the training world and mentioned sports in particularly in the lawsuit

The FTC quantified that benefits associated with “cognitive exercises” are limited to the task performed and have no collateral benefits to brain health. The FTC prohibited Lumosity from falsely advertising about the benefits of cognitive exercises associated with sports performance. The crossover has no statistical foundation for the claim of benefiting athletes in their particular fields. 

Psychology isn't science. Good strides have been made in psychology over the past 25 yrs but most in the scientific community view them as pseudoscience; a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method. In recent years there has been enormous amount of emphasis placed on "mental skills" at the college and pro levels of competition causing an influx of mental skills coaches. This trend of hiring cognitive coaches will subside over time due to the lack of objectivty within the field.  

Cognitive approaches to improving offensive output have extreme limitations when measured at the game day level of performance. In short, faster thoughts associated with faster judgments and cognitive memory doesn’t correlate to higher strike swinging efficiency. The strike zone has no mental or cognitive attributes, which means; the human mind can’t make or develop a functional strike zone from a thought, prior association or mental representation

For that reason, a major shift is taking place in baseball. The shift is away from cognitive or psychological ideologies toward neurology and neuroscience principles. I walked through the vendor area of the ABCA and NFCA conventions this year and was amazed at the number of training tools being sold as scientific.  A vast majority of them could have and should have been labeled as “novelty” items. Some barrier of protection needs to be put in place to help coaches understand and quantify the value of products. A drill aware warning would be useful in informing coaches that do less reading or research than others. Some coaches never study current trends and simply use their ears to validate training drills and methods. For their sake, each drill should have a rating or identifying label to protect players from over exposure to insignificant drills. Something as simple as explicit or implicit would be a good starting point.

Without some form of regulation or safeguard coaches will be at risk of being misled by pseudoscience and the status quo bias that is prevalent within the sports community. A prime example is the thousands of coaches that attended the NFCA and ABCA conventions this year. Multitudes of coaches were exposed to "cognitive" approaches to training pitch recognition, strike zone development and swing alterations. 100% of the convention speakers could have been labeled experts in explicit cognitive training in those areas. There wasn’t a single “non-cognitive” or implicit alternative view point presented at either convention. Therefore the “status quo” remained intact and thousands of coaches left their respective conventions believing that “cognitive drills” and cognitive skills improve game day performance.

The emotional bias or attachment to “the way we’ve always done it” is very strong in baseball and softball. Hopefully the two million dollar fine levied against Lumosity by the FTC will open some eyes and minds to the realization that cognitive exercises have extreme limits and that blatantly ignoring established scientific principles has consequences.