Cognitive skills are the basis of performance

Cognitive skills are the basis of performance in human activity being a sportive or intellectual activity. Wayne Gretsky, one of the world best hockey player. When looking at each individual skill, he was average. Average skater, average snapper, average cardio shape. But he had unique ability to oversee the game. Wayne Gretsky used to say:  “know where the puck will be next”. He had a unique sense of timing, rapid response to changes and situation awareness.


In Jazz music, Oscar Peterson is considered, by many, as world best jazz piano player of the 20th century. If we analyse each individual skill: such as scale, arpeggio, playing perfectly the notes, he might not be rated as the best. But when it come to timing, such a layback on the time stretching the time or pure swing, “he is head and shoulder above everybody else” Hank Jones. Similarly to Wayne Gretsky, who new when to make a pass, Oscar know when to press a key. Oscar Peterson has an outstanding sense of time, anticipation, and situation awareness.  

Cognitive Skill Training

Cognitive skills such as being aware of where you are, where your other player or musician are, recognizing pattern, sensing the dynamic of motion, rapid response to dynamic changes are at play here. Daniel Gopher develops training approaches for military and recently adapted his approach to basketball training. He developed a game call Intelligym. The key findings of Daniel Gopher are: §         Cognitive performance can be substantially improved with proper training. It is not rigidly constrained by innate, fixed abilities.§         Cognitive task analysis enables us to extract major cognitive skills involved in any task.

§         Attention control and attention allocation strategies are a critical determinants in performing at top level in complex, real-time decision-making environments

§         Those skills, and other associated, can be improved through training

§         Research shows that stand-alone, inexpensive, PC-based training is effective to transfer and generalize performance.

§         The key for success is to ensure Cognitive fidelity, this is, that the cognitive demands in training resemble those of the real life task.

 The new training process is the following

1) To develop the skill to rapidly response to change, Gopher proposes a protocol he call I Emphasis change is a training protocol. Subjects are required during training to systematically change their effort, attention allocation on sub-elements of a performed task. The acquired skill includes a developed ability to adapt to changes. It is a powerful tool in shaping up the nature of expertise and its strategic flexibility. When improvising in a cutting contest, the jazz players develop rapid response to change and must develop ability to listen to various level of the performance.

2) This “whole task” approach increases transfer and adaptation capabilities, vs. traditional part task training, which decomposes the complex task and trains elements in isolation. However, whole task training is harder at the beginning-there is slower progress at early stages of training. Natural learning of jazz music or language skill follows similar approach. You learn the global phrase, you try to play globally the musical line without specific knowledge instead of learning specific technique first such a chord or scale. 

3) Intermittent schedules of feedback (vs. full one), to help retention and transfer. In jazz, reaction from other musician or public is of this nature. 

4) Encouragement to explore alternatives to reach a general optimum. This exploration is important: we want to help the user find a flexible, and personal best, match between his abilities and task demands. In the tennis example, we know that McEnroe and Boris Becker have different styles, but both are Wimbledon winners. We want to make sure the user increases sensitivity to real-time changes in the environment and expands his or her ability to cope with them. In jazz, what make musician stand out from the pack is the originality of the sounds, line and approach more that speed and technique.  

In conclusion, cognitive skills are the essence of human performance and they can be trained as any other skills. This approach is radically different from traditional occidental approach where the emphasis is on training basic skill in isolation.   


One thought on “Cognitive skills are the basis of performance

  1. Perhaps you may consider psychophysiological self-regulation training as a tool for improving cognitive performance. For sport and musical performance, neurofeedback and heart rate variability have been shown effective

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