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Tell them they have big hands!


Picture from Bookgarden

While India maintains its No.1 position in cricket ratings, the one aspect that remains wanting is the fielding and catching. A malaise not only for Indians but for almost all sub-continent players.

And while watching another chance being put down, I wonder what can get them to become better catchers.

Of course more practice.

Possibly something else as well.

Consider this. If the coach persistently and repeatedly told the cricketers that they have big bucket like hands and got them to believe it, would they go on to become better fielders and catchers.

The answer is a BIG YES.

And please do not conclude – ‘Oh psychology’.

It is far more fundamental. Its neurology.

Simply put, the human body is fully mapped in our brain. Refer Penfield’s Homunculus. This is referred to as the Body Schema. This body schema is informed by a library of muscle memories (a rather inaccurate term). These muscle memories give you an intuitive understanding about how your body is able to move and what it is capable of.

Our abilities are most often a consequence of as much as limited by the body schema that we possess as individuals.

Thankfully though, these schemas have an inherent quality: Neuroplasticity. Which is to say that even when the body schema is fully formed it can be altered or adapted to a new belief that the mind develops or the new ability that the human body requires.

Lets see how it works. For example in virtual reality space, what influence do you think would the height of your avatar have on your negotiation skills in that space. You may think nothing. But that’s not true. Dr. Jeremy Balienson  (Stanford University) who conducted many such experiments found a dramatic co-relation. Majority of the players in this virtual reality game, regardless of whether they are tall, short, will negotiate much less effectively and less aggressively if they receive a shorter avatar.

In this case, the body schemas in these players brain, willingly accepts the altered visual inputs and acts in accordance with this new schema.

Going back to the cricket coach telling his players ‘persistently and repeatedly’ that they have big bucket like hands, has the possibility of altering their hand related body schema in the brain and consequently making them act in the light of this altered reality.

And become better fielders and catchers. Worth a Shot!

#BodySchema #neuroscience

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