Keller, Dalla Bella, and Koch (2010) explored how anticipatory auditory imagery (or hearing sounds in your mind) affects the timing and force of voluntary movements. Participants were shown one of four color codes that indicated in which predetermined pattern they were to press a set of three keys (i.e. pink = top, middle, bottom). The results showed that the presence of auditory feedback (hearing a sound after pressing a key) increased timing and sequence accuracy and decreased the amount of force used to press a key.
These findings are meaningful because they indicate that auditory feedback contributes important sensory information regarding performance. The reduction in force also indicates that the presence of auditory feedback reduces the amount one must rely on tactile feedback since less force means less tactile feedback generated. This shows that performers who have an impaired sense can rely on their other senses for relevant feedback regarding performance. This research would be especially beneficial to those who work in a musical domain like musicians and dancers. Anticipated auditory imagery could help a musician select which keys to press, the sequence in which to press them and the amount of force to exert in order to produce a desired sound.
From a sport and performance psychology perspective, this research provides support for the notion that the use of multiple senses while performing an imagery exercise can increase its effectiveness. The catch-phrase, “see it, feel it, trust it” is often used to describe how imagery helps impact performance. Based upon this research, perhaps it would be beneficial if the phrase was altered to reflect the impact of sound – “see it, feel it, hear it, trust it.”