Visualisation is the process of running through a scene in your mind before you do something – like a mental rehearsal. By visualising (or imagining yourself doing something) you activate the same parts of your brain as you would use by actually doing the activity and you strengthen your abilities. You can use visualisation to help you perfect your driving manoeuvres such as parallel parking and reversing around a corner.
Visualisation works best if you also practice what you are doing, too. There was an interesting experiment done by Australian psychologist Alan Richardson that proved visualisation works way better than doing no visualisation. He chose three groups of students who played basketball. The first group practised shooting hoops every day for 20 days, the second group did no practise other than on the first and last day, and the third group also only made practise throws on the first and last day but every other day simply visualised shooting hoops for 20 minutes. The visualisation was that they threw the ball and it went in the hoop.
At the end of the test Richardson measured the percentage improvement in each group. The first group doing daily practise improved 24%. The second group showed no improvement at all. The third group which had only practised on two days, but had done visualisation for the other days improved 23%, which is almost as good as the group that practised every day.
What does this mean for you?
It means that you can become much better at driving by simply visualising yourself driving. Of course, you have to practise driving – you can’t become a good driver just by visualising, but you can dramatically improve your driving skills.
You can also visualise yourself doing well on a theory test, or visualise yourself being calm and confident on the day of your test.
The process of visualisation
The actual process of visualisation is fairly easy but your brain will resist it at first, instead choosing to focus on little distractions. Therefore, it’s best to do it in a quiet place. If you can sit in the car in a garage or in a quiet street, this will help because the environment will be the same. You can visualise any scenario you want, but let’s go with reversing around a corner.
Sit down and relax. Close your eyes.
Imagine you are in the car. What does it feel like? You can see the steering wheel, the dashboard and the gear stick. Your feet are at the pedals. You can hear the engine running. You’ve stopped at the side of the road and you are about to reverse around a corner. What’s around you?
You put the car into reverse gear, check your mirrors and look over your shoulder. Release the handbrake then release the clutch gently, controlling the throttle. As you see the edge of the kerb in your mirrors you turn the steering wheel the perfect angle to follow the curve of the kerb. When you have finished backing around the corner you put the handbrake on and take it out of gear.
That’s as simple as visualisation is. You are imagining yourself in the situation and your brain will then become used to creating that situation when you need to do it for real.
Once you have passed your driving test you can use visualisation in other parts of your life.
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.