Mind-set matters: Negative thoughts degrade motor skill acquisition in novice medical trainees


Peer comparison can influence a learner’s self-efficacy beliefs and skill acquisition. Our previous work has shown that novice medical trainees who believe that they are performing worse than the group average on a baseline suturing task (regardless of how they actually perform that technique), experience significant self-efficacy and performance degradation when learning a new suturing technique. Our objective was to further examine how this type of feedback influenced their strategies during independent practice time. Regardless of their actual performance on a baseline suturing task, novice trainees (n=30) were divided into one of three groups where they received either no feedback, or fabricated performance summaries indicating that they were performing better or worse than their peers. After receiving this manipulation, trainees performed and practiced a new suturing technique. At baseline, there were no differences in self-efficacy and performance. Those receiving the negative comparative feedback reported significantly lower self-efficacy and performed worse on the new suturing task compared to the other groups. Despite the degradation in psychological and behavioural outcomes, this group did not differ (p=.720) in how they practiced independently (time and number of sutures completed). These results will also be discussed in terms of the expert assessment of the video data (GRS and checklist). Our findings suggest that negative peer comparison is detrimental to individual performance and psychological beliefs notwithstanding having had the same amount of physical practice as the other groups.