The power of muscle memory

Just a silly thing to illustrate muscle memory in action. For over forty years we have lived in a house where the taps in the main bathroom were plumbed in incorrectly, so to turn the tap off you had to turn it clockwise. We’ve just had the bathroom completely refurbished and the taps are now plumbed correctly, so to turn a tap off, it’s turned anti-clockwise. It’s been like that for two months now and every single time that I go to turn the tap off I try to turn it the wrong way. This morning I told myself I absolutely wasn’t going to turn the tap the wrong way. A couple of minutes later when I’d forgotten that promise to myself I turned the tap the wrong way again :rofl:


I thought clockwise was off for a tap / valve? :grin:


I need a keypad to remember my PIN :slight_smile:


Yes, muscle memory is a wondrous thing. Reach up and touch your left ear lobe with your right hand, or touch the tip of your nose, etc. You’ll nail it every time. This comes from doing it all your life.
Practice, practice, practice.


My new car has wiper speed and signal lights on opposite sides of the steering wheel from any other car I’ve ever owned. It’s hard to adjust. Keep trying to out my signal on and turning my wipers on. :laughing:

For bass, I’ve had to train my brain to deal with frets as I played fretless before and them violin (also fretless of course).


I lived at the same house for 30 years. In one of the rooms I never got the lights right at the first try.

That says a lot for bad habits engrained in muscle memory.


When first learning to drive (and having no muscle memory for the controls yet), I accidentally broke the left-side wiper control of our family station wagon, mixing it up with the right-side on-the-column gear shift. Boy, was my father upset! :grimacing:
I’m not sure if this was due to my left-handedness or not.


When you learn to do something, the process is quite wonderful in reality.
Repetition of actions form pathways of neurons in your brain. These pathways get consciously formed as you learn the action and then eventually get turned over to the reticular activation system. That which you struggled to master just happens. The body seeks to do things the easiest way possible and 99.9999 percent of what you do every single day is something that you’ve already learned to do.
(I have arguments with people when I tell them that they rarely actually have original thoughts. When I explain how everything works, they sometimes take quite a while to realise that it is correct… )

So once you lose the requirement for an action to work without conscious thought, you have set it to automatic execution. At that point, trying to take it OFF automatic execution is going to require effort to change it. As much, if not more so than the effort that was required to initially put it there. Rather than forming a path of neurons that will run that action for you, you’re deliberately trying to reroute that path. These are actual physical things in your head. Pathways made and refined between brain cells. Wrapped in myelin

It takes time to make them. It takes time to let them be overwritten by new patterns to correct or remove behaviour.
It’s why it is so important to practice things correctly in as many different facets as possible. Having to unlearn bad habits in anything really sucks. Particularly because that time could have been used to perfect things, rather than have to fix them later.

Be aware that you can do things wrong or imprecisely for an entire lifetime if you never bother to actually stop to get things correct, and then work to get it correct every time.

One of the greatest failures of the education system is that it doesn’t actually teach you how you learn things. If people had a greater grasp of that, they would work out how to actually learn things using the most basic principles on how the biology of learning works.

We’re just left with most people using the wrong term to describe it.


Good point, @admacdo . . . :neutral_face:

I’m just now realizing some parts of songs I’ve been playing incorrectly up to now are proving to be difficult to re-learn.

Cheers and thanks for your post,


Nice explanation admacdo. I know ‘muscle memory’ is a misnomer so I apologise for its use. It’s just a common term that most people recognise…


Oh I can confirm this, my hallway lights switch was always at entrance doors. But recently after reconstruction Ive also put switches on the other side of hallway. I still catch myself going to entrance to turn off the lights.

I still consider it miscle memory cause my body is used to going at entrance to turn them off.