Science Daily reported just today on a report in the Journal of Neuroscience. Essentially, if you watch someone else perform a task and you intend to perform that task yourself, you activate those areas in the brain associated with the actual movements.
So if monkey plans to do, monkey will see with more brain function.
Scott Frey of the U. of Oregon says:
What appears vital is the intention of the observer rather than simply the visual stimulus that is being viewed. If the goal is to be able to do what you are seeing, then it appears that activity through your motor system is up-regulated substantially.
Ah, well, the point’s clear. A variation on “content is king,” perhaps, and one that Tom Gilbert would approve of: the value of the outcome to you (needing to do this task yourself) increases the likelihood that you’ll attend more carefully during a demonstration. Further, that increased attention can raise the level of your performance.