Whether you are sitting for an important test or sinking a winning golf putt, your brain can get in the way when you need to perform at your very best. Ginger Campbell, MD, of the Brain Science Podcast interviews psychology researcher Sian Beilock about her book, Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.
This excellent interview regarding research conducted at Beilock’s Human Performance Lab at the University of Chicago provides some great insights into how the brains of high performers can interfere with delivering an expert performance when it matters most. Beilock doesn’t stop at explaining the many different reasons why someone might choke on a test, a job interview, a speech, or an athletic game. She offers many practical suggestions for how to overcome the memory overload that can impede top performance.
This is really valuable information for students and their teachers. Beilock says high performers are more likely to choke on a test than students with lesser skills. This seems counter-intuitive until she explains that these higher performers generally have greater working memory to help them perform highly complex cognitive tasks, but this working memory can become flooded by anxiety and worry, significantly limiting the amount of working memory available for the task, resulting in a less than optimal performance.
Beilock describes research that shows that 10 minutes of free writing about these feelings and anxieties can relieve the worries enough to free up that valuable working memory for the cognitive tasks and performance can return to normal.
The interview is filled with interesting research findings and concrete suggestions about mitigating performance problems. Brain Science Podcast host Ginger Cambell does a nice job leading Beilock through many different aspects of her research in a presentation that is easy to follow and full of practical advice. Be sure to take a look at previous episodes of the Brain Science Podcast for some fascinating interviews with many of the world’s leading neuroscience researchers.
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