Choke

What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To
by Sian Beilock | 304 pages

Sian Beilock is one of the world’s leading researchers studying the science of optimal performance. In this book, she walks us through a range of research studies she and her colleagues have conducted to help us get a better understanding of why, under pressure and when it matters most, some of us choke. And, of course, Sian provides a range of tips on what we can do about it. Big Ideas we explore: the what and why of choking, the ultimate choke vacuum, practicing under pressure, an antidote to exam choking, and a bunch of little tips on rockin’ it.


“Ever since I was young I have been intrigued by amazing performances—at the Olympics, in the orchestra pit, and even my friend Abby’s performance on the LSAT. How do people go about turning it on when it counts the most? Why do some thrive while others falter when the stakes are high and everyone is focused on their every move? As we know, sometimes that one instance of performance—one race, one test, one presentation—can change an entire life or a career trajectory forever. …

In Choke we will explore how performance in the classroom is tied to performance on the basketball court or orchestra pit and whether success in one arena carries implications for skill execution in another. We will ask why the mere mention of differences between the sexes in math ability disrupts the quantitative exam performance of a female test taker and we will delve into other activities where similar phenomena occur. Why are those high-powered students—with the most knowledge and skill—most likely to choke under the pressure of a big exam? Do these same folks also choke in sports? Can calling a ‘time-out’ immediately before a game-winning field goal in football reduce a kicker’s success or ‘ice’ him? Why does icing work and can a politician be iced before giving an important speech? Choke tells the stories of the science behind these human performances and others as it explains what the secrets of the brain can teach us about our own success and failure at work and at play.”

~ Sian Beilock from Choke

Sian Beilock is one of the world’s leading researchers studying the science of optimal human performance.

In fact, her lab at the University of Chicago where she is a Professor is called the Human Performance Lab. (<— Awesome.)

In this book, she walks us through a range of research studies she and her colleagues have conducted to help us get a better understanding of why, under pressure and when it matters most, some of us choke. And, of course, Sian provides a range of tips on what we can do about it. (Get the book here.)

As you’d expect, the book is packed with Big Ideas. I’m excited to share a few of my favorites that we can apply today so let’s jump straight in!

P.S. The answer to the field goal question is yes! Research shows that “icing” a kicker leads to lower made field goals. We’ll talk about why. The short story is that by doing so, you give the kicker time to overthink what should be an automatic action, thereby diminishing performance.

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About the author

Authors

Sian Beilock

A cognitive scientist who studies why people choke under pressure and how to fix it.