Hold on tight: How to prevent choking under pressure

Topic(s): Uncategorized

Topic: Performance
Publication: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2012)
Article: Preventing motor skill failure through hemisphere-specific priming: Cases from choking under pressure
Authors: Jürgen Beckmann, Peter Gröpel, and Felix Ehrlenspiel
Reviewed By: Scott Charles Sitrin, M.A.

Cropped_view_football_player_1In 2012, soccer players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – two of the best in the game – missed penalty kicks that would have sent their respective teams to the final of the UEFA Champions League.  To those unfamiliar with soccer, Messi and Ronaldo’s misses are akin to Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant missing an open layup.

If this analogy still falls short, let’s have coffee, and we’ll talk sports.  Anyway, in both instances, a penalty kick or a free throw is made more times than not, and the probability of success increases with the skill of the player.  So, in short, Messi and Ronaldo choked – they messed up when they should have succeeded.

Given that choking occurs in most every sport and the consequences can make or break a season – not to mention the team’s finances – Beckmann, Gröpel, and Ehrlenspiel discovered that a possible antidote is squeezing a ball or your left hand in order to stimulate a particular part of the brain.

In three experiments with soccer, tae kwon do, and badminton teams, athletes who squeezed their left hand, an action that stimulates the brain’s right hemisphere, performed better than a control group who did not.

Though helpful for athletes who perform sports that require precision, the authors caution that the results are likely not applicable to, for instance, runners and those who engage in stamina and strength-related sports.

Beckmann, J., Gröpel, P., & Ehrlenspiel, F. (2012, September 3). Preventing Motor Skill Failure Through Hemisphere-Specific Priming: Cases From Choking Under Pressure. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management





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