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A surprising new way for athletes to avoid choking under pressure

28 January 2019

Choking is a ubiquitous and extremely frustrating human weakness – as the stakes are raised, our performance usually improves, but only up to a point, beyond which the pressure gets too much and our skills suddenly deteriorate.

Any new psychological tricks to ameliorate this problem will be welcomed by sports competitors, students and anyone else who needs to be at their best under high pressure situations.

A new paper in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience documents a new technique for reducing choking that has to do with altering how you look at what is at stake.

Atheltes, the researchers find, cope with pressure better if they imagine they already hold the prize at stake and are performing to keep it.

Moreover, they show how this act of reappraisal is reflected in altered activity in a key brain area that’s previously been implicated in how well we can maintain our fine motor control under pressure.


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