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KQED Forum – Choking

KQED’s Forum radio show had an interesting show on the psychology of “choking”, otherwise known as performance anxiety. Focusing on the trials and tribulations of Jordan Williamson, a freshman field goal kicker for Stanford who missed three crucial field goals in last Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl (and costing Stanford the game), the show explored how athletes manage their anxiety in high intensity performance situations. The show included a former Olympic athlete who choked in the pole vault in the 2006 Summer Olympics and then redeemed himself in the 2010 Olympics. Dr. Sian Beilock, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Chicago and the author of “Choke” (reviewed here on this site) was also interviewed and asked to give her academic perspective based on her research with a variety of performers. What I found interesting was that there was little mention of imagery as a helpful aid in combatting performance anxiety. In fact, the interventions to treat performance anxiety that were mentioned, besides meditation, were surprisingly pedestrian. Is it true that the most effective way to manage performance anxiety is to write about it and keep putting yourself in pressured situations? Listen to the show and let me know what you think!