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Definition of choking

The occurrence of inferior performance despite striving and incentives for superior performance”(Baumeister & Showers, 1986, p. 361)

“Choking in sport is a process whereby the individual
perceives that their resources are insufficient to meet the
demands of the situation, and concludes with a significant
drop in performance – a choke.”(Hill et al., 2009, p. 206)


What can choking in sport do?

“a psychological catastrophe unfolding at the
worst possible moment” Matthew Syed,
following 2000 Sydney Olympics

“It affected the way I played. It affected the
way I lived. It played in my head like a
recorder—over and over again.” Nick
Anderson, following 1995 NBA finals.


Inverted U Theory (Yerkes &
Dodson, 1908)

As our arousal increases so
does our performance

It arousal continues to increase we will incur
detrimental consequences to our performance


Catastrophe Theory(Hardy & Fazey, 1987)

Focusses on the relationship between cognitive anxiety(CA),
physiological arousal (PA), and performance
CA = thought component of anxiety,
Worry and apprehension
PA = physiological arousal/activation
Heart rate and breathing rate
If anxious, increases in PA lead to sudden and dramatic decline in performance


Conscious Processing Hypothesis (Masters, 1992)

Under pressure, athletes consciously think about the skill they need to perform
 Step-by-step execution of an automatic skill
 Skills that are well-learned (automatic)become disjointed due to “conscious processing”


Approaches to understanding individual differences

Attentional Reinvestment
- Self-consciousness (Baumeister, 1984; Masters,1992)


Attentional Reinvestment

Suggests that choking occurs due to reinvestment of conscious control over
otherwise automatic skills
 High reinvestors will tend to consciously control their movements under pressure


Dispositional (Trait) Self-Consciousness

Suggests that choking occurs when individuals become self-focussed under pressure
 Athletes with high trait selfconsciousness
are thought to show high levels of self awareness and self-focus


Other individual differences

 Trait anxiety (Wang et al., 2004)
 State anxiety (Hardy et al., 2001)
 Self-confidence (Baumeister et al., 1985)
 Dispositional Reinvestment (Masters et al., 1993)
 Skill level (Beilock & Carr, 2001)
 Coping strategies (Wang et al., 2004)


Measurement of Self-consciousness

Self-consciousness Scale (Fenigstein et al., 1975)


Ways to prevent Choking

Implicit, instead of explicit, learning
Helpful distractions (e.g., self-talk, cue words)
Process goals
Cognitive restructuring Imagery
Pre-performance routines