Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Friday, June 10, 2022

Don't Choke- Getting it Right When it Matters Most


Choking occurs when one performs at a level significantly lower, due to excessive anxiety, than can be expected given one’s past performance or skill level. People that choke perform at a level much lower than they are capable of.

The Reinvestment Scale (Masters et al. 1993) is a scale used in an attempt to predict the likelihood that a person will choke. The higher a person scores on the scale the more likely they are to choke under high pressure conditions (conditions they perceive as important). Below are a few questions that are presented on the scale. The questions below should be answered with a yes or no; the more yes answers the more likely a person is to choke.


I remember things that make upset me or make me angry for a long time afterward.   yes/no

I get worked up just thinking about things that have upset me in the past.   yes/no

I often find myself thinking over and over about things that have made me angry.   yes/no

I think about ways of getting back at people who have made me angry long after the event has happened.   yes/no

I never forget about people making me angry or upset, even about small things.   yes/no

Strategies to improve performance under high pressure (Beilock 2010):

Remind yourself of your worth

Think differently

Reinterpret your reactions

Don’t over think when performing motor skills

Practice under pressure

Distract yourself

Don’t dwell on past performances (especially negative performances)

Focus on the outcome (not mechanics- specifically when performing motor skills)

Focus on the positive

Using strategies to relax (this benefits almost every situation- academic, business and motor skills)

Remind yourself you have the background and skills to succeed

Think about Your Best Performance (doing the best you can with your skill set and resources)

Excessive anxiety is a key foundation of choking. Anxiety has a negative impact on working memory (drains working memory), and for those performing motor skills it often leads to over thinking- "paralysis by analysis."

Recently I have been incorporating lots of Focused Relaxative Activities into programs for athletes and I have used these activities with my learning / memory clients. 

What do you think- are there additional strategies you have used to prevent choking????  

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