On the fragility of skilled performance: what governs choking under pressure?

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2001 Dec;130(4):701-25.


Experiments 1-2 examined generic knowledge and episodic memories of putting in novice and expert golfers. Impoverished episodic recollection of specific putts among experts indicated that skilled putting is encoded in a procedural form that supports performance without the need for step-by-step attentional control. According to explicit monitoring theories of choking, such proceduralization makes putting vulnerable to decrements under pressure. Experiments 3-4 examined choking and the ability of training conditions to ameliorate it in putting and a nonproceduralized alphabet arithmetic skill analogous to mental arithmetic. Choking occurred in putting but not alphabet arithmetic. In putting, choking was unchanged by dual-task training but eliminated by self-consciousness training. These findings support explicit monitoring theories of choking and the popular but infrequently tested belief that attending to proceduralized skills hurts performance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*