Preventing motor skill failure through hemisphere-specific priming: cases from choking under pressure

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2013 Aug;142(3):679-91. doi: 10.1037/a0029852. Epub 2012 Sep 3.


When well-learned motor skills fail, such as when elderly persons fall or when athletes "choke under pressure," it is assumed that attention is directed toward the execution of the action. Research findings suggest that this controlled execution and subsequent inferior performance depend on a dominant left-hemispheric activation. In a series of 3 experiments, we tested whether increasing right-hemispheric activation by the use of hemisphere-specific priming extenuates motor skill failure. We compared the performances of a sample of experienced athletes in different sports (soccer, tae kwon do, and badminton) in a pressure-free situation with that performed under pressure. As expected, the hemisphere-specific priming extenuated a performance decrease after pressure induction when compared with a control condition. The results suggest that hemisphere-specific priming may prevent motor skill failure. It is argued that this hemispheric priming should be task dependent and can be understood as a functional regulation of the activation in the hemispheres.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Attention / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*