Choking under pressure: self-consciousness and paradoxical effects of incentives on skillful performance

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1984 Mar;46(3):610-20. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.46.3.610.


Choking under pressure is defined as performance decrements under circumstances that increase the importance of good or improved performance. A model for choking on coordination and skill tasks is proposed, holding that the pressure increases the conscious attention to the performer's own process of performance and that this increased conscious attention disrupts the automatic or overlearned nature of the execution. Six experiments provided data consistent with this model. Three studies showed that increased attention to one's own process of performance resulted in performance decrements. Three other studies showed similar decrements produced by situational manipulations of pressure (i.e., implicit competition, a cash incentive, and audience-induced pressure). Individuals low in dispositional self-consciousness were shown to be more susceptible to choking under pressure than those high in it.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adult
  • Arousal
  • Awareness
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Social Environment
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*