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Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To Hardcover – September 21, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Readable explanations for why we choke and valuable suggestions for what we can do to get through a make-or-break moment with a better chance of success.”

--Wall Street Journal

"If you aspire to be cool under maximum pressure (and who doesn't?), Beilock offers smart tips such as practicing under pressure and 'pausing the choke' by walking away from the problem for a few minutes in order to think clearly."

--Time Magazine

“. . . a must read for golfers.” – WorldGolf

“Choke is an important, fascinating book. Everyone who is looking for optimal performance would benefit from reading it and implementing its principles.”

—Daniel G. Amen, MD, Author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Body

“Do you want to hit better shots on the golf course? Score higher on the SAT? Get less nervous before speaking in public? In this marvelous book, Sian Beilock will tell you how, as she reveals the mental secrets to performing under pressure.”

--Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist

“A wonderful exploration of what happens inside when you choke on the outside. Essential for anyone who has, or plans, to compete, and especially for those who have choked.”

--Andrew Newberg, M.D., co-author of How God Changes Your Brain and Born to Believe

“Dr. Sian Belock is one of the world's leading researchers in human performance. In her book Choke, she explains with great insight the scientific underpinnings involved in individual triumph and failure--whether these take place in the world of sports, academics or business. The reader is arrives at a rich understanding of why and when people choke and more importantly how to achieve one's best in the competitive world. Choke is destined to be a classic in the world of human performance and is a must read for those who seek excellence in all domains of life.”

--Michael Lardon M.D., Sport Psychiatrist and author of Finding Your Zone: Ten Core Lessons for Achieving Peak Performance in Sports and Life

“When do we thrive under pressure? When is it better to stop thinking about what we are doing and simply do it? This informative book teaches us when less can be more, in sports, in exams, and other areas where performance under stress is critical. Its engaging real-world examples offer the reader a wealth of useful and challenging insights into how our brain functions when the heat is on.”

--Gerd Gigerenzer, author of Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious

“Choke is required reading for anyone who has to perform under pressure. Beilock takes you on a riveting tour of the science of success, with an insider's insights into what it means for the real-world challenges of business, sports, and education. Beilock gives you the tools to make your brain choke-proof and rise to any challenge.”

--Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author of Yoga for Pain Relief and the forthcoming The Science of WIllpower --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sian Beilock, a leading expert on cognitive science and the many factors influencing all types of performance, is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. She received a BS in Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego in 1997 and PhDs in both kinesiology and psychology from Michigan State University in 2003.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416596178
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416596172
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sian Beilock, the author of "Choke," is on the faculty of the University of Chicago, a pretty impressive credential. She has ostensibly written a book that will help the reader understand why pressure situations often produce sub-par performances, as we have all witnessed from star athletes on television, and most likely experienced ourselves in other situations, such as academic testing or public speaking.

As a performing musician who, after many years, still would like to improve his consistency and quality of performance, I started this book expecting specific advice about how to deal with choking, i.e. how to counteract the tendency toward freaking out and not doing one's best when it most counts. Beilock does make a useful distinction early on between so-called "working memory," which seems to be conscious intellectual thought and analysis, and "thinking outside the box," which seems to be what most of us might call instinct or gut reaction. The upshot of her thesis boils down to this: under pressure people who rely heavily on working memory get into trouble because too much conscious thought can actually inhibit and disrupt performance rather than enhance it. While certainly true this is not exactly a new idea, and rather than develop it Beilock goes off for much of the book on tangents about high-stakes academic testing and self-reinforcing stereotypes, material that is certainly provocative and important but that seems less than central to the main topic. There is some sound advice about preparing by putting oneself in pressure situations in advance of the "main event," and of dealing with performance anxiety by writing about it and facing it head-on rather than denying or ignoring it. I also like the little checklists that summarize the main points of several chapters.
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By Deb on September 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Ever feel betrayed by your brain?

It's the day of the big test, and even though you've aced every practice test, you can't even get through the first few problems on the actual test. Or, you've mastered your speech, and could practically recite it in your sleep, and then on the day of your performance, you freeze. Or, you've been flawlessly making every putt on the greens during practice, but when the pressure's on during the game, you can't putt to save your life.

We're all too familiar with the ways the brain can choke. Fortunately, Sian's book _Choke_ provides us with insight into why our brains can get derailed, and also offers techniques for getting things back on track. In essence, there are two ways the brain can choke. The first happens when worries and anxieties interfere with the brain's horsepower needed for complex-thinking and reasoning tasks. The second happens when we over-focus too much on a performance, disrupting the natural flow of what normally happens outside of our conscious awareness. _Choke_ addressees both types of brain bonks, and shows what we can do about each.

The book is packed with plenty of food for thought to help nourish the brain and prevent choking. To whet your cognitive appetite, here's just a sample:

The curse of expertise:
*As we get better at performing a skill, our conscious memory for how we do it gets worse and worse. (p. 16)

Training success:
*Practice can actually change the physical wiring of the brain to support exceptional performance. (p. 43)
*Athletes' tendency to overthink their performance is one big predictor of whether they will choke in important games or matches. (p.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very well researched and written look at the Neurological Basis of performance.

I had one very frustrating issue with it though. Nowhere in the promotional material for this book is there any indication that it will be about scientific research that disproves the biological explanation for the differences between Men and Women in the Math and Science fields. Yet, for some reason, a full quarter, verging on a third of text is devoted to this topic.

It's a strange experience to read this. The author establishes a thread about the neurological basis of choking, and then goes on a nearly 100 page tangent. While this is certainly an interesting, significant, and necessary topic, it doesn't fit in well with the rest of the book.

It seems as if it would have worked better on its own.

Other than this issue, the book is a great read.
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Format: Paperback
INTRODUCTION: It has happened to everyone. We bomb a test, blow an interview, or miss the game-winning shot. Whether it is in academics, a profession, or athletics, we have all had a time when we blundered when it mattered most. It is the classic choke. Sian Beilock is an associate professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago and an expert on performance and brain activity. In her book Choke, she provides a fascinating analysis of what the brain reveals about why we crack under pressure and how we can prevent it from happening. This book is a must read for those who aspire to be successful in any aspect of life.

SUMMARY: To start, Beilock defines choking as a response to a perceived stressor that results in suboptimal performance. Essentially, it is when one does not live up to expectations given their talent level and performs worse than they have done in the past. The goal of the book is to explain why, when, and how failure under pressure happens. Much of the answer lies in the differentiation between procedural memory and explicit memory. Procedural memory consists of things that you do outside of conscious awareness and explicit memory is your ability to consciously think and reason on the spot.

Beilock discusses how explicit memory involves working-memory, or the ability to hold information in short-term memory while doing something else at the same time. Working-memory and conscious control are activated in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is used in problem solving and decision making situations. Often when in a stressful situation, the prefrontal cortex malfunctions. It stops communicating with other brain areas needed for cognitive success, causing the choke to begin.
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