It happens to all of us. You've prepared for days, weeks, even years for the big day when you will finally show your stuff in academics, in your career, in sports but when the big moment arrives, nothing seems to work. You hit the wrong note, drop the ball, get stumped by a simple question. In other words, you choke. It's not fun to think about, but now there's good news: This doesn't have to happen.
Dr. Sian Beilock, an expert on performance and brain science, reveals in Choke the astonishing new science of why we all too often blunder when the stakes are high. What happens in our brain and body when we experience the dreaded performance anxiety? And what are we doing differently when everything magically "clicks" into place and the perfect golf swing, tricky test problem, or high-pressure business pitch becomes easy? In an energetic tour of the latest brain science, with surprising insights on every page, Beilock explains the inescapable links between body and mind; reveals the surprising similarities among the ways performers, students, athletes, and business people choke; and shows how to succeed brilliantly when it matters most.
In lively prose and accessibly rendered science, Beilock examines how attention and working memory guide human performance, how experience and practice and brain development interact to create our abilities, and how stress affects all these factors. She sheds new light on counter-intuitive realities, like why the highest performing people are most susceptible to choking under pressure, why we may learn foreign languages best when were not paying attention, why early childhood athletic training can backfire, and how our emotions can make us both smarter and dumber. All these fascinating findings about academic, athletic, and creative intelligence come together in Beilock's new ideas about performance under pressure - and her secrets to never choking again.
©2010 Sian Beilock (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
This book is very interesting and contains plenty of good advice for performing well in different types of stressful situations. The reader has a very patronizing tone, though. I listened all the way through, but at the beginning, I wasn't sure I'd be able to stomach listening to her. The book also could have used more editing. It's very repetitive.
You know those public speakers who go around peddling easy answers at bored business men forced to come to a team-building seminar by their out-of-the-loop boss? Well this PHD is one of those. Yeah. This book is not empty, but check it out of the local library and skim it in about 2 hours. Find the cool facts and study results, save yourself a lot of time and grief. That's the brief. Want more, keep going.
Written for a "low-powered" audience with very little "working memory" this author uses every trick even 4th graders know to add length to that paper that just won't reach the required number of words. This is a "padded" book. She tells you what she is going to tell you (in the next chapter we will discuss... more on that later (wink)), then she tells you. Again and again. Then she tells you what she told you. (Remember how in Chapter 2...) Plus there are the sentence fatteners. "Think about that for a second..." "However", "obviously", and so forth as well. Plus she gives you a buzz word, defines it, then continues to define it every time for the rest of the book. Like "working memory" above. That, is your "cognitive horsepower". (Its mean to call people smart or dumb.) You can be "high-powered" (smart), or "low-powered" (dumb). Basically. Get used to those terms as they are in every paragraph. The narration must be classified as a hate crime. Silly and hammy like a bad actress on a cheap sitcom handed a lab coat and told she is a cooky doctor. The author also strains off topic a lot, spending more words on fake examples (Jared is a black student at Princeton) and a sermon for why prejudice is mean and bad. Lots of examples of when people choked, as if the very existence of choking were her topic. She's a used car salesman thumping the hood to impress you after you've already said "I'll take it." The worst part though is ending every section with "they choked...under the...pressure!" With long pauses like a time worn punch-line.
This book is like a bad rehashing of Blink, Freakanomics, and The Body Has a Mind of Its Own.
And don't be deceived: this is a psychology book, not a brain science book. Although the author occasionally sprinkles in reference to the "pre-frontal cortex" or the "anterior cingulate cortex", she does not take the next step to enlighten us as to how the connectivity, organization, and activation patterns of these regions are relevant to the stated objectives of the book. Most of the key concepts, such as "working memory" and "spatial reasoning" are discussed within the context of cognitive psychology, and not cognitive neuroscience.
Many of the studies/examples discussed at length are just not that mindblowing, and whatever 'profound' implications might exist are poorly summarized (AKA forgetting to deliver the punchline). This coupled with the painfully slow and patronizing tone of the narrator will afford you several occasions to wonder: "Why am I spending my time listening to this?"
Worse, the author spends a great deal of time in the middle of the book tending to what seems to be a personal agenda non-relevant to the thesis that attempts to account for gender differences in mathematical ability and spatial reasoning (unconvincingly, in my view).
My recommendation would be "The Body has Mind of Its Own" by Sandra Blakeslee - if you are looking for a nice balance of 'lay' neuroscience and research/real-world examples. If you are looking for something more rigorous, try "On Intelligence" by Jeff Hawkins, and if you want something very rigorous, try "Rhythms of the Brain" by Gyorgy Buzsaki (not on audiobook).
In "Choke" Sian Deilock, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, reveals what brain science is telling us about performance anxiety - choking. She opens the book reviewing the related literature on performance, neuroplasticity, pratice and other topics related to choking. She concludes with a series of practical things that individuals, students, and parents can do to help themselves and others overcome performance hazards. The last portion of the book focuses on choking in detail.
This is a book that is written to be available to anyone whose interest is in athletic, academic, or creative performance. Don't let this book pass you by whatever your reading interest. The writing sparkles and the reading of Suzanne Torren is excellent.
The book starts off preachy, with the author coming off like she has all the answers and the world desperately needs her insights. A note to authors of these kinds of books: what you have are opinions, no doubt well supported and researched, but still opinions. Plus someone out there thought of it first, he or she just didn't write a book about it. Yet. So if you come off as preachy we will decide you are selling faith healing and move on.
Which I almost did. The first half of the book is mostly about sexual stereotypes, to the point it felt like a rant. What does this have to do with choking? I get that it is a factor in "stereotype threat" but jeez, leave it alone already.
Mixed in with that are many pages which can be summed up as "practice makes perfect". Did I need to spend an audio credit for this?
Fortunately the latter half of the book deals with research into choking, and has practical ideas on how to avoid it. I plan on re-reading the last third of the book and trying to put those ideas into practice.
The narration was good, clear and the tone suited the material.
For the People
I found the material interesting, but I'm a psychologist who likes this kind of stuff. The low rating relates to the lack of coherence between the title and the content. There were a few nuggets of insight, but little in the way of practical findings beyond the most rudimentary review of known ways to combat performance anxiety. Some of the discussions veered so far from the main topic that it became a little ridiculous.
Was looking for more of a how too book as I am a competitive archer. I found a few helpful tips and way to many examples of famous chokes.
Beilock presents some intriguing and perhaps even compelling evidence as to why many cohorts are disadvantaged in popular test settings. Again and again and again. My problem is that she takes anecdotes and turns them into what becomes the focal point of the book. In the end, one comes away less sympathetic towards a real social issue, without getting a deeper than Psychology Today understanding behind the biological mechanics of choking.
I must admit this book is awful. I choke often in critical meetings and I was looking for answers. I was so disappointed with how it was read. The book has a boring monotone narrator; I gave up after an hour. However, I am going to read the book from the library.
"Outstanding in content and presentation"
Suzanne Toren is the ideal reader for this book. She reads clearly, at an appropriate pace, and has obviously thoroughly understood the sometimes quite technical content. She makes the most telling points with just the right tone of emphasis or irony, and even pronounces the name of psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi correctly, a feat which many professional psychologists cannot master.
The text itself constitutes a most enlightening and practically useful review of research in the area of human achievement. While the background is filled in with details of some historically famous experiments and effects, most of the research quoted is very recent. The results are always interesting and sometimes surprising. All aspects of achievement are discussed, from academic, logical and mathematical performance, where 'cognitive horsepower' is at a premium, to procedural behaviour such as sporting prowess and musical performance. At the end of each section the author summarises the implications of the research with a series of practical tips to improve performance.
I believe this book will be of great interest and practical benefit to students, teachers and academics, sportsmen, athletes and musicians. I look forward to the day when these findings start to permeate the school and university teaching and testing systems.
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