The Science of Choking Under Pressure

by Alyson Meister and Maude Lavanchy

Choking under pressure, where one freezes and underperforms when it matters most—even despite deep expertise and years of practice—is well known in the world of sports. But we hear less about the day-to-day chokes that happen at work.

Most of us can reflect on a few of our own choking moments. Maybe you lost your voice or your ability to think straight when speaking with an important client, manager, or audience. Nobody is immune: For example, Mahatma Gandhi had such a moment during his first case before a judge and “ran from the courtroom in humiliation.”1 To help prevent “the choke” at work, we can apply learnings from the world of sports to the world of management. ...

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