The psychodynamics of “choking” under performance pressure.

Individuals sometimes do not achieve at the level that would be expected given their knowledge and/or skills when there is pressure to perform. When suboptimal performance is significant, and it occurs during a high stakes moment or event, the phenomenon is referred to metaphorically as “choking” under pressure. While the phenomenon is well-studied, the literature is dominated by cognitive—behavioral and neurological explanations. These findings are necessary components of any comprehensive understanding of choking (and its subsequent treatment); they are also insufficient. Increasingly, contemporary psychological science researchers and theorists are studying how implicit (i.e., unconscious) processes bypass conscious awareness and influence perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Using psychoanalytic theory, two psychodynamic conflicts that may contribute to choking under pressure are identified: conflict over autonomy, and conflict over aggression/competition. A more comprehensive explanation for choking advances our understanding of why performance may falter in high-stakes situations. These insights may lead to more effective treatments. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)