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Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To
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Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,070 ratings  ·  108 reviews

Why do the smartest students often do poorly on standardized tests?

Why did you tank that interview or miss that golf swing when you should have had it in the bag?

Why do you mess up when it matters the most—and how can you perform your best instead?

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—
ebook, 304 pages
Published September 21st 2010 by Atria Books (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Mar 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education, psychology
A couple of years ago I read Predictably Irrational. That is a wonderful book – utterly fascinating while having the added bonus of also being very funny. One of the parts of that book that made my jaw drop was the story of Asian women who were given a maths test. Half of these women reminded of the fact they were women (and we all know women are hopeless at maths) and the other half being reminded that they were Asian (and we also all know Asians are great at maths) with the effect being that t ...more
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This has some extremely good points to make about worry, cognition, and stereotypes that make it worthwhile reading for anyone. For instance, worrying about not doing something makes it more likely that you'll unintentionally do it.
I only gave it two stars because I found it repetitive and full of sports stories, which I have minimal interest in.
Also, as a woman with very high math ability and experience in math and computer programming, I'm getting tired of books piling on Lawrence Summers' qu
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is by far the best book on performance anxiety that I've read...and I've read a lot. According to the author, "choking" is the term used by golfers when they bomb an easy putt due to a high stakes game or when a kicker in football misses an easy goal because of self-consciousness and worry. Beilock uses examples mostly from the sports and academic world but I found they can easily be transferred to any performing arts situation. The claims and theories are backed up by considerable research ...more
Martin Rennick
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
This is one of those books that takes a concept and beats you over the head with it, and once it starts it just keeps on beating.
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
I had already known with the large majority of the content of this book. New details were fewer than I had imagined. I speed-read these sort of non-fiction books, and don't think I miss any important details. Many non-fiction books could be reduced to 20% or so of their size. ...more
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mental-illness
The research is useful, but the book felt padded and poorly connected. It would have been more effective as a pamphlet.
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
*A no-brainer*

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 fam
Bill Leach
Mar 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Choking is below normal performance under stress.

Chapter 1 - The Curse of Expertise
- short term knowledge is kept in the working memory in the pre-frontal cortex
- persons vary in the amount of working memory, and so their ability to carry out various tasks
- sometimes performance is inhibited when one rushes into a problem - the solution is to step back and plan the solution
- even practising under mild levels of stress can prevent you from choking when high levels of stress come around

Chapter 2 -
Brad Lyerla
Jan 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
After watching the Australian golfer, Adam Scott, choke horribly in the last four holes of the Open Championship and then playing horribly later that day myself (I was uncharacteristically nervous playing with new people), I decided to check out Dr. Beilock's book on "choking". It is a marvel. There is an astonishing amount of research on choking and Beilock is an able and informative author on the subject.

Her book is not focused on golf per se, but she does deal with golf in detail and I recom
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The information presented during the first chapters was simply regurgitated throughout the remainder of the book. Also, if you have zero interest in sports and only vaguely recognize names of sport figure heads (I'm in that category), then you are going to learn quickly that sports are apparently the number one issue to which 'everyone' can relate. There were a few good suggestions smattered through the pages in regards to how to deal with anxiety during a high stress situation. Overall, I found ...more
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting book about stress impact on human brain. A lot of scientific data, some practical recommendations on how to deal with stress and prevent failure.
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
Bernie Gourley
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in the science of human performance.
“Choke” in this book means to under-perform under high stakes. It doesn’t mean to be a poor performer, generally. This book is designed to help those who perform at a lower level when the pressure is on. It’s a condition that’s even been witnessed in Olympic caliber athletes--world champions who couldn’t get on the podium in the most important games of their careers. The book isn’t just about choking in sports; in fact, much of it is about bombing tests, and it also addresses under-performance i ...more
Mark Mitchell
Oct 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, sports
Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To addresses the problem of underperformance in critical situations. Sian Beilock offers evidence that "choking" in academic settings (e.g., SAT tests), performance settings (e.g., sporting events or music recitals), and business settings (e.g., speaking to an auditorium full of people) are related, but different, phenomena -- and that, therefore, different coping strategies are appropriate in each case.

Beilock prov

This is a new book by a University of Chicago neuroscientist who specializes in why people screw up in high-pressure situations (thus the title).

Beilock does a good job of covering the relevant science, but the book suffered from repetitiveness on her main points, giving it a strong feel of a long magazine article that had been turned into a book by padding.

Her main point: When the challenge we face is a cognitive one -- doing well on the SAT or performing well in a presentation to a group -- th
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
A book with research in it that I wish I had had access to as a high school student. Test taking is not my forte and the essence of Choke is on how to overcome the mental obstructions that can hinder performance in pressure situations.

Based mostly upon the author's research in tandem with complementary research in sports and neuro-psychology, the biggest insight shared is how a major element of choking stems from a physiological drain on brain resources. Worrying about an act not only distracts
George Rodriguez
Apr 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Do you want to ace the big test, make the game winning shot or close the biggest deal of your career? Or does the fear of failing when it matters most hold sway over your thoughts everywhere from the classroom, the playing field and the boardroom? Either way, Sian Beilock’s Choke will show you not only why we choke under pressure, but more importantly what we can do to steel ourselves and prepare to succeed when it’s crunch time.

Based on research from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, spor
Tomas Lindqvist
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brain-books
This book has a lot of good content in regard to why we choke when the pressure is on and how to fight it. It's data is rooted in neurology and psycology and most of its content is supported. In my opinion most of the content in the book is very well put forward, but maybe a bit heavy on the sports side for us that do not have an interest in it.

I highly reccomend this book for anyone that wants to get a better understanding of how to avoid buckeling under when the pressure is on. This book is n
Alfred Timothy Lotho
Jul 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
The title seemed interesting that's why I picked it up but I was dissapointed with the way the facts were presented. It was more like a scientific paper which echoed some ideas from Malcolm Gladwell. The examples themselves concerning why stereotypes for 'girls not being made for leadership', 'blacks doing poorer than whites in academics, etc were not very relatable. The interesting part regarding why we choke during interviews or when doing business (which is the only thing that I was able to r ...more
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an insightful examination into why some highly trained people fail when the pressure is on and how to decrease the possibility of it happening. Sian Beilock is a psychologist who specializes in this area and offers a thorough study of this topic including the influences of brain development, the impact of negative stereotyping and mental training (math exams) vs physical training (sports). The suggestions on how one can minimize the possibility of choking are nicely summed up at the end ...more
Tyler Harris
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a sport psychologist, whose research interests lie in choking under pressure I was excited to read this book, and was familiar with many of the studies presented. I have read many of Dr. Beilocks original work, and it was nice to have much of it all in one easy-to-read book. I can understand how some readers may dislike some of the content, especially if they are unfamiliar with a number of the concepts coming into it. That aside, I truly enjoyed the book and even learned some ideas that I ha ...more
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Moved a bit too slow for me. I would have preferred the condensed version. I found some of the theories interesting but description of studies tedious.
Juan Chavez
Mar 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2021
A good book on the psychology of competition. Many of the concepts of this book are well known, but the most interesting thing was the part on worries take up space in the working memory of the brain. Working memory is what we are doing to remember your training. It is what is meant by "You don't rise to the level to the occasion but rather sink to the level of your training". The more you worry the less space is the brain for working memory to take over.
There is also the topic of perceived suc
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
a book about how stress and pressure that affects our performances..often it is proven that when doubts, self doubt, outside pressure, etc can be factors that affect the ultimate result or outcome..especially in critical matches, exams, presentations, etc....Dr. Beilock provides extensive research targets to come out with her conclusions..including the imbalances of boys and girls performances based on sexist ridden society..Beilock provides several remedies to avoid being "choked"....such as el ...more
Sri Sarnath
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have read the topic addressed in this book as articles before but never in one place. This book addresses the relationship between brain (or that portion of the brain) and tools to address anxiety and depression (to some extent). The author discusses some very interesting recommendations. I recommended one of them to my friends and we could see the impact in couple of weeks.

This book is a good read. I did find the flow easy but content within each chapter distracting. I think it was probably
Jul 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Choke offers valuable insights into suboptimal performance in high-pressure situations, both in regards to why we choke and how to reduce its effects. I think that it was a worthwhile read but also that the book could've been condensed significantly -- the most valuable sections of the book, in my opinion, are the shaded boxes scattered throughout the book and at the ends of some chapters that offer practical tips. Much of this book feels repetitive, but Beilock does a good job of thoroughly exp ...more
Dec 18, 2019 added it
The book was very enlightening and I would defintely recommend this book to everyone in genral but more so people who struggle with not being able to cope with pressure and how to react to it on the spot. There are helpful take aways you can gather from this book such as ways to deal with pressure, sterotypes can shape affect the way we perform and over thinking things while performin a task can have a negative affect on your performance.
Kara Henry
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Informative, though a bit repetitive.
Explores the concept of choking in several different fields, and how although the mechanism is the same, the details and nuances differ. Enjoyed it and found it helpful. Don't think you need to read the entire thing though unless you are killer for detail.
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was wonderfully written. A great book for making scientific findings understandable and relavant to my life.
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Read for a class. Bit repetitive and did not tell me anything huge but....
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Brain Science Pod...: BSP 76: Interview with Sian Beilock, author of Choke 7 24 Aug 26, 2011 12:52PM  

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