Working Memory, Stress, And Peak Performance

Dr. Sian Beilock - Choke

Dr. Sian Beilock

Sian Beilock, associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, has spent years studying the factors that affect our performance in stressful situations. She has found that we’re often our own worst enemies, undermining our abilities by overthinking or worrying. Her work also confirms again the critical role played by working memory:

“Beilock’s work has shown the importance of working memory in helping people perform their best, in academics and in business. Working memory is lodged in the prefrontal cortex and is a sort of mental scratch pad that is temporary storage for information relevant to the task at hand, whether that task is doing a math problem at the board or responding to tough, on-the-spot questions from a client. Talented people often have the most working memory, but when worries creep up, the working memory they normally use to succeed becomes overburdened. People lose the brain power necessary to excel.”

Working memory training can counteract this problem by increasing our working memory and improving our ability to stay focused under pressure.

For more on Dr. Beilock’s work:



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