Sian Beilock

Psychology Professor, University of Chicago
Author of Choke

Having trouble under pressure? Re-train your brain.

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Biography

We’ve all been there. The big presentation at an all-important meeting. The final exam in a tough course. The last putt at the last hole of a tense round of golf. You’re ready: you know the material, you’ve studied the books, you’ve practiced your swing. But as you watch the partners’ expectant looks — or struggle to focus on the page — or try to read the green as your friends snicker — you fail. You fumble. You choke.

Why is so hard to show our strength under the gun? Conversely, why do some people thrive under pressure? Were they just born that way? Or can chokers learn how to keep their cool?

Sian is here to tell you — yes, they can. Her book, Choke, presents the latest neuroscience and psychology on what holds us back from working at our full potential. It’s a tour of the surprising factors that can undermine our confidence and sap at crucial mental faculties. Why does reminding a woman of her gender make her more likely to fail a math test? How could singing a song to yourself improve your golf stroke? Sian draws on her own research at the University of Chicago as well as other cutting-edge studies to answer these questions and transform our understanding of ability.

More and more, neuroscience suggests that our brains do not stop changing as we age: they are continuously affected by our environments and our own patterns of thought. Sian believes that if we understand the science of the brain, we gain the power to reshape and train our minds to work the way we want them to.

So invite Sian to speak for you, and listen as she unfolds the science of performance in her warm accessible way. You’ll come away educated about the way your mind works and with real strategies for improving results across the board in stressful situations. And when you ace that next presentation — thank Sian.

Books

Choke

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

Sian Beilock

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 — 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 we’re 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. Whether you’re at the Olympics, in the boardroom, or taking the SAT, Beilock’s clear, prescriptive guidance shows how to remain cool under pressure — the key to performing well when everything’s on the line.

Free Press (September 21, 2010)

Praise

"Do you want to hit better shots on the golf course? Score higher on the SAT? Get less nervous before speaking in public? In this marvelous book, Sian Beilock will tell you how, as she reveals the mental secrets to performing under pressure."
— Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist

"A wonderful exploration of what happens inside when you choke on the outside. Essential for anyone who has, or plans, to compete, and especially for those who have choked."
— Andrew Newberg, M.D., co-author of How God Changes Your Brain and Born to Believe

"Dr. Sian Belock is one of the world's leading researchers in human performance. In her book Choke, she explains with great insight the scientific underpinnings involved in individual triumph and failure — whether these take place in the world of sports, academics or business. The reader is arrives at a rich understanding of why and when people choke and more importantly how to achieve one's best in the competitive world. Choke is destined to be a classic in the world of human performance and is a must read for those who seek excellence in all domains of life." 
— Michael Lardon M.D., Sport Psychiatrist and author of Finding Your Zone: Ten Core Lessons for Achieving Peak Performance in Sports and Life

"When do we thrive under pressure? When is it better to stop thinking about what we are doing and simply do it? This informative book teaches us when less can be more, in sports, in exams, and other areas where performance under stress is critical. Its engaging real-world examples offer the reader a wealth of useful and challenging insights into how our brain functions when the heat is on."
— Gerd Gigerenzer, author of Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious

"Choke is required reading for anyone who has to perform under pressure. Beilock takes you on a riveting tour of the science of success, with an insider's insights into what it means for the real-world challenges of business, sports, and education. Beilock gives you the tools to make your brain choke-proof and rise to any challenge."
— Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author of Yoga for Pain Relief and The Science of Willpower

Topics

Sian tailors each presentation to the needs of her audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest her range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Choke

Videos

The Science of "Choking"

Articles

— Sports Health Counseling
— inside NOVA