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A Cognitive Scientist Reveals Why We Choke Under Pressure and How to Avoid It Cognitive scientist and president of Barnard College Sian Beilock discusses how we "get in our own way" when it matters most and shares strategies to help prepare for success when the stakes are high.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

This story appears in the June 2022 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Barnard College

Few experiences are more frustrating: You spend hours, days, or weeks preparing for a high-pressure moment — a presentation, an interview, a client pitch — and when it finally arrives, stress and anxiety get the best of you.

Instead of giving the performance you know you're capable of, you "choke."

Sian Beilock, a cognitive scientist and the president of Barnard College, has experienced this many times — first while growing up as an athlete, and then during her 12-year tenure as a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, where her research focused on how children and adults perform at their best, particularly under stress. All of this led her to write Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.

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