If You Tend To Slip Up Under Pressure, This New Study Is For You

Anyone who experiences stage fright knows what it feels like to slip up under the pressure of having an audience watch your every move.

In short: The feeling is devastating.

Now, an international team of researchers has pinpointed the brain network that prompts us to tense up when we’re being watched.

This tension may cause us to exert more force and muscle power than we think we’re exerting when performing a task, which can result in mishaps, Dr. Hugo Critchley, chair of psychiatry at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England and a co-author of the research, told The Huffington Post.

“Ultimately knowing how self-consciousness can affect skilled performance has implications not only for athletes and musicians but for safety and success across other occupations,” he said. “Knowing the factors in brain function that help or hinder motor skills has educational, rehabilitative and prognostic implications.”

The researchers monitored the brain activity of 11 women and 10 men using MRIs while the participants carried out a task that required them to exert a certain amount of force to gripping an object.

The participants completed the task while watching video footage of two people whom they were told were evaluating their performance. Then, the participants repeated the task while watching video footage of two people who seemed to be evaluating someone else.

What did the researchers find? Not only did the participants admit that they felt more anxious when they thought they were being evaluated, but they also gripped the object much harder without even realizing it.

It’s important to believe that the audience is supporting you and wishing for your successful performance.
Michiko Yoshie, the lead author of the research

Additionally, the MRI scans showed that the inferior parietal lobe area of the participants’ brains became less engaged when the participants thought they were being watched and evaluated.

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