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 user 2005-02-12 at 10:16:00 am Views: 67
  • #10209

    <>Why smart people crack under pressure
    ‘When they begin to worry, then
    they’re in trouble

    People perceived as the most likely to succeed might also
    be the most likely to crumble under pressure.

    A new study finds that individuals with high
    working-memory capacity, which normally allows them to excel, crack under
    pressure and do worse on simple exams than when allowed to work with no
    constraints. Those with less capacity score low, too, but they tend not to be
    affected by pressure.

    “The pressure causes verbal worries, like ‘Oh no, I can’t
    screw up,’” said Sian Beilock, assistant professor of psychology at Miami
    University of Ohio. “These thoughts reside in the working memory.” And that
    takes up space that would otherwise be pondering the task at hand.

    “When they begin to worry, then they’re in trouble,”
    Beilock told LiveScience. “People with lower working-memory capacities are not
    using that capacity to begin with, so they’re not affected by pressure.”

    The findings are detailed this week’s issue of
    Psychological Science.

    Working memory, also known as short-term memory, holds
    information that is relevant to performance and ensures task focus. It’s what
    allows us to remember and retrieve information from an early step of a long
    task, such as long-division math.

    “In these math problems students have to perform
    subtraction and division, and if you’re trying to hold information in your
    memory and you start worrying about performance, then you can’t use your entire
    mental capacity to do the math,” Beilock explained.

    The study analyzed 93 undergraduate students from
    Michigan State University to determine their working-memory capacities. The
    students were divided into two groups, a high working-memory group (HWM) and a
    low working-memory group (LWM). Each person was given a 24-problem math test in
    a low-pressure environment. The HWM group did substantially better.

    Then the two groups were given the same test, but were
    told that they were part of a “team effort” and an improved score would earn the
    team a cash reward. They were also told their performance was being evaluated by
    math professors.

    Under this higher, real world pressure situation, the HWM
    group’s score dropped to that of the LWM group, which was not affected by the
    increased pressure.

    Since working memory is known to predict many
    higher-level brain functions, the research calls into question the ability of
    high-pressure tests such as the SAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT to accurately gauge who
    will succeed in future academic endeavors.