Whistling at work helps you do better


Sian Beilock of the University of Chicago has claimed that whistling or singing helps distract the mind from trying too hard and prevents mental overload. His suggestion comes from a study into the phenomenon of “choking” — the moment when a footballer misses a critical penalty or a top student flunks a vital examination. According to Dr Beilock, far from being down to “just nerves”, choking occurs when the brain finds itself with too many pieces of information to process, resulting in “paralysis by analysis”.

The same holds true when presenting a vital sales pitch, making an important putt in golf or doing an audition.

“Choking is sub-optimal performance, not just poor performance. It’s a performance that is inferior to what you can do and have done in the past and occurs when you feel pressure to get everything right,” Dr Beilock said.

Some of the most memorable moments of choking occur in sports when the whole world is watching; even singing helps stop parts of the brain that might interfere with performance from taking over, she said. Dr Beilock has dubbed the phenomenon paralysis by analysis — when people try to control every aspect of what they are doing in a bid to ensure success.

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