Under pressure, motor actions, such as those required in public speech, surgery, or musical performance, can be compromised, even when these have been well-trained. The latter is often referred to as 'choking' under pressure. Although multifaceted problems mediate such performance failure in anxiogenic situations, such as compromised motor dexterity and cognitive disruption, the fundamental set of abnormalities characterizing choking under pressure and how these abnormalities are related have not been elucidated. Here, we attempted, first, to classify behavioural, psychological, and physiological abnormalities associated with choking under pressure in musicians and, second, to identify their relationship based on datasets derived from a questionnaire with 258 pianist respondents. Explorative factor analysis demonstrated eight functional abnormalities related to the musicians' choking, such as attention to the audience, erroneous motor actions, perceptual confusion, and failure of memory recall, which however did not include exaggerated attention to the performance. This suggests distraction of attention away from skill execution, which may underlie the spoiled performance under pressure. A structural equation analysis further inferred causal relationships among them. For instance, while failure of memory recall was influenced by passive behaviours manifesting under pressure, erroneous motor actions during performance were influenced by feeling rushed and a loss of body control. In addition, some specific personal traits, such as neuroticism, public self-consciousness, and a lack of confidence, were associated with the extent to which pressure brought about these abnormalities. These findings suggest that distinct psycho-behavioural abnormalities and personal traits underlie the detrimental effects of pressure on musical performance.
Natural Sciences in General