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Department of Psychology pres.

Biopsychology Colloquium

Taraz Lee, Assistant Professor of Psychology

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The costs and benefits of cognitive control and motivation: the curious case of choking under pressure

“Don’t overthink it! Just do it!” These phrases are commonly uttered to skilled individuals just before a performance. Many people have the intuition that exerting too much control over well-learned actions can be harmful, especially when under pressure to perform. This effect can be demonstrated experimentally by manipulating participants’ attentional focus and/or inducing performance pressure via monetary incentives. At the same time, most day-to-day activities clearly benefit from goal-directed cognitive control and enhanced motivation. Further, training regimes and coaching often make use of explicit, reflective instruction to augment performance. How do the mechanisms of cognitive control and motivation both support and potentially hamper the activity of neural systems needed for successful performance? This question is explored in a variety of studies using functional neuroimaging, non-invasive brain stimulation, behavioral studies, and computational modeling.
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