I enjoyed this article by Jonah Lehrer about choking under pressure. But what I really loved is what this means to us creatives as we try to do our job of generating ideas.
In his post Lehrer uses golf as a frame of reference and it short it goes like this:
When people are first learning how to putt, the activity can seem daunting. There are just so many things to think about.
But the mental exertion pays off, at least at first. The more time a novice golfer spend thinking about the putt, the more likely they are to hit the ball in the hole.
A little experience, however, changes everything. When experienced golfers are forced to think about their putts, they hit significantly worse shots. The part of their brain that monitors their behavior starts to interfere with decisions that are normally made without thinking. They begin second guessing the skills that they've honed through years of diligent practice.
So what should experienced golfers think about when hitting a putt? They should should focus on general aspects of their intended movement.
Or as we like to call it in advertising, "the bigger picture".
I think that this mental process speaks wonders about practicing and trust. When you have put enough time into practicing, you should stop thinking about the mechanics and trust your instincts.
I'm happy that now I have a psychological explanation, if only that meant that we would put it in practice.