Volume 5, Issue 4, December 2016, Pages 470–477
Working Memory in the Wild: Applied Research in Working Memory
- High pressure settings compromise working memory and decrease cognitive performance.
- Those with higher working memory show greatest pressure-induced cognitive deficits.
- Attentional control alters relation of working memory to performance under pressure.
Previous research has shown that the higher one's working memory capacity, the more likely his/her performance is to be negatively impacted by performance pressure. In the current research we examined potential explanations for this finding by assessing the relation between pressure-induced performance deficits (i.e. “choking under pressure”) in math-based problem solving and individual differences in both working memory (as assessed via complex span tasks) and attentional control (as assessed via two measures from an Eriksen Flanker task). We find higher working memory only relates to “choking under pressure” when individuals were low in attentional control. These results further elucidate the mechanism by which high-pressure scenarios can lead to errors in performance and carry implications for developing effective intervention strategies to prevent poor performance in high-stakes situations.