Critical Moments During Competition: Researcher Isolates Key Brain and Behavioral Processes as Central to Zone or Flow States as well as Failure

August 09, 2004 (PRLEAP.COM) Sports News
New York, N.Y. — With the Olympics just around the corner we can expect to see some athletes succeed and others inexplicably fail during crucial moments of competition. However, to date research has not adequately explained peak or Zone-like performance or choking during critical stages of competition, perplexing athletes, coaches and analysts (journalists) alike. What especially causes choking under pressure?

Dr. Roland A. Carlstedt, a Licensed Clinical/Sport Psychologist and researcher provides some answers with his Theory of Critical Moments, which he just presented on at the American Psychological Association 2004 Annual Convention in Honolulu. His model provides a coherent and scientific explanation for why athletes fail or succeed come "crunch time.' It is highly predictive in determining whether an athlete is likely to succeed or fail during critical moments of competition.

Dr. Carlstedt's mind-body model has linked interactions among hypnotic ability, neuroticism and repressive coping with peak performance, task mastery and failure. These measures have been functionally isolated in various parts of the brain and facilitate or hinder performance based on their constellation.

Athletes who are high in hypnotic ability have the extraordinary capability to intensely focus on the task at hand (which facilitates performance) or vulnerability to fixate on internal thoughts (which hinders performance) as a function of neuroticism and repressive coping. The ideal constellation of high or low hypnotic ability, low neuroticism and high repressive coping is associated with Zone-like performance, while athletes who are high in hypnotic ability, high in neuroticism and low in repressive coping are most likely to fail during critical moments as a result of negative intrusive thoughts entering consciousness. Repressive coping has been found to block the transfer of negative intrusive thoughts between brain hemispheres helping avert psychological breakdowns during crucial junctures of competition.

Dr. Carlstedt's research is based on his American Psychological Association award winning doctoral dissertation, which has been published in Brain and Cognition a leading journal in Cognitive Neuroscience. His model has been called "seminal,' "groundbreaking,' and "a watershed in the annals of sport psychology.' Dr. Carlstedt's book Critical Moments During Competition: A Mind-Body Model of Sport Performance When it Counts the Most has just been released by Psychology Press.

Dr. Carlstedt is Chairman of the American Board of Sport Psychology and Director of Sport Psychology Research: Brain and Heart Processes with BioCom Technologies. He is also affiliated with Capella University. Dr. Carlstedt is available as an analyst for media during the Olympics and throughout the year and can be reached at 917-680-3994 or via or

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