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Whistling at work improves efficiency

india Updated: Sep 22, 2010 18:05 IST

Whistling at work helps you do your job better - believe it or not.

A leading psychologist suggests whistling or singing distracts the mind from trying too hard and prevents mental overload.

The controversial suggestion comes from a study into the phenomenon of 'choking' - the moment when a footballer misses a critical penalty or a top student flunks a vital exam.

Far from being down to 'just nerves', choking occurs when the brain finds itself with too many pieces of information to process, resulting in 'paralysis by analysis', argues Sian Beilock of the University of Chicago.

Whistling woman

The same holds true when presenting a vital sales pitch, making an important putt in golf or doing an audition, reports the

Daily Mail.

Beilock, who used brain scans to study what is going on in the mind during high pressure situations in the lab, said: "Choking is sub-optimal performance, not just poor performance. It's a performance that is inferior to what you can do and have done in the past and occurs when you feel pressure to get everything right."

Some of the most memorable moments of choking occur in sports when the whole world is watching, she said.

In 1996, golfer Greg Norman blew it on the final day of the US Masters, despite having a huge lead. Beilock says he failed because he was thinking too hard about what he was doing.

Beilock's research is featured in a new book Choke: What Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting it Right When You Have To.

Even singing helps stop parts of the brain that might interfere with performance from taking over, she said.

She has dubbed the phenomenon paralysis by analysis - when people try to control every aspect of what they are doing in a bid to ensure success.

The researchers found that the brain can also sabotage performance because too much pressure is put on 'working memory' - part of the prefrontal cortex which focuses explicitly on the task in hand.