Previous research (Markman, Maddox, & Worthy, 2006) suggests that pressure leads to choking when one is learning to classify items on the basis of an explicit rule, but it leads to excelling when one is learning to classify items on the basis of an implicit strategy. In this article, we relate social pressure to regulatory focus theory. We propose that the effects of pressure on performance arise because pressure induces a prevention focus that interacts with the more local reward structure of the task. To test this hypothesis, we repeated previous research, but using a losses reward structure, so that participants under pressure were in a regulatory fit. We also successfully replicated previous results by using a gains reward structure. In contrast with participants who attempted to maximize gains on each trial, participants who attempted to minimize losses choked on the implicit-learning task but excelled on the explicit-learning task. The results suggest a three-way interaction between pressure level, task type, and reward structure.
Aaker, J. L., & Lee, A. Y. (2006). Understanding regulatory fit. Journal of Marketing Research, 43, 15–19.
Akaike, H. (1974). A new look at the statistical model identification. IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 19, 716–723.
Ashby, F. G., Alfonso-Reese, L. A., Turken, A. U., & Waldron, E. M. (1998). A neuropsychological theory of multiple systems in category learning. Psychological Review, 105, 442–481.
Beilock, S. L., & Carr, T. H. (2001). On the fragility of skilled performance: What governs choking under pressure? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 701–725.
Beilock, S. L., & Carr, T. H. (2005). When high-powered people fail: Working memory and “choking under pressure” in math. Psychological Science, 16, 101–105.
Beilock, S. L., & DeCaro, M. S. (2007). From poor performance to success under stress: Working memory, strategy selection, and mathematical problem solving under pressure. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 33, 983–998.
Beilock, S. L., Kulp, C. A., Holt, L. E., & Carr, T. H. (2004). More on the fragility of performance: Choking under pressure in mathematical problem solving. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133, 584–600.
DeCaro, M. S., Thomas, R. D., & Beilock, S. L. (2008). Individual differences in category learning: Sometimes less working memory capacity is better than more. Cognition, 107, 284–294.
Gray, R. (2004). Attending to the execution of a complex sensorimotor skill: Expertise differences, choking, and slumps. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 10, 42–54.
Grimm, L. R., Markman, A. B., Maddox, W. T., & Baldwin, G. C. (2008). Differential effects of regulatory fit on category learning. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 920–927.
Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52, 1280–1300.
Higgins, E. T. (2000). Making a good decision: Value from fit. American Psychologist, 55, 1217–1230.
Maddox, W. T. (1999). On the dangers of averaging across observers when comparing decision bound models and generalized context models of categorization. Perception & Psychophysics, 61, 354–374.
Maddox, W. T., & Ashby, F. G. (1993). Comparing decision bound and exemplar models of categorization. Perception & Psychophysics, 53, 49–70.
Maddox, W. T., & Ashby, F. G. (2004). Dissociating explicit and procedural-learning based systems of perceptual category learning. Behavioural Processes, 66, 309–332.
Maddox, W. T., Ashby, F. G., & Bohil, C. J. (2003). Delayed feedback effects on rule-based and information-integration category learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 29, 650–662.
Maddox, W. T., Baldwin, G. C., & Markman, A. B. (2006). A test of the regulatory fit hypothesis in perceptual classification learning. Memory & Cognition, 34, 1377–1397.
Maddox, W. T., Filoteo, J. V., Hejl, K. D., & Ing, A. D. (2004). Category number impacts rule-based but not information-integration category learning: Further evidence for dissociable category-learning systems. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 30, 227–245.
Markman, A. B., Baldwin, G. C., & Maddox, W. T. (2005). The interaction of payoff structure and regulatory focus in classification. Psychological Science, 16, 852–855.
Markman, A. B., Maddox, W. T., & Worthy, D. A. (2006). Choking and excelling under pressure. Psychological Science, 17, 944–948.
Masters, R. S. W. (1992). Knowledge, knerves, and know-how: The role of explicit versus implicit knowledge in the breakdown of a complex motor skill under pressure. British Journal of Psychology, 83, 343–358.
Tharp, I. J., & Pickering, A. D. (in press). A note on DeCaro, Thomas, and Beilock (2008): Further data demonstrate complexities in the assessment of information-integration category learning. Cognition.
Wine, J. (1971). Test anxiety and direction of attention. Psychological Bulletin, 76, 92–104.
Worthy, D. A., Maddox, W. T., & Markman, A. B. (2007). Regulatory fit effects in a choice task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 1125–1132.
Worthy, D. A., Markman, A. B., & Maddox, W. T. (in press). Choking and excelling at the free throw line. International Journal of Creativity & Problem Solving.
This research was supported by AFOSR Grant FA9550-06-1-0204, NIMH Grant MH077708 to W.T.M. and A.B.M., and a supplement to NIMH Grant MH077708 to D.A.W.
About this article
Cite this article
Worthy, D.A., Markman, A.B. & Maddox, W.T. What is pressure? Evidence for social pressure as a type of regulatory focus. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 16, 344–349 (2009). https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.16.2.344
- Regulatory Focus
- Category Learning
- Reward Structure
- Prevention Focus
- Work Memory Resource