Linfield Faculty Lecture Series


From Clumsy Failure to Skillful Fluency: An East-West Analysis and Solution to Sport's Choking Effect

Streaming Media

Document Type

Video File


1 hour 16 minutes 10 seconds

Publication Date



Philosophy of Mind | Sports Studies


Underperformance under stress is common in many activities such as the arts and academic performance, but examples are particularly evident in sport's "choking" effect—a failure to perform to levels already achieved when the person tries to be at his or her best. Rory McIlroy "disintegrated" at the 2011 U.S. Masters, while Greg Norman epically lost in 1996. On the other end of the spectrum, Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps thrived under media pressure to deliver record-breaking performances at the Olympics. The first set of scenarios showcases athletes failing under pressure. The second presents superb performers who excel when "on the spot."

As a way to supplement current psychological and cognitive theoretical research, Dr. Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza (associate professor of philosophy at Linfield College) discusses an alternative philosophical account to combat choking. It diagnoses the process and contrasts it with cases of superior performances analyzed under "skillful fluency." The solution is derived from Japanese do—arts of self-cultivation, such as the way of archery or the way of tea—which encourage an integration of body-mind and intellect-emotion that indirectly achieves skillful fluency and avoids choking.


Sponsored by the Linfield College Office of Academic Affairs.