#NeuroThursday may have grown sporadic under my sciencejob deadlines, but it's back this week! Thanks to @tithenai, we shall discuss "the choke:" when you freeze up on something that should be precisely your area of mastery.
We've all experienced some form of this. You have to explain your process, and no words come. You have to perform (on the stage, on the pitch), and everything locks up. Once it begins, it's self-perpetuating: hard to un-choke while you're panicked about choking.
There's a fair amount of scientific research on this, from sports-science and psychology. But in some ways, the explanation is so simple, it's something we've already covered here: skill memory.
You, loyal reader, (now) know that conscious memory and skill memory are different things. But this division runs deeper, and clearer: it's anatomical, too.
Complex learning and control happens up in the cerebral cortex, the brain's classic wrinkly surface. It's the fanciest and most-famous (and most-human-specific) part.
However, highly-trained autopilot things don't use the cortex as much. The cortex still plays a little role, but the main deal shifts down elsewhere in the brain.
(That "elsewhere" is mostly the basal ganglia, a distributed bunch of bits that play a role in nearly everything. Notably action selection, whether that means movement choice or motivation/reward.)
Essentially, "thinking about it" movements are run differently from "not thinking about it" movements.
(I talk a lot about "movements" here, but the same principles likely apply to other skills and ideas. Most of the research is in the movement domain. Like I said: sports science!)
This "thinking/not" division is clearest in research on expert athletes. If you make people multitask while they hit baseballs, expert batters do a better job of maintaining their performance (i.e. get less distracted). Their batting is more automated!
So, experts are harder to distract. Duh? But there's more to it. If you distract the baseball expert by making her *analyze* her swing, that interferes with her performance MORE than it would a non-expert!
What does this mean? The more expertise you have, the more automated it is - and thus more separate from conscious and analytic properties.
And that's one way to choke: analyze when you should be acting. Because these are separate systems, all your expertise on the one side is no help - or even harmful - on the other.
Now, at the start of this thread I told you it was all about conscious-vs-skill. Which is true. Sortof. But it's only half the story.
One reason why that "consciousness/skill" distinction matters so much is *attention*. Our brains can only handle so much at a time - and that amount is way lower than we think.
Our attention is very limited in space and time - especially (but not only) for our consciousness.
(It often feels otherwise, and inaccurately so! For example, you don't have color in your peripheral vision, but it takes work to notice that. But that's a topic for another week.)
The real functional distinction between conscious movements and autopilot movements is attention. Do we need to attend to every step, or can we attend to the whole, and let the process flow?
This is why abstract guidance ("be more fluid!") is useful for experts, whereas explicit instructions ("hold your left hand higher!") is more useful for beginners. Beginners have to separate the steps, experts have a kinda-self-contained autopilot unit.
And what does it mean to break an autopilot procedure up into a step-by-step process? It means disrupting the automaticity. If you start staring at the trees, you lose sight of the forest.
So there's your #NeuroThursday takeaway: expertise means automaticity. Try to break your big fancy process into parts, and they stop flowing together - and lo, you choke.
For further reading, check out the baseball study here: researchgate.net/publication/86…
If this #NeuroThursday smoothed out your automated processes, share it around, or read some of my fiction! I just had a new story come out last week: beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/where-…

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Benjamin C. Kinney (mostly on Bluesky & Mastodon)

Benjamin C. Kinney (mostly on Bluesky & Mastodon) Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @BenCKinney

Aug 13, 2018
Handedness comes in two groups, "right handed" and "not right handed." Most people use their right hands for almost all precision movement, but the other group is a broad spectrum from weakly-right to strongly-left. baen.com/handedness
The way we describe and define handedness creates the effect @CStuartHardwick rightly notices. Culture defines how we talk about it - but the behavior is mostly genetic. The % of righties has remained constant across continents and milennia.
Hand dominance is a more squirrelly thing than most people realize. For example, righties are better at *some* things with their left hand... and *some* of these asymmetries flip in lefties. Take a few minutes on #LeftHandersDay to learn more!
Read 4 tweets
Aug 8, 2018
Quick heads up on the #BlackSpecFic report: the story counts for @escapepodcast @Pseudopod_org and @PodCastle_org are incomplete, and revisions will be forthcoming.
But you should read and learn from the #BlackSpecFic report anyways! The missing data is due to idiosyncrasies of the @EAPodcasts model, and has no impact on any other magazine's numbers.
Long story short, we treat reprints very differently from other magazines. For @escapepodcast specifically, they were ~45% of our 2017 stories, and our editorial process has one unified pipeline for originals + reprints together.
Read 4 tweets
Jul 23, 2018
Regretting organizing my two Worldcon panels this year. It means I'm not free to throw up my hands in frustration and give up on programming. The last 24hrs have been the last worst icing on a bad cake that's long been baking.
I mean, my panels will be awesome. But if you're skipping programming because you don't trust the con, you've made a sensible choice.
There are always more people who want to be on programming than can fit. There's no way to make everyone happy. I get that. But this weekend's screwups come in the context of a long chain of trust-erosion.
Read 4 tweets
Jul 13, 2018
So glad this one came out! "After Midnight at the Zap Stop" by @ouranosaurus is an awesome story - full of late-night grease, and the luckless & the worthy. But also because it's a #neuroscience teaching opportunity. Might even be a #NeuroThursday!
One offhand line explains a technology as "stimulating a particular set of mirror neurons." Which works as a story element just fine. It sounds plausible and authoritative! But as a neuroscientist, I have strong opinions about #mirrorneurons. I don't think they're real.
To be clear, mine is a controversial opinion. Many neuroscientists would disagree. But it's a hill I'm willing to fight on, especially given how often "mirror neurons" crop up in popular science.
Read 14 tweets
Jul 8, 2018
This Lindsey Sterling + Evanescence concert has been going for 3 minutes and it is already amazing.
Update: she is simultaneously dancing, playing violin, and kicking skeletons.
P.S. She too is a skeleton. Hard to be sure at this distance but I believe she has glittery bones.
Read 14 tweets
Jul 4, 2018
This phenomenon - when you look away from a moving thing, and you briefly see illusory motion in the other direction - is the "Motion Aftereffect," and it comes from some very basic brain maneuvers. Who wants to join me on going full #NeuroThursday here? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_af…
Most neurons in the brain (and elsewhere) do this thing called "adaptation," where they accept whatever's going on as the new normal. For example, if you sit down with your laptop on your lap, you'll soon stop noticing the weight.
This can arise from the crudest single-cell level: some ion channels in the cell membrane have negative feedback loops that self-dampen.
Read 14 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!