Is calming down really the best way to achieve peak performance? Alison Wood Brooks, Ph.D. doesn’t think so, and has the research to prove it. Her studies suggest that getting excited rather than relaxed is a more effective way to reduce performance anxiety.
In one experiment that many high school students can relate to, 188 participants were given difficult math problems after they read “try to get excited” or “try to remain calm.” As a comparison, a control group didn’t read any statement.
Participants in the excited group scored 8 percent higher on average than the calm group and the control group and also reported feeling more confident about their math skills after the test.
Keeping cool under pressure has its benefits, but while heading into big tests, students should do their best to get excited about the opportunity ahead of them. After all, peak performance is worth getting excited about!
If you are interested in Alison Wood Brooks’s research, I recommend downloading her paper, Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement, from the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.