Definition of choking in sport: Re-conceptualization and debate

Christopher Mesagno * and Denise M. Hill **

(*) School of Health Sciences, University of Ballarat, Australia
(**) University of Gloucestershire, Gloucester, United Kingdom


Mesagno, C., M. Hill, D. (2013). Definition of choking in sport: Re-conceptualization and debate. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 44(4), 267-277. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2013.44.267


In sport, choking under pressure is a negative athletic experience that may have psychologically damaging effects. The media recognizes that choking is a dramatic drop in performance, whereas researchers have labeled choking as any decrease in performance under pressure. This discrepancy between the media’s and researchers’ perception of choking leads to ambiguity among terms and confusion among researchers, applied practitioners, and the general public. Thus, the current position paper will: critically analyze current choking definitions and explore why they are not appropriate operational definitions; explain the current underperformance and choking terminology debate; offer an alternative choking definition that should be debated; and also identify ways that researchers can improve the robustness of choking investigations. It is hoped that this paper will stimulate debate and improve the quality of future choking research.

Keywords: Anxiety, Paradoxical performance, Under-performance