March 30, 2015
Many people in the world strive for success. The definition of success is the accomplishment of one's goals. To attain success, it won't always go as planned because it is hard and it takes a lot of work to attain success in what ever you're trying to become successful at. Many factors come into play when trying to become successful, but none more than identity. Success for people who work in the business industry is hard to come, especially for people with different identities than the person in charge. In What the Dog Saw by Malcom Gladwell, identity plays a huge role throughout all the short stories in this book. In the Art of Failure, Gladwell, talks about how people choke or panic, and the difference between the two. Those can play in part in how identity affects one’s success because athletes or anybody can choke or panic in trying to reach their goals. Identity can affect one's success in a business atmosphere because of his or her race, gender, age, or even one's beliefs or religion.
In the Art of Failure, many athletes, pilots, or anyone in a stressful situation seem to panic or choke. Human beings sometimes falter under pressure. Pilots crash and divers drown. Under the glare of competition, basketball players cannot find the basket and golfers cannot find the pin. When that happens, we say variously that people have “panicked” or, to use the sports colloquialism, “choked.”
Choking sounds like a vague and all-encompassing term, yet it describes a very specific kind of failure. For example, psychologists often use a primitive video game to test motor skills. They’ll sit you in front of a computer with a screen that shows four boxes in a row, and a keyboard that has four corresponding buttons in a row. One at a time, x’s start to appear in the boxes on the screen, and you are told that every time this happens you are to push the key corresponding to the box. According to Daniel Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, if you’re told ahead of time about the pattern in which those x’s will appear, your reaction time in hitting the right key will improve dramatically. You’ll play the game very carefully for a few rounds, until you’ve learned the sequence, and then you’ll get faster and faster. Willingham calls this “explicit learning.” But suppose you’re not told that the x’s appear in a regular sequence, and even after playing the game for a while you’re not aware that there is a pattern. You’ll still get faster: you’ll learn the sequence unconsciously. Willingham calls that “implicit learning”–learning that takes place outside of awareness. These two learning systems are quite separate, based in different parts of the brain. Willingham says that when you are first taught something–say, how to hit a backhand or an overhead forehand–you think it through in a very deliberate, mechanical manner. But as you get better the implicit system takes over: you start to hit a backhand fluidly, without thinking. The basal ganglia, where implicit learning partially resides, are concerned with force and timing, and when that system kicks in you begin to develop touch and accuracy, the ability to hit a drop shot or place a serve at a hundred miles per hour. “This is something that is going to happen gradually,” Willingham says. “You hit several thousand forehands, after a while you may still be attending to it. In the end, you don’t really notice what your hand is doing at all.” Under conditions of stress, however, the explicit system sometimes takes over. That’s what it means to choke. That’s what it means to choke.
Panicking however, is much different than choking. Panic also causes what psychologists call perceptual narrowing. In one study, from the early seventies, a group of subjects were asked to perform a visual acuity task while undergoing what they thought was a sixty-foot dive in a pressure chamber. At the same time, they were asked