University of Sheffield academic helps design sports psychology study featuring Olympians
The BBC Lab UK´s biggest ever experiment featuring Olympic Gold Medallist Michael Johnson, which was designed with the help of a University of Sheffield psychologist, is being unveiled today (1 May 2012).
Olympic Gold Medallist Michael Johnson who is fronting the project
BBC Lab UK, a science website making discoveries with the help of the public in collaboration with leading scientists, launched its biggest ever experiment, `Can You Compete Under Pressure?´, which is fronted by Olympic legend and performance expert Michael Johnson.
Professor Peter Totterdell, of the University of Sheffield´s Department of Psychology, helped design the 20 minute online test which will investigate how emotion and mental preparation affects performance.
Professor Totterdell said: "This study provides us with an exciting opportunity to find out whether people can benefit from simple psychological techniques to help them compete under pressure, and it will enable us to investigate and understand much better how emotions influence performance. We have also tried to design the study so that it is both fun and informative for those who take part."
Participants in the online study receive a personal performance analysis and advice on mental preparation. Michael also provides psychological training during the test and, using unique technology, personally analyses your performance afterwards.
BBC Lab UK has worked with scientists Professor Totterdell, and Professor Andy Lane of Wolverhampton University, to develop the test - which it is hoped will discover the factors that enable some people to raise their game at crucial moments - using a combination of psychometric questions and a specially developed game to monitor performance.
Michael Johnson said: "I think we´ll find that most people either naturally have the ability to deal with pressure or they don´t, but most people don´t understand that they actually can train, that they can become better and improve themselves in that area.
"I think that everyone has to deal with pressure situations. Since I´ve retired I´m still under pressure because of the things I want to do, my goals. In order to deal with that and be more successful in achieving my goals I have to continue to learn how to deal with pressure, so I think it could help anyone who´s in a situation, and everyone is at some point, to deal with pressure."
The test can be accessed at: BBC Lab UK
Anyone over the age of 16 interested in their ability to perform under pressure, from playing sport at the weekend, to work, exams or giving a best man´s speech, can log-in and take part.
They´ll be asked to fill-in some details around their background (such as education, numbers of brothers and sisters and whether they prefer team or individual sports) and their emotions and how well they control them. They´ll then be asked to try `The Grid´, a scientifically designed game which measures how people react to different kinds of pressure.
They´ll then receive a session of psychological training from Michael Johnson (all training was developed from existing training systems and written by the scientists). The scientists will then analyse the differences between how people perform before and after the training, in comparison to a control group.
Simon Munn (wheelchair basketball), Dai Greene (World 400m hurdles champion) and Tiffany Porter (GB 100m hurdler) also feature, helping illustrate the mental processes top athletes go through to ensure top performance.