Effects of competitive pressure on expert performance: Underlying psychological, physiological, and kinematic mechanisms


  • The authors would like to acknowledge Jon Allsop and Chris Fitt for their assistance with data collection. This work was supported by an Economic and Social Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship (PTA-026-27-2696) awarded to the first author.

Address correspondence to: Andrew Cooke, School of Sport & Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, United Kingdom. E-mail: a.m.cooke@bham.ac.uk


Although it is well established that performance is influenced by competitive pressure, our understanding of the mechanisms which underlie the pressure–performance relationship is limited. The current experiment examined mediators of the relationship between competitive pressure and motor skill performance of experts. Psychological, physiological, and kinematic responses to three levels of competitive pressure were measured in 50 expert golfers, during a golf putting task. Elevated competitive pressure increased putting accuracy, anxiety, effort, and heart rate, but decreased grip force. Quadratic effects of pressure were noted for self-reported conscious processing and impact velocity. Mediation analyses revealed that effort and heart rate partially mediated improved performance. The findings indicate that competitive pressure elicits effects on expert performance through both psychological and physiological pathways.