Why panic makes us do better
ASKED to give a speech in front of an audience, many people experience sweaty palms and a rising sense of panic.
But the fear of humiliation actually spurs us on — we perform better when people are watching, a study has found.
Researchers asked volunteers to play a tricky computer game, paying them a small amount based on how well they did.
When watched by an audience of two, 18 of the 20 participants did an average of 5 per cent better than when playing alone. Scans showed that when they knew they were being observed, the parts of the brain linked to social awareness and reward triggered those controlling motor skills to improve performance.
The study’s lead author Dr Vikram Chib, from Johns Hopkins University in the US, said: “An audience can serve as an extra bit of incentive.”
The findings, published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, suggest a small audience boosts the incentive to do well — but a larger audience could increase anxiety past an optimum level.