Plenary Speaker Profile (2013)
Sian Beilock
Professor of Psychology and The Committee on Education
University of Chicago
Choke: The Science Behind Academic Stress

For many people, the desire to perform their best in academics is strong. Consequences for poor performance, especially in examinations, include poor evaluations by mentors, teachers, and peers; lost scholarships; and relinquished educational opportunities. But, why do poor performances occur in those very situations where students are set on doing their best? In this talk, I will discuss the newest psychological research aimed at understanding how stress and anxiety impact learning and performance in math and science. The stressors I will focus on range from a general fear of test taking to female students' worries about confirming negative stereotypes about gender and ability in math. I will end with a discussion of how current research in psychology and neuroscience can be used to improve learning and performance in school – especially for students who are habitually anxious about taking tests.

Sian Beilock is a Professor of Psychology and The Committee on Education at the University of Chicago and author of "Choke: What The Secrets Of The Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To." Her research program sits at the intersection of cognitive science and education. She explores the cognitive and neural substrates of skill learning as well as the mechanisms by which performance breaks down in high-stress or high-pressure situations. Dr. Beilock's research is funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education (Institute of Education Sciences).