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Sports psychologist involved in major online experiment with Olympic Gold Medallist Michael Johnson


A University of Wolverhampton sports psychologist has helped to develop an online test for BBC Lab UK’s biggest ever experiment.

‘Can You Compete Under Pressure?’ is presented by Olympic legend and performance expert Michael Johnson and looks at why some people are able to perform under pressure, and why some people Micheal Johnson can't.

During the 20 minute online test, participants receive a personal performance analysis and advice on mental preparation. Michael Johnson also provides psychological training during the test and, using unique BBC technology, personally analyses your performance afterwards.

BBC Lab UK has worked with scientists Professor Andy Lane, from the University of Wolverhampton, and Professor Peter Totterdell, from Sheffield University, to develop the test.

They want to discover the factors that enable some people to raise their game at crucial moments and are 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.”

Sports Psychologist at the University of Wolverhampton, Professor Andy Lane, said: “Performing under pressure and unwanted emotions go hand in hand. Successful performance can depend on being able to control our emotions when it matters. This study sets about interrogating this issue.”

The test can be accessed at: 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 piece 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 the control group – who’ll receive no training, just a short word of encouragement from Michael Johnson.

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.

Professor Andy Lane is based at the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure in Walsall. He's one of the country’s top sports psychologists and works with competitors from recreational to Olympic level, in a wide range of sports including athletics, boxing and soccer.

Professor Peter Totterdell is based at Sheffield University and is interested in the emotional impact on performance, especially in the workplace. 


For further information: Scott Branch, Communications Manager, BBC 2012,, 020 8225 9900

To interview Professor Andy Lane, contact Vickie Warren, Media and Communications Manager, University of Wolverhampton on 01902 32 2736.

Notes to editors:

BBC Lab UK is a BBC science website that creates brand new scientific discoveries with the help of the BBC audience. In collaboration with leading scientists and researchers, BBC Lab UK has investigated brain training, the factors that shape personality, the psychology of money, the everyday mathematics of risk, people’s hidden musicality, the new social class system of Britain and a biological system for morality.

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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