The Superstar Effect
From the playing field to the boardroom, when one competitor is clearly the best, the others don’t step up their game—they give up. As Tiger Woods returns to golf, Jonah Lehrer looks at the nature of competition.
A little experience, however, changes everything. After golfers have learned how to putt—once they have memorized the necessary movements—analyzing the stroke is a dangerous waste of time. Ms. Beilock has found, for instance, that when experienced golfers are forced to think about their putts, they hit significantly worse shots. All those conscious thoughts erase their years of practice; the grace of talent disappears. “We bring expert golfers into our lab, we tell them to pay attention to a particular part of their swing, and they just screw up,” Ms. Beilock says. “When you are at a high level, your skills become somewhat automated. You don’t need to pay attention to every step in what you’re doing.”