May 4, 2021

Your Best Performance is a performance at a level of your potential. Potentials vary tremendously; don’t get caught up in wishful thinking or irrationality.

Rationality

Rational thinking is not synonymous with rationalizing thought. These phrases are often mistakenly used interchangeably. Rationalizing thought has an Aristotelian flavor, in that it involves putting forth reason for essentially any behavior or thought. Rationality is a weak concept, when conceptualized in this sense. Most people are rational, if rational means an ability to provide some form of a reason for their behavior or actions. Cognitive science provides a different conceptualization of rationality—one that is consistent and subject to testing.

Rationality is concerned with what is true and what to do (Manktelow 2004). In order for beliefs to be rational they must be in agreement with evidence. In order for actions to be rational they must maximize potential in attaining goals. I suspect everyone agrees that both of these requirements are important. Cognitive scientists generally identify two types of rationality: instrumental and epistemic (Stanovich 2009). Instrumental rationality can be defined as adopting appropriate goals, and behaving in a manner that optimizes one’s ability to achieve goals. Epistemic rationality is defined as holding beliefs that are commensurate with available evidence. This type of rationality is concerned with how well our beliefs map onto the structure of the world. Rationaliy is important in regards to many outcomes. Nowhere could this be any more evident than in the areas of health and fitness. Rational actions are needed for Your Best Performance.  Full article

Why is Everyone Else Biased?

Research involving the assessment of one’s own biases indicates people often feel that they are less biased than others. Bias blind spot is conceptualized as a tendency to recognize bias in others, while not recognizing bias in ourselves (Pronin et al. 2002). Emily Pronin and colleagues conducted a study that asked participants to rate themselves and others on their susceptibility to a variety of biases. The results indicated across eight biases people felt they were less biased than their peers. In summary, people acknowledge the value of scientific findings on biased processing, but they don’t believe those findings apply to them. Recognizing and making use of research on bias blind spot may be beneficial in improving performance. It is beneficial as you need to make use of the best science in attaining your highest levels of rationality. Full article

Elite Performance

Most people will not be elite performers. By definition elite performance is performance at the extreme end of the normal distribution (standard distribution- Gaussian ). Most scores, performances will be closer to the middle of the distribution (within on standard deviation of the mean). In the standard normal distribution 68.26% of scores fall within one standard deviation of the mean, 95.44% within two standard deviations, and 99.72% within 3 standard deviations (Warner 2008). The normal distribution is relevant in a range of areas. The best you can do is achieve your potential. An array of factors determine outcomes in various fields.

Nature or Nurture?

A review written by Tucker and Collins (2012) describes the contribution made by genetics and training factors to the attainment of high level sports performance. Two important characteristics associated with athletic performance are VO2max (maximal oxygen consumption) and muscle mass. Research shows approximately 50 percent of the variance (statistical measure of variability) in VO2max is due to genetic factors. All studies indicate muscle mass is influenced by genes (genetic contribution between 15–90 percent). The deliberate practice model for performance along with other environmental factors were addressed in the review. It was found that environmental factors are important for high-level performance; however, those factors alone do not produce elite level performance. Tucker and Collins point out that in some areas it isn’t possible to ascertain the exact contribution of either genes or the environment to high level sports performance. The relative importance of training and environmental factors differ for different sports; in some sports, genetic factors may be more important than environmental factors. In an effort to fully understand high levels of performance, it is important to take a multi-disciplinary approach. Primary influences (genes and environment) should be examined, so should secondary influences (interactions between primary influences).  Full article

Mindset Matters, But

Mindset is important to performance, but the role mindset plays in performance (how much variance (statistical measure) is explained in outcome) is often exaggerated. As stated above, an array of factors influence outcomes, and to the extent that mindset impacts performance is heavily dependent on context. Mindset (current state of mind) involves cognitive, emotional, motivational and perceptual components and sub-components. Mindset may be limiting in performance as pointed out by Tucker et al. (2009), when describing Landy’s attempt at breaking the 4 minute mile. In 1953 John Landy ran the mile in 4:02. He stated after the race “Two seconds may not sound like much, but to me it’s like trying to break through a brick wall. Someone may achieve the 4-minute mile the world is wanting so desperately, but I don’t think I can” (Tucker p.186 2009). In 1954 Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3:59.4. Approximately one and a half months later Landy ran the mile in 3:57.9. Recall, Landy stated earlier he didn’t think he could run the mile in under 4 minutes. How did Landy improve so much in  a relatively short time? “It seems unlikely that training, lactate threshold, VO2max, or any other measurable physiological parameters can explain this change in so short time. You could probably attribute his improvement to the removal of mental barrier, and that seems reasonable; Landy needed the “brick wall” to be broken down for him, and that’s what Bannister did” (Tucker p.186 2009). The mind is an emergent property involving interactions among brain, body outside of the brain and the environment. The mind reflects electrical, chemical signaling throughout the brain. It is essentially biological. To reiterate, mindset matters, but so do other factors.

Don’t be too concerned with extreme, world class level performance; be concerned with performing at your best, consistently, and with an objective of challenging yourself.  Rationality involves training in a manner conducive to attain goals and holding evidence based beliefs.