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In the Zone: You and the Inverted U

🕑 2 minutes read
Posted February 1, 2018

The Yerkes-Dodson Law and the resulting Inverted U Curve of Arousal vs. Performance was created by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson more than one hundred years ago (1908). But what is says about the relationship between arousal (or pressure) and performance still applies today. It’s a simple, but instructive reminder of the importance of physiological/emotional state in achieving goals.

As you can see in the graph, there is an area of best performance and it comes with the “just right” amount of arousal. The Inverted U curve has a certain Goldilocks quality to it. Tip to the left and too little arousal or pressure increases the risk of being bored by the task. Tip to the right and too much pressure can cause anxiety about the task. But in the middle of the chart – the area of best performance – is where optimal arousal results in peak effectiveness. This is also the zone in which one might be able to achieve a flow state in which the task is enjoyable, concentration and productivity are high and results seems to occur naturally. For most of us, our best work and best results occur when we are “in the zone”.

As therapists and teachers you understand that achieving or finding this “just right” level is more art than science. It’s the sweet spot where a person is available and motivated for the task at hand. How do you know when your client or student is in the perfect state for optimal performance? You’ll notice signals in the: eyes (bright and focused); face (content with the ability to express all emotions); voice (capable of prosody or tone changes); body (relaxed but with good muscle tone); and rate of movement (smooth and responsive – not too fast or slow). These are all indicators of a state of focused, relaxed, and confident alertness optimal for learning and performing with confidence.

All of iLs’ therapy products can help to improve physiological state and state regulation. The Dreampad helps by improving sleep – an important factor in state. The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) affects state by activating of the vagus nerve to bring the Social Engagement System on board. Focus programs improve brain/body organization and attention for improved sensory motor performance. Your sense of confidence, or lack thereof, is reflected in your voice. Using the Voice Pro can help you to improve the resonance, prosody and tone in your voice to convey a strong sense of inner confidence.  

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