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Building a transdisciplinary expert consensus on the cognitive drivers of performance under pressure: An international multi-panel Delphi study

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posted on 2023-03-13, 09:20 authored by L Albertella, R Kirkham, AB Adler, J Crampton, SPA Drummond, GJ Fogarty, JJ Gross, L Zaichkowsky, JP Andersen, PT Bartone, D Boga, JW Bond, TT Brunyé, MJ Campbell, LG Ciobanu, SR Clark, MF Crane, A Dietrich, TJ Doty, JE Driskell, I Fahsing, SM Fiore, R Flin, J Funke, JM Gatt, PA Hancock, C Harper, A Heathcote, KJ Heatown, WF Helsen, EK Hussey, Robin JacksonRobin Jackson, S Khemlani, WDS Killgore, S Kleitman, AM Lane, S Loft, C MacMahon, SM Marcora, FP McKenna, C Meijen, V Moulton, GM Moyle, E Nalivaiko, D O'Connor, D O’Conor, D Patton, MD Piccolo, C Ruiz, L Schücker, RA Smith, SJR Smith, C Sobrino, M Stetz, D Stewart, P Taylor, AJ Tucker, H van Stralen, JN Vickers, TAW Visser, R Walker, MW Wiggins, AM Williams, L Wong, E Aidman, M Yücel

Introduction: The ability to perform optimally under pressure is critical across many occupations, including the military, first responders, and competitive sport. Despite recognition that such performance depends on a range of cognitive factors, how common these factors are across performance domains remains unclear. The current study sought to integrate existing knowledge in the performance field in the form of a transdisciplinary expert consensus on the cognitive mechanisms that underlie performance under pressure. 

Methods: International experts were recruited from four performance domains [(i) Defense; (ii) Competitive Sport; (iii) Civilian High-stakes; and (iv) Performance Neuroscience]. Experts rated constructs from the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework (and several expert-suggested constructs) across successive rounds, until all constructs reached consensus for inclusion or were eliminated. Finally, included constructs were ranked for their relative importance. 

Results: Sixty-eight experts completed the first Delphi round, with 94% of experts retained by the end of the Delphi process. The following 10 constructs reached consensus across all four panels (in order of overall ranking): (1) Attention; (2) Cognitive Control—Performance Monitoring; (3) Arousal and Regulatory Systems—Arousal; (4) Cognitive Control—Goal Selection, Updating, Representation, and Maintenance; (5) Cognitive Control—Response Selection and Inhibition/Suppression; (6) Working memory—Flexible Updating; (7) Working memory—Active Maintenance; (8) Perception and Understanding of Self—Self-knowledge; (9) Working memory—Interference Control, and (10) Expert-suggested—Shifting. 

Discussion: Our results identify a set of transdisciplinary neuroscience-informed constructs, validated through expert consensus. This expert consensus is critical to standardizing cognitive assessment and informing mechanism-targeted interventions in the broader field of human performance optimization.


This study was funded by a research agreement MYIP:9522 from the Australian Department of Defence, under the Human Performance Research Network (HPRNet). RK and LA have received funding from the HPRNet and David Winston Turner Endowment Fund. MY received funding from Monash University, and Australian Government funding bodies: the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC; including Fellowship #APP1117188), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Australian Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group, and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS). He has also received philanthropic donations from the David Winston Turner Endowment Fund, Wilson Foundation. AH received funding from the Australian Army (Cognitive Testing Grant). JA has received funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Team Grant [Mental Wellness in Public Safety - Police (433650)]. JG is supported by a NHMRC Project Grant (1122816). MC received funding from Science Foundation Ireland grant 13/RC/2094_P2 and co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund through the Southern & Eastern Regional Operational Programme to Lero - the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software (www.lero.ie). WK was funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Defense. PH received funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). SK received funding from the Australian Army HQ (RA G208313, 2020), and previously from the DST Group, and from the University of Sydney. AT received research funding from the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, BHP, Rio Tinto, Shell and VicRoads. SD has received funding from US Department of Defense, DST Group, NHMRC; Member, Board of Advisors Eisai Australia Pty Ltd. SL has received funding from the ARC, Defence Science Centre, DST Group, and the Research Network for Undersea Decision Superiority. TV was funded by the DST Group and the Australian Army.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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Frontiers in Psychology




Frontiers Media


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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Frontiers Media under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Dr Robin Jackson. Deposit date: 10 March 2023

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