What is it about?

Ironic errors are errors in the most severe form and result in outcomes precisely opposite to those that were intended. They are said to occur when the to-be-avoided state enters the conscious mind; this happens more frequently when we are anxious. In this manuscript, we provide the first evidence of ironic effects in a reactive motor task. We then demonstrate how simple instructional interventions can be applied to help eradicate these uniquely undesirable human performance errors.

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Why is it important?

Our findings provide the first support for Wegner’s ironic effects theory in an externally paced task. Moreover, we offer a practical instruction-based solution that can reduce susceptibility to ironic errors and instead help individuals to thrive under pressure.


Writing this article was a great pleasure as it has co-authors with whom I have had long-standing collaborations. In this research, we aim to test the ironic effects theory in a reactive motor task and provide instructional interventions to reduce the incidence of ironic errors. Real life is not too different from the laboratory tasks used to study ironic processes. Life is full of surprises and needs constant attention. Therefore, we hope that the current research conclusions about ironic processes of mental control theory also lend themselves well to interdisciplinary work from social and developmental, evolutionary, and industrial-organizational psychology to performance psychology.

Dr. Recep Gorgulu
Uludag University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Anxiety and Ironic Errors of Performance: Task Instruction Matters, Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, April 2019, Human Kinetics, DOI: 10.1123/jsep.2018-0268.
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