The Psychology of Performance investigates the effects of high-performance race car driving on the brain. The hypothesis is that by understanding professional race car drivers’ mental capacity, we can learn how to better perform in other real life situations.
UNIT9 and and King’s College London teamed up with OATH and Mindshare to develop a top-of-the-range EEG brain scanner to carry out an experimental study.
They used a high quality EEG to record data from professional drivers and everyday people, while they were driving in a virtual reality simulator. Five-time FIA World Rally Championship winner Sébastian Ogier and Andy Priaulx were some of our professional subjects.
Initial tests showed clearly how professional drivers’ brains function differently under pressure in a racing simulator. Travelling at high speed at a high state of focus, their brains perform up to 40% better than an everyday person.
In the second phase of testing, UNIT9 asked their everyday drivers to mentally prepare for the racing simulator. Using breathing exercises, meditation and a visualisation technique to describe the track ahead, the everyday drivers improved their focus and performance by as much as 50%.
The study discovered that racing drivers have an ability to be always switched on and using the maximum capacity to their task at hand. While mental training techniques can have long-term benefits for both physical wellbeing and mental health, its ability to enable us to ‘live in the moment’ and focus on the task at hand is what makes it especially relevant for professional drivers who have to make split-second decisions under stress.