Performance Support for High-Stress Situations

Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, administered the oath of office for the Presidency of the United States to Barack Obama on Tuesday January 20th, but screwed it up big time while relying on memory, even though the oath is only 35 words long.

He's a very smart guy and thought he could easily recall the words to the oath.

Steven Pinker, linguist and cognitive scientist extraordinaire wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times trying to explain the cause of problem, but as is often the case with grand theorists, missed a much more practical and important point.

When in situations of high stress, people may be better off relying on external memory aids (performance support tools) than their fallible memories. Actually, this is true for periods of low-stress as well. Our memories are fallible.

Later in the evening of the 20th, Roberts and Obama got back together to perform the task again. Hmmm. Let's see, two of the most powerful people in the world wasting time due to a learning-and-performance failure. What's the ROI on that?