Better Freeze than Fright in police performance (part 2)

In part one I learned a suprising thing: that “freezing” is actually very important for performing well and making good decisions under high pressure! In part-2 we go further and I learned that what I called Freeze is actually a state of Fright. Or even better, call it choking under pressure like in sport, so that we can normalize this stress reaction and remove the fear and stigma. We also talk about how to recover from a fright/choke state and do a little deep dive into what actually happens in the brain. And that means also that it is better to stop talking about this popular 3 part lizard brain model. And if you want more you can read her deep dive neuroscience articles in top journals. Although as Karin herself mentions: we as trainers don’t need to be scientists. But if we can align our concepts with science our profession has more and better opportunities.

I spoke with Karin Roelofs , a Professor of Experimental Psychopathology at the Behavioural Science Institute (BSI) and chair of the Affective Neuroscience group at the Donders Institute for Brain Cognition and Behaviour (DI), Radboud University Nijmegen (RU). She studies and follows police officers on the topic of dealing with acute and chronic stress and the relation with performance and mental health outcomes. Finally, did you know that there is a VR game developed by Prof. Karin Roelofs and her team @ Radboud University that trains all this for police officers! See also their lab-page at .

Topics in the video podcast

Different freezes (good and bad) and physiological characteristics

Roelofs K, Dayan P (2022) Freezing revisited: coordinated autonomic and central optimization of threat coping. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 23, 568–580

Characteristics of Fright state
Predictors of Fright / Choking under pressure
Fright state and PTSD
How to get people out of a fright state (contact, task)
How do you get people out of a panic (fright) state?
Is the triune brain still a good model to use?
The role of the amygdala
What model and language should we as trainers use when it comes to the brain and performing under pressure?
Onset of freezing and the midbrain
Stay in freezing and what brain structures play a role?
How to move from freeze to action
Should we talk about positive aspect of freezing to first responders?
Freeze is not Fright!
Is choking under pressure a better term for fright state (the bad freeze)?
A stress reaction is normal and should be talked about this in that way

Read more


  1. Roelofs, K. (2017). Freeze for Action. Neurobiological mechanisms in animal and human freezing. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 372(1718). pii: 20160206. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0206..
  2. Michela A, van Peer JM, Brammer JC, Nies A, van Rooij MMJW, Oostenveld R, Dorrestijn W, Smit AS, Roelofs K, Klumpers F, Granic I. 2022. Deep-Breathing Biofeedback Trainability in a Virtual-Reality Action Game: A Single-Case Design Study With Police Trainers. Frontiers in Psychology, 13:806163. doi:

(a follow-up in 50 police trainers is currently under review)

  1. Hashemi MM, Gladwin TE, de Valk NM, Zhang W, Kaldewaij R, van Ast V, Koch SBJ, Klumpers F, Roelofs K. (2019). Neural Dynamics of Shooting Decisions and the Switch from Freeze to Fight. Nature Sci Rep. 9(1):4240. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-40917-8.

And for the die hearts interested in neural and autonomic interactions during freezing:

  1. Roelofs K, Dayan P (2022) Freezing revisited: coordinated autonomic and central optimization of threat coping. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 23, 568–580 Perspective DOI: 10.1038/s41583-022-00608-2