We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is "Brain Lock"?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

People sometimes use the slang term "brain lock" to describe a moment in which they are unable to think or process information. This phenomenon is also referred to as a "brain freeze," with both idioms referencing the idea that the brain is temporarily frozen or locked in place, and therefore unable to perform any functions. There are any number of reasons why someone can experience this sensation, and some researchers have conducted studies to understand why this happens, and how people can cope with it.

Someone may experience a moment of brain lock in the middle of a conversation as he or she forgets the thread of the conversation or can't think of a word. This type of brain lock is relatively benign, although it can be embarrassing when someone commands the floor and then stands frozen for a moment, unable to think or speak. People can experience this in the midst of an impromptu conversation or a prepared speech, suggesting that it may be caused by nerves, stress, or distractions, rather than the type of situation in which it occurs.

More seriously, people sometimes find that they are unable to remember how to do something. For example, a driver might momentarily forget how to apply the brake, or a diver might not remember the correct sequence of decompression stops. In these cases, the brain lock is usually readily apparent to the person experiencing it, and the person suffering from it may appear blank or confused for a moment until he or she remembers what to do.

When people find themselves in a moment of brain lock, it sometimes helps to focus on the next step of whatever they are doing. Some psychologists have theorized that when people think ahead or get distracted, they are more prone to brain lock, because the brain gets confused for a moment. The momentary hiccup may be resolved by refocusing and reminding the brain of the task at hand.

This figure of speech is not usually used in the medical community, because it is so imprecise. Repeated experiences of confusion and an inability to perform basic tasks can indicate an underlying neurological condition, but the occasional bout of brain freeze is usually not a cause for concern. Someone who finds that he or she experiences brain lock in the same setting over and over may want to see a psychologist to see if there is an underlying emotional cause, or a neurologist, to explore possible neurological reasons.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon330256 — On Apr 15, 2013

I almost feel like my brain gets blocked and I cannot think any more and am frozen. When one of my friends I really care about talks to me, I almost feel dumb and speechless. With the fear of all the dramas and concerns I go through now, I'm afraid that this has been the case of my reaction most times to anybody I talk with. I get frozen and cannot think or speak.

By Plaisham — On Jul 01, 2012

I have a tendency to blank out in the grocery store...looking silly standing in the middle of the aisle going "dahhh..." I *know* I am not he only one.

As article says, the poor brain is trying to cope with the list I left on the kitchen table (past) and what I am cooking for supper (future) and the shopping cars that are coming at me (present) and why on earth did I invite so and so over.

I don't really think I need a shrink though. Hmmm maybe I should shop earlier? nahhh.....we all need some stress in our lives right??

By Tufenkian925 — On Feb 22, 2011

Blanking out while public speaking is particularly upsetting and is one of everyone's worst fears. It happens relatively often, due to the stress and pressure that may come about when lecturing on an important topic or in front of an intimidating crowd. It often results in an awkward paralysis which causes much laughter later on.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.