The Effects of Self-Talk on Thought Content and Performance on Water-Polo Tasks

Self-Talk in the Swimming Pool: The Effects of Self-Talk on Thought Content and Performance on Water-Polo Tasks

Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, Yannis Theodorakis, and Nikos Zourbanos

Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 16: 138–150, 2004

Self-talk acts to reduce the occurrence of interfering thoughts during tasks as well as improve task performance. However, this latter aspect is affected by the type of self-talk and the type of task involved. Researchers studied this relationship by examining two types of self-talk (instructional and motivational) in regards to two types of water polo tasks (precision and power throws). In two separate experiments, students in a swimming class (a different one for each experiment) with no experience in water polo served as participants. Two weeks after they were tested in their respective task, they were randomly divided into three groups, control and two experimental groups, instructional self-talk and motivational self-talk, and the task repeated, only with the experimental groups being cued on the talk they needed to say.

In the precision task experiment, both experimental groups showed improvement, with the instructional group improving more. In the power task experiment, only the motivational self-talk group improved. In both experiments, the frequency of interfering thoughts decreased. Based on this latter finding, the researchers proposed that the ability of self-talk to reduce interfering thoughts and thereby improve concentration indicate it may be a mechanism through which self-talk improves performance.

Positive Effects of Self‐Verbalizations Study

Psychological Crisis in a Marathon and the Buffering Effects of Self‐Verbalizations

Julia Schüler and Thomas A. Langens

Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37 (2007), 10. – S. 2319-2344

In their study of goal striving, researchers found that self-verbalizations help people to achieve their goals by reducing the effect of psychological crises that cause people to turn away from them. They reached this conclusion by examining marathon runners, a group who face psychological and physiological barriers in their pursuit of successfully completing the race. Self-verbalizations are a strategy for dealing with psychological crises encountered, such as distractions or goal disengagement, which are a predictor of poor race performance.

Researchers conducted an experimental field study comparing the psychological experiences runners had at four separate points during the race (10, 20, 30, and 40 kilometers). Roughly half of the runners were given self-verbalization instructions while the rest did not.

For both groups, the mean values for psychological crisis increased until kilometer 30, before declining. The self-verbalization group, however, reported lower values at each measurement point, with the amount of self-verbalization they expressed following same pattern as the amount of psychological crisis they felt. The runners using self-verbalization also appeared to have better race performance, though the difference between the groups was only significant for runners experiencing large psychological crises.

Overall, the data indicate that the experimental group used self-verbalizations, when needed, to moderate the effect of their psychological crises. However, the study also found that while self-verbalizations were effective for marathon runners, they “did not use them spontaneously” (p.2340), but instead they needed some form of instruction to do so.