The Effects of Positive Self-Instruction: A Controlled Trial

Alfred Lange, Rene Richard, Aagje Gest, Marjan De Vries & Litanja Lodder

Cognitive Therapy and Research, Vol. 22, No.3, 1998, pp. 225-236

Positive self-instruction has beneficial effects on self-esteem and on feelings of inadequacy. Researchers reached this conclusion after conducting a study in which they emphasized the importance of examining self-instruction without contamination from other treatment techniques and with respondents expressing their instructions in their own words.

Study participants were psychology students with low self-esteem, as indicated by receiving a score below the 20th percentile on a questionnaire. Half the participants formed the experimental group, each member of which wrote a positive essay about themselves that they turned into positive statements. They then read these statements aloud to themselves twice daily over a period of three weeks. The remainder of the participants formed the control group and were given neutral writing assignments and no assigned reading. At the final session, all participants conducted a self-evaluation using questionnaires. They also answered questions about their motivation at different points in the study.

Members of the experimental group showed greater improvements than the control group in measures of Social Inadequacy, General Inadequacy, Self-Esteem, and Self-Confidence. Moreover, within this group intrinsically motivated participants improved more than those participating merely to be rewarded for taking part in the study. Unexpectedly, men were found to improve from self-instruction more than women.