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Behrouz Abdoli, James Hardy, Javad F. Riyahi and Alireza Farsi

Empirical literature addressing the effectiveness of self-talk for expert performers is lacking. We addressed this shortcoming within the existent literature and examined the comparative effects of instructional and motivational self-talk on basketball free throw shooting accuracy and salient movement kinematics. We recruited 20 professional basketball players to participate in a 2 × 2 pre/post-test experiment. Free throw accuracy and movement patterns were recorded, with the latter subsequently used to calculate elbow–wrist coordination variability. Results indicated superior shooting accuracy and reduced movement coordination variability for instructional self-talk compared to baseline conditions, whereas no differences emerged for motivational self-talk. Findings from the study help practitioners to better guide skilled performers how best to use self-talk; an area in urgent need of further research.

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Alister McCormick, Carla Meijen and Samuele Marcora

This study examined the effects of strategic, motivational self-talk for runners completing a 60-mile, overnight ultramarathon using a randomized, controlled experiment. Data were collected before, during, and after an annual ultramarathon. Twenty-nine ultramarathon runners were randomly allocated to a motivational self-talk group or an alternative control group. A condition-by-time mixed ANOVA indicated that learning to use motivational self-talk did not affect preevent self-efficacy or perceived control. A t-test and magnitude-based inference indicated that motivational self-talk did not affect performance. Nevertheless, follow-up data suggested that most participants found the intervention helpful and continued to use it six months after their research commitment, particularly in endurance events and to a lesser extent in training. Participants continued to use self-talk to cope with exertion, as well as other stressors such as blister discomfort and adverse conditions. Suggestions are offered for future research examining the effects of psychological interventions on performance in endurance events.

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Evangelos Galanis, Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, Nikos Comoutos, Fedra Charachousi and Xavier Sanchez

This study explored the effectiveness of self-talk strategies on task performance under conditions of external distraction in laboratory and field experiments. In the laboratory experiment, 28 sport science students (M age 21.48±1.58 years) were tested on a computer game requiring attention and fine execution following a baseline assessment and a short self-talk training. In the field experiment, 28 female basketball players (M age 20.96±4.51 years) were tested on free-throwing, following a baseline assessment and a six-week intervention. In both settings the final assessment took place under conditions of external distraction (noncontinuous, sudden, loud noise). Analyses of covariance showed that participants of the self-talk group performed better than participants of the control group. Findings suggest that self-talk can counter the effects of distraction on performance, and indicate that the attentional effects of self-talk is a viable mechanism to explain the facilitating effects of self-talk on performance.

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Alexander T. Latinjak, Marc Masó and Nikos Comoutos

Even though goal-directed self-talk is a key element in self-regulated learning, providing instruction and giving feedback during technical skill acquisition, few studies have explored the specific functions with which it might enhance learning and improve performance. Therefore, immediately after a training session, 32 novice Ultimate Frisbee players (M age = 22.88, SD = 9.71) were asked to report as many self-instructions as they remembered using before task execution, after unsuccessful throws, and after successful throws. A hierarchical content analysis indicated that players used mainly instructional self-talk in all situations. However, instructional self-talk was aimed at technical aspects before their throws; at negative reinforcement, error detection, and technical adjustment after unsuccessful throws; and at positive reinforcement and technical transference after successful throws. Other functions of self-talk were confidence-enhancement and goal-promotion. Overall, we discussed that goal-directed self-talk is a relevant self-regulated learning strategy employed by novice Ultimate Frisbee players when acquiring technical skills.

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Alexander Tibor Latinjak

The aim of this study was to analyze the functions of goal-directed thoughts and the content of spontaneous and stimulus-independent thoughts and mindwandering in a competitive setting and to explore links between different types of thoughts. Therefore, 17 young sport science students competed in a card-sorting task, while their recorded thoughts were collected between trials. Afterwards, the participants classified their own transcripts into different types of thoughts. The results indicated that goal-directed thinking serves a variety of functions, that spontaneous thought content might reflect a series of psychological states and processes relevant for performance, and that the content of mindwandering was idiosyncratic. Moreover, goal-directed thinking increased during competition, whereas mindwandering diminished. Lastly, mindwandering was rarely connected to other types of thinking, whereas the most recurrent connection between thoughts was found between goal-directed and spontaneous thinking.

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Judy L. Van Raalte, Allen E. Cornelius, Elizabeth M. Mullin, Britton W. Brewer, Erika D. Van Dyke, Alicia J. Johnson and Takehiro Iwatsuki

A series of studies was conducted by Senay et al. in 2010 to replicate and extend research indicating that self-posed questions have performance benefits. Studies 1–3 compared the effects of the self-posed interrogative question (“Will I?”) to declarative (“I will”) and control self-talk, and found no significant group differences in motivation, perceived exertion, or performance. In Studies 4–5, interrogative, declarative, and control self-talk primes were compared, and no outcome differences were found. In Study 6, the effects of self-talk on motivation, perceived exertion, and physical performance were assessed. The self-talk groups performed better and were more motivated than the control group, but declarative and interrogative groups did not differ from each other. Finally, meta-analyses of the six studies indicated no significant differences among conditions. These results highlight the value of replication and suggest that factors other than grammatical form of self-posed questions may drive the demonstrated relationships between self-talk and performance.

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Yani L. Dickens, Judy Van Raalte and Russell T. Hurlburt

Although self-talk has been shown to be an effective performance enhancement tool, accessing athletes’ ongoing inner experiences, including self-talk, has proven difficult. This study investigated the feasibility and desirability of using Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES) to sample athletes’ inner experiences during competition, thus avoiding potential distortions that arise from retrospective reports and questionnaires. Golfers (N = 10) were trained as DES participants in their natural environments; then their experiences were sampled during a golf tournament. More self-talk occurred during tournament play than in natural environments. Self-talk was a frequent but not ubiquitous component of experience during tournament play, inner-speaking self-talk was six times as frequent as speaking aloud self-talk, and effortful System 2 self-talk was rare. The results of this research demonstrate that DES can be feasibly implemented in sport settings and may be a useful approach for researchers exploring athletes’ inner experiences.

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James Hardy, Nikos Comoutos and Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis

Over the last 20 years research investigating self-talk in the context of sport has expanded rapidly enhancing our understanding of the construct. In the present article, we provide a brief historical review of the sports-oriented self-talk literature. In so doing we identify landmark investigations and review conceptual, research, and measurement themes present within the literature. We review this empirically based literature, distinguishing between three time periods: (1) the early foundations of self-talk research, up to the end of the 1990s; (2) the developmental years of systematic self-talk research during the 2000s; and (3) the modern day maturation of self-talk research, post-2011.

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Erika D. Van Dyke, Judy L. Van Raalte, Elizabeth M. Mullin and Britton W. Brewer

Little research has explored the relationship between highly skilled athletes’ self-talk and their competitive performance over the course of a season. For the current study, positive, negative, motivational, instructional, and functional dimensions of collegiate gymnasts’ (N = 141) self-talk were assessed. The gymnasts’ competitive balance beam performances in intercollegiate meets were also recorded. Multiple regression analysis revealed that positive self-talk significantly predicted balance beam performance and performance consistency. Significant positive correlations were found among key self-talk variables, except negative self-talk. Significant negative correlations were found between negative self-talk and self-talk functions (i.e., attention, cognitive and emotional control, and confidence). The results highlight the interrelationships among various types and functions of self-talk in competitive settings, and provide evidence for the ways in which self-talk is related to the performance of highly skilled athletes. Suggestions for how these findings might be applied by athletes, coaches, and sport psychology practitioners are provided.