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Javier Horcajo, Borja Paredes, Guillermo Higuero, Pablo Briñol, and Richard E. Petty

Research on self-talk has found that what athletes say to themselves influences their performance in sport settings. This experiment analyzed the relationship between positive and negative self-talk and physical performance in light of another variable: overt head movements. Participants were randomly assigned to first generate and then listen to either positive or negative self-statements. They were then randomly assigned to nod (up and down) or to shake (side to side) their heads while being exposed to the self-statements they had previously generated. Finally, physical performance was assessed using a vertical-jump task, a squat test, and a deadlift task. As expected, positive self-statements led to better performance than negative self-statements in 2 out of 3 physical tasks. Most relevant, the main effect of self-talk was significantly qualified by head movements. Consistent with the authors’ hypothesis, athletes’ self-statements were significantly more impactful on physical performance in the head-nodding condition than in the head-shaking condition