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This paper aims to illustrate how effective this psychological skill of self-talk actually is, in order to boost sport performance. Many athletes have said that self-talk can be extremely effective when it comes to positively impacting their performance; however, others say the complete opposite. Zinsser attempted to define self-talk; he declared this skill is the key to cognitive control; hence the reasoning for its vital part to play in sport performance for sport performers. Zinsser further exclaims that the, ‘frequency and content of thoughts vary from person to person and situation to situation. Anytime you think about something you are in a sense talking to yourself” (Zinsser et al, 2009).
Self-talk has been widely explored from the start of experimental psychological studies. In the 1970s the cognitive revolution emerged in sport psychology and this led practitioners to further investigate the techniques in self-talks impact on performance (Oxford Research Encyclopedias 2007).
Moreover, this led to self-talk interventions and procedures to be some of the most widely applied and effective strategies used by athletes (Park, 2007). Self-talk serves as two functions: Instructional (cognitive) and motivational (positive).
The function of instructional self-talk occurs when we guide our-self through a specific task, for example, learning a new skill- a midfield player in football, would give them self, step-by-step instructions such as, “Intersect the ball and then pass the ball to the striker”.
In contrast, the function of motivational self-talk is used when we need to encourage our-self to overcome a hard challenge; it boosts confidence and self-efficacy and reduces jitters. For example, a striker is taking a penalty a striker may say, “come on, you can do this” or “this is easy”. These phrases are used to boost the players self-efficacy, in addition; researchers such as Feltz in 1999 have shown that athletes with high self-efficacy outperform those with low self-efficacy on strength, endurance and skill tasks (ResearchGate 2011). Bandura in 1997 claimed that, self-efficacy is influenced by verbal persuasion, from others and by yourself in the form of self-talk (Positive psychology 2018).
‘Interventions such as thought stopping, thought replacement, and self-talk journaling are examples of interventions designed for the purpose of enhancing performance by making an athlete’s self-talk more positive’ (Ziegler, S. G. 1987). Self-talk still is one of the most crucial aspects of applied sport psychology, also is widely used in psychology skills training (PST) programs.
I found numerous review articles/studies published, that illustrate self-talk to have a very positive impact on performance for sport performers. Thus, in 2007 there was a study article published by psychologist’s Ryan A. Hamilton, David Scott and Michael P. MacDougall; their aim was to ‘Assess the effectiveness of three different self-talk interventions on endurance performance’ (cited by 105). The methodology used included, ‘nine cyclists who performed a 20-minute cycling ergometer workout two times per week for five weeks’. They were asked to cycle as far as they could. The researchers then used a ‘multiple-baseline design’. They implemented, ‘one out of three self-talk interventions: self-regulated positive self-talk, assisted positive self-talk, and assisted negative self-talk’. The results showed that performance increased in all groups. The highest increase was via the use of ‘assisted positive self-talk’ (Hamilton, Scott and MacDougall 2007).
This illustrates, a significant impact of self-talk implementations on sport performance. Showing the vast effectiveness of self-talk; especially ‘assisted positive self-talk’ which increased performance output the most. Considering the fact that the research was cited by 105 researchers; displays its validity and reliability. Plus, the fact that the cycling workout was done ‘two times per week for five weeks’; means it’s a source of longitudinal data; which is vital for any study, as it improves reliability and reduces anomalous data- due to researchers being able to assess any changes over time.
Nevertheless, there are still vast limitations in this study; a major limitation being the number of participates (the sample size), since only ‘nine cyclists’ were used. This is a problem because, in order to be established as a fully reliable source of research; the quantitative data must be a lot higher; for example, at least 100 participates used. Thus, the lower the sample size the higher possibility of outliers.
Moreover, the article was also published in 2007, which calls for the argument of its validity, since this means the study is over 10 years old; which could mean the research is slightly outdated. Once these points have been rectified, this study could definitely become one to be recognised as a trustworthy model for the explanation of self-talks effectiveness on sport performance.
Moreover, there was another review article, in 2010 by sports psychologist’s Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, Yannis Theodorakis and Nikos Zourbanos (cited by 277); they were studying the ‘Effects of self-talk on performance in water-polo tasks’. The researchers conducted two experiments in a swimming pool, the first experiment was a ‘precision task- throwing a ball at target’ and the other was a ‘power task- throwing a ball for distance’. The results for the precision task showed that, ‘both self-talk groups improved their performance in comparison to the baseline measure’. Also, participants that used instructional self-talk improved a lot more. The power task results showed that ‘only the motivational self-talk group improved its performance significantly’ (Hatzigeorgiadis, Theodorakis and Zourbanos 2010).
This study further, declares the effectiveness of the use of self-talk on sport performance, as it once again shows this positive trend. However, there are a few limitations of this study, a major factor being the number of participants involved, as the amount is unknown/stated. Which calls for argument, the reliability of this study; for example, if only two participates were used, then this study would be invaluable. Plus, some may say that the study was published 2010 which is outdated information.
Nevertheless, this study is still an accepted piece of research and further illustrates that instructional and motivational self-talk still massively influences sport performance levels positively; since, the self-talk participates performed way better than the control group- that did not have self-talk implications. Also, due to the study being ‘cited 277’, displays its relevancy and validity towards the field.
On the contrary, this research piece needs more longitudinal data, along with a bigger sample size. Once these factors are modified; this study would be a more recognised research piece that would identity the topic of this literature review.
Likewise, to the study above, Hatzigeorgiadis, Zourbanos and Galanis (cited by 220) further developed on their studies are decided to compose a meta-analysis a year later (in 2011); they found that that self-talk to has a very significant positive impact on sport performance. The meta-analysis was comprised from ‘32 studies yielding 62 effect sizes included in the final meta-analytic pool’. The results indicated a ‘positive moderate effect size (ES = .48)’. The moderator also showed that instructional self-talk was more effective for fine tasks, than motivational self-talk. Plus, that overall self-talk interventions had a greater effect, then those that did not have any self-talk training (Hatzigeorgiadis, Theodorakis and Zourbanos 2011).
Therefore, these results demonstrate the crucial usage for self-talk interventions, to be used as a strategy to facilitate learning and maximise sport performance. This study was cited by 220 people, which shows its relevancy towards the topic. Also, this study is a meta-analysis, which is a combination of individual studies and the more data, means the better the precision and accuracy from the overall estimated studies- increasing the statistical power.
Self-talk is showed to be effective. As you can see the moderator indicated that there was a positive moderate effect size (ES = .48), which shows that self-talk does positively impact sport performance.
Additionally, there were 32 studies comprised in the making of this research; which definitely increases the significance of the research and overall heighten the reliability of this study. Along with the finding being from a meta-analysis which allows this study to be objective and unbiased.
Nonetheless, there are once again a few limitations to their research. For example, some may argue the finding could be an example of reductionistic data, since analysing 32 studies can be very complex. Meaning if the data is processed even slightly incorrect; the reliability and validity immediately drops for this study. In addition, similar to the last study the research piece was published in 2011, some-may question its validity once again.
Overall, the study is definitely one that demonstrates the positive effect of self-talk on performance. If there were to be another meta-analysis, the argument of it being outdated information would be rectified and definitely would be study fully recognise for this topic.
As you can see, self-talk is well documented as a cognitive strategy can enhance sport performance. On the contrary, there was a study that discredited self-talk effectiveness on increasing sport performance. Comprised by sport psychologist Alexander T. Latinjak (and others) in 2018. They investigated the effects of an intervention that ‘encouraged reflection on organic self-talk used during endurance performance’.
In the methodology, participants completed five, time-to-exhaustion cycling task trials; the researchers hypothesized that the group received self-talk interventions, would outperform the control group and, also anticipated that there would be a ‘reduction in perceived exertion for a given workload among participants following a self-talk intervention’.
There where thirty-four participants in this investigation that were ‘randomly divided into an intervention and control group’. The results from the finding claimed that there was no significant difference in time to exhaustion (p = 0.157). Also, that in the intervention group the ‘perceived exertion rates were 2.42% higher’ than the control group (p = 0.025) (Alexander, L. T et al. 2018).
This new relevant 2018 study- is a controversial phenomenon, as it goes against all of the studies above made by Hamilton (2007) and Hatzigeorgiadis (2010 and 2011) and many other various studies- that show a positive correlation between self-talk implication towards increasing performance.
The fact that participates were made to complete ‘five, time-to-exhaustion cycling task trials’ in total; supports the study’s reliability and lowers the chance of anomalous data. In addition, the ‘participants were randomly divided into an intervention and control group’, this increases the validity of the study; since, participates were randomly selected which promotes unbiased results and, brings-forth a more holistic approach.
However, the substantial limitation of the study is the sample size; as there were only ‘thirty-four participants used’, to provide the researchers with an answer to their research. In order to develop an established finding, one must use at least 100 people for their quantitative data; thus, using a large sample size, increases reliability data and further reduces anomalous data.
Nevertheless, this study creates controversy in all above finding, and the relevancy of this ‘2018’ study is definitely a study that holds value in this literature review topic.
To conclude, there are faults in all studies presented above, one could be the little development made in the studies for key factors; such as, different demographics- like age and gender. If this was a variable used; we could then identify even further; the magnitude of self-talks impact on sport performance. For example, maybe the self-talk implication only works, once a person reached a certain age? Or works better in a certain gender than the other? These are all questions that the best research highlights. Thus, when more variables are added into research, it makes for a better understanding for this review topic; which all the studies should have if they want to develop and enhance their work.
Hatzigeorgiadis (2010) used different types of self-talk- instructional and motivational, which allowed us to understand that instructional self-talk, is a lot more effective on performance than motivational self-talk. But the number of participates used are unknown, was it 100 participates or 3 participates? How many participates that were used massively impacts the validity of this study.
Statistical evidence is important when exploring a topic, in-which the 2018 study by Latinjak does very well, the results showed that self-talk intervention and the control group only had a (p = 0.157) difference- in time to exhaustion and unexpectedly that perceived exertion rates were 2.42% higher’ in the intervention group than the control group (p = 0.025).
On the other hand, Hatzigeorgiadis meta-analysis in 2011 was definitely the most systemic and unbiased approach in identifying the review topic, the moderator showed that a ‘positive moderate effect size of ES= .48’, this gives the main overall answer to this topic. Finally, the total evidence supporting self-talks effectiveness on sport performance; is way higher than the findings of self-talk to be ineffective in increasing sport performance; meaning self-talk is definitely a psychological skill/strategy that sport performers all should implicate in order to reach and excel their optimum level of performance.
- Alexander, L. T et al. (2018) ‘Effects of Reflection to Improve Goal-Directed Self-Talk on Endurance Performance’. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health [online] 6 (2), 55. available from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6027548/> [22 November 2018]
- Hatzigeorgiadis, A., Theodorakis, Y., and Zourbanos, N. (2010) ‘Self-Talk in the swimming Pool: The Effects of Self-Talk on Thought Content and Performance on Water-Polo Tasks’. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology [online] 16 (2), 138-150. available from <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413200490437886> [22 November 2018]
- Hatzigeorgiadis, A., Theodorakis, Y., and Zourbanos, N. (2011) ‘Self-Talk and Sport Performance’. Perspectives on Psychological Science [online] 6 (4), 348-356. available from <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1745691611413136?journalCode=ppsa> [22 November 2018]
- Hamilton, R. A., Scott, D., and MacDougall, M. P. (2007) ‘Assessing the Effectiveness of Self-Talk Interventions on Endurance Performance’. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology [online] 19 (2), 226-239. available from <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413200701230613> [21 November 2018]
- Oxford Research Encyclopeias (2007) Self-Talk in Sport and Performance [online] available from <http://psychology.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190236557.001.0001/acrefore-9780190236557-e-157#acrefore-9780190236557-e-157-bibItem-0055> [20 November 2018]
- Park, J. K. (2007) ‘Coping in sport: A systematic review’. ResearchGate [online] 25 (1), 11-31, available from <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6670029_Coping_in_sport_A_systematic_review> [20 November 2018]
- Positive psychology (2018) What is Self-Efficacy? Bandura’s 4 Sources of Efficacy Beliefs [online] available from <http://positivepsychology.org.uk/self-efficacy-definition-bandura-meaning/> [20 November 2018]
- ResearchGate (2011) Self-efficacy beliefs of athletes, teams, and coaches [online] available from <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228781578_Self-efficacy_beliefs_of_athletes_teams_and_coaches> [20 November 2018]
- Zinsser, N et al. (2009) ‘Awareness and Motivation to Change Negative Self-Talk’. Human Kinetics, inc. [online] 23 (1), 435-450. available from<https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4af5/8834c5e66f972c5ae3b51d01899a06ea1cbe.pdf> [18 November 2018]
- Ziegler, S. G. (1987) ‘Negative thought stopping: A key to performance enhancement’. In Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance 58 (4), 66–69
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