The effect of self-talk in athlete performance

Most athletes uses self-talk, and self-talk affects the performance ( Hardy, Hall, & Hardy, 2004), and in a recent meta-analysis of self-talk interventions Hatzigeorgiadis, Zourbanos, Galanis, and Theodorakis confirmed self-talk as an effective strategy for enhancing task performance in sport. The athlete performs better with a good self-talk, in particular athlete is probably idiosyncratic and contextualized, in other words, what is good this athlete in this situation might not be good in a different situation or for someone else. Self-talk is used within interventions (e.g., Thelwell & Greenlees, 2003). Self-talk is one of the most influential skills that an athlete can use to increase their self-efficacy (Vargas-Tonsing, Myers, & Feltz, 2004; Weinberg, Grove, & Jackson, 1992). Self –efficacy has been argued as a key to optimal performance (Bandura, 1997). Hardy et al., 2005 initial research on self-efficacy as a mediating mechanism for self-talk performance has shown promising results. There are several definitions for self-talk in the literature. Theodorakis, Weinberg, Natsis, Douma and Kazakas (2000) defined self-talk as “what people say to themselves either out loud or as a small voice inside their head”. Williams and Leffingwell (2002) meant that “self-talk occurs whenever an individual thinks, whether making statements internally or externally”. Hackfort and Schwenkmezger (1993) stated that: “in an internal dialogue the individual interprets feelings and perceptions, regulates and changes evaluations and convictions, and gives him/herself instructions and reinforcement”. Hardy (2006) recognized self-talk as distant from other cognitive process (imagery), being statement athletes say to themselves. These statements may be in a planned manner or automatically occurred, such as thought-stopping technique ( Hardy et al., 2009).Several overlapping dimensions was identified by hardy for overlapping the nature of talk ( e.g., what self-talk is ). The nature of self-talk includes: a) a frequency dimension, that more or less often the self-talk can be employed) a self-determined dimension, it can be freely or assigned) an overtness dimension, it can be heard as one own inside voice (covert self-talk) or loud so that others can hear (overt self-talk).d) a valence dimension, it can range from positive to negative. Positive in the form of praise ( e.g., well done) (moran,1996), negative in the form of criticism ( e.g., you fool) (moran,1996);e) a motivational interpretation dimension, that individual can learn their self-talk from motivating to de-motivating for themselves ( Hardy , hall & alexander, 2001).Hardy proposed self-talk as a (a) verbalizations or statements addressed to the self; (b) multidimensional in nature; (c) having interpretive elements associated with the content of statements employed; (d) is somewhat dynamic; and (e) serving at least two functions; instructional and motivational, for the athlete (Hardy, 2006, p. 84).

Many authors use different terms instead of self-talk like internal dialogue ( meichenbaum 1997). Meichenbaum (1997) referred internal dialogue as an “attributions, appraisals, interpretations, self-reinforcements, beliefs and defense mechanism” which are parallel to self-talk. Morin (1993) viewed self-talk as a cognitive tool for self-reflective activity. He explained that both effective and ineffective internal dialogues and self-talk can provide self-knowledge for an individual. Morin explained that self-talk gives information about our self and helps to create a self-concept. He proposed that effective self-talk helps to acquire self-information by reflection of others positive views. Trapnell and Campbell (1999) suggested that the difference between effective versus ineffective self-talk resembles the “reflective and ruminative types of self-attentiveness”. Some researches proposed that self-talk can be a useful psychological resources to counteract the harmful effects of abuse for womens. Campbell et al., (1998) proposed that self-talk can used as problem solving strategy for women’s when trying to effectively manage various aspects of the relationship. For example, the women like to actively silent themselves by keeping feelings in and often taking a stance like “ignore it” and “pretend it doesn’t exist.”

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Some researches have demonstrated that self talk is a useful psychological resource for women attempting to deal with and counteract the harmful effects of abuse.

Many recent researches conducted to examine the role of self-talk in depression and self-esteem development have suggested that the frequency of positive self-statements made by an individual does affect overall well-being ( Heimberg et al., 1985; kendall,howard & Hays,1989; Schwartz & Michaelson,1987).Kendall(1984) suggests that, “ for the overall well-being of the individual the absence of negative self-talk is more important than the presence of positive self-talk’ (Philpot etal.1995).The positive self-statements serves to improve self-esteem level.Frey and Carlock (1989) proposed that individual can learn self-talk that affirms and nurtures,just as that harms. Few suggests that the ratio of positive to negative self-statement is more important that frequency ( Philpot & Bamburg,1996).Hardy et al., (2005) proposed that females likely to have more negative self-talk and less positive self-talk, stemming females athlete tend to have higher cognitive anxiety.

Self-talk tend to play a mediating role in the cognitive mechanism of attention, specifically, concentration (Chroni, Perkos, & Theodorakis,2007) and alteration of attentional foci (bell & hardy,2009) are to be the potential influence of self-talk strategies. The ability to regulate attention is essential to flow and mindfulness (kee & wang,2008) and can also be enhanced by means of self-talk ( Hatzigeorgiadis, Theodorakis, & Zourbanos, 2004).The self talk can also influence performance is affect. As cognitive content and affect are intertwined ( Lazaris,1991), affect and performance are also affiliated (Beedie, Terry & Lane,2000). Schwartz and Garamoni(1986) model of optimal balance finds that negative self-talk does not impede performance (Hardy,2006).

Attempting to promote flow, many athletes, coaches, and sport psychologist use techniques like goal setting, thought stopping, imagery and self-talk, to reduce the effect of negative cognitions and improve athlete performance.

Wulf et al., 2001 stated that the internal focus of attention ( focus on movement effect) may be more facilitative for athletes to allow the motor system to more naturally self-organize, as opposed to an internal focus of attention(focus on movement), which has interference with automatic contral processes.

Wulf et al., (20001) explained that an external focus of attention correlates with a higher confluence between voluntary and reflexive mechanism, a higher degree of automaticity, and less conscious interference in the contral processes that were needed to perform their balance task.

Edwars et al., (2002) found that the attentional shift to self-evaluation of performance is a significant contributor for incompetation catastrophic performance decline in high performing athlete.

Crews & landers, 1993 found a decreased levels of left-hemisphere cortical activity,indicative of lowered levels of verbal-linguistic activity, during high level performance ( the cognitive workload put on operating and monitoing systems, including irrelevant thoughts in the effortful, conscious operating system. Its advisable to be positive, try not to think of happy events(suppression) until the system collapse due to overloading the operating process, and one’s head will be full of negative and irrelevant thoughts, which is inconvenient during performance.Creating a thoughts is more beneficial to an athlete than suppress a thought.

Mental control mechanism helps to suppress opposite intention.For example, when we trying to not think sad thought, the operating system will be searching for anything that is not sad (both state-relevant and irrelevant),while the monitoring system is full exclusively with sad thoughts (opposite-relevant ).When the mental capacity reaches inadequate level as a result of possibilities like cognitive load, stress and time pressure, the operating system will collapse and monitoring system full of perverse negative thoughts will submerge our consciousness in precisely those things that we intended to avoid so dearly.mental capacity plays a vital role in athletic performance.when we have enough capacity, all the f unctions will be performing the job well like, the conscious, intentional, and efforful operating system and unconscious , autonomous and less demanding monioting system.these two attentional systems produce mental control by cooperative interaction.the moniotoring process will inititate the operating system when needed.However , when capacity is reduced (e.g : cognitive load, stress, distraction, time pressure etc ) and no longer adequate, the intended control does not merely decline to a zero level.Rather, exerting mental control without the capacity to fuel it, will result in ironic effect, which is opposite of intended states. The operating system become overwhelmed by the monitoring system, which is full of unwanted thoughts that it had been scanning to keep out of the consciousness. Baudouin(1921) law of reversed effort is familiar in all its simplicity to everyone who has learned to ride a bicycle.when we are at length able to wooble painfully along, we see a big stone lying in the middle of the road, and we know that all our attempts to avoid it serve only to direct our steering wheel towards the obstacle, upon which it impinges with deadly precision.it is an law of reversed effort, valid for all the obstacles we have to encounter in our path through life. The harder we try to think the good idea, the more violent will be the assaults of the bad idea of thought-stopping.This theory suggest that one should not waste ( cognitive and emotional ) energy on trying to control, manipulate, or fight human cognition that lies within our nature.Instead one should rather thrive more on the automatic pilot that has learned a vast amount of techniques, movements, informations. And also allocate one’s resources in a far more efficient way, focusing on the relevant task at hand. Not only will allow the individual to perfrom better, most importantly perhaps, it takes away a great deal of pitfalls.

We have the ability to reflect upon our own mental activities and influence their operation, which gives rise to a paramount function of human consciousness, mental control, at which people are quite adapt at times. Wegners theory states that it is crucial when the control fails, and when it does not,which brought to a key variable, analysis of self talk.

Hardy (2006) states that self talk enhance performance, and more oftentimes, hinder performance, but we are clueless that when it comes and why and how, the mechanism remain rather vague and opaque.Hardy (2006) also mentiones that negative self-talk does not impede performance.

An operational definition of self-talk includes, verbalizations or statements addressed to the self, multidimensional in nature ( positive/negative,overt/covert, self-determined, frequency,having interpretive elements association with the content of statements employed, dynamic, and serving atleast two functions, instructional and motivational ( hardy,2006).

Makaruk et al., (2011) suggest Coaches should use strategies that promote the best performance for their athletes. Recent studies in sports science indicate that providing instruction and feedback that direct an athlete’s attention during practice towards the result of their movements rather than towards the movements themselves improves the efficiency of the movement outcome.there are two major ways that attention can be explicitly directed. First, an internal focus of attention towards the movement of their own body during motor skill performance.The second is an external focus of attention, which shift the focus of attention towards the result of the movement or the effect the movement has on the environment ( Wulf et al., 1998). For example, a long jumper might be instructed to focus his/her attention on the dynamic movement of his/her free leg during take-off.this is an example of an interna focus of attention because the athlete is focusing his/her legs. An alternative strategy would be to instruct the athlete to focus on the trajectory of the jump.this strategy would promote an external focus of attention since the trajectory of the jump is a result of the movement.

Many researches stated that directing attention externally , rather than internally is more beneficial for sport performance. Wulf et al., (2010) studied the effect of attentional focus on swimming performance (16 m front crawl ) in intermediate swimmers were examined.athelte using the internal focus were asked to focus on the movement of their arms ( pull your hand back) or leg movements (push the instep down).In the external condition, athletes were encouraged to concentrate on pushing the water back or pushing the water down.results showed that external focus group achieved better result compared to the group that adopted an internal focus of attention.

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