Self-Talk: It Works, but How? Development and Preliminary Validation of the Functions of Self-Talk Questionnaire
Theodorakis, Yannis, Hatzigeorgiadis, Antonis, Chroni, Stiliani, Measurement in Physical Education & Exercise Science
The aim of this investigation was to develop an instrument assessing the functions of self-talk (ST) in sports. Two studies were conducted for the development of the Functions of Self-Talk Questionnaire (FSTQ). In the first study, a prospective instrument was developed based on empirical evidence and a series of preliminary exploratory factor analysis. The results supported a five-dimensional 25-item solution. In the second study, the psychometric properties of the new questionnaire were tested. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) confirmed the hypothesized factor structure of the FSTQ. Furthermore, reliability analyses provided further evidence regarding the psychometric integrity of the instrument. The results of the study provide preliminary evidence regarding the multidimensionality of ST functions, suggesting that ST in sports can serve to enhance attentional focus, increase confidence, regulate effort, control cognitive and emotional reactions, and trigger automatic execution. The FSTQ seems a psychometrically sound instrument that could help with enhancing our understanding regarding the use and effectiveness of ST.
Key words: ST functions, confidence, automaticity, attention, effort, cognitive and emotional control
Cognitive theorists have long emphasized the link between what people say to themselves and how they behave (Ellis, 1994; Meichenbaum, 1977). Based on this foundation, models of self-regulation strategies have investigated the strategies that athletes often use to regulate their cognitions and behavior for enhancing performance. Cognitive strategies involve active mental processes designed to change or influence existing thought patterns, and the interest of sport psychologists in researching those techniques and designing mental training programs is progressively growing. Results from various studies indicate that successful athletes, in cooperation with coaches, use cognitive strategies more often than less-successful athletes (e.g., Gould, Eklund, & Jackson, 1992; Gould, Tammen, Murphy, & May, 1989), and these strategies have generally been found to be effective in enhancing performance (e.g., Hanton & Jones, 1999; Thelwell & Maynard, 2003).
One of the most pervasive of the cognitive strategies employed by athletes is self-talk (ST). ST has been central to cognitive and cognitive-behavioral interventions (Conroy & Metzler, 2004) and has recently received significant research interest in the applied sport psychology field. ST refers to statements people make to themselves, either internally or aloud, and has been defined as an "internal dialogue in which the individuals interpret feelings and perceptions, regulate and change evaluations and cognitions and give themselves instructions and reinforcement" (Hackfort & Schwenkmezger, 1993, p. 355). Originally, researchers discriminated between two broad dimensions of ST--positive and negative ST. Positive ST was described as self-addressed statements involving praise and encouragement, whereas negative ST was described as statements involving criticism and self-preoccupation (Moran, 1996). More contemporary approaches further discriminate ST in relation to the purposes it serves. Zinsser, Bunker, and Williams (2001) identify that ST can be characterized as instructional or motivational. Instructional ST refers to statements related to attentional focus, technical information, and tactical choices, whereas motivational ST refers to statements related to confidence building, effort input, and positive moods. Following the research advances, Hardy and colleagues (Hardy, 2006; Hardy, Hall & Hardy 2005) proposed a more comprehensive definition of ST. They described ST as a multidimensional, dynamic phenomenon concerned with athletes' verbalizations that are addressed to themselves. These verbalizations have interpretive elements associated with the content of the statements, and serve at least two purposes--instructional and motivational.
Initial research focused on the examination of the effects of positive and negative ST on performance. In field studies, results have been equivocal. Highlen and Bennett (1983) reported that elite divers who qualified for the Pan American games were using more content-based self-instruction during competition than non-qualifiers. Van Raalte, Brewer, Rivera, and Petitpas (1994) systematically observed the ST of junior tennis players. Results indicated that winners used less negative ST than losers. In contrast, in a methodologically alike study with adults (Van Raalte, Cornelius, Brewer, & Hatten, 2000), negative ST was not associated with losing. Similarly, Rotella, Gansneder, Ojala, and Billings (1980) found that successful and less-successful elite skiers did not differ in terms of their ST, and Dagrou, Gauvin, and Halliwell (1991) reported that elite athletes reported using the same type of ST for their best and worst performances. Nevertheless, experimental research, where ST has been employed as a performance-improving strategy with specific cues being used, has provided more consistent results regarding the effectiveness of positive ST. In particular, positive ST has been found to have positive effects on performance of experimental tasks involving golf (Johnson-O'Connor & Kirschenbaum, 1982), endurance (Weinberg, Smith, Jackson, & Gould, 1984), basketball (Hamilton & Fremour, 1985), skiing (Rushall, Hall, Roux, Sasseville, & Rushall, 1988), and dart throwing (Van Raalte, Brewer, Lewis, Linder, Wildman, & Kozimor, 1995).
More recently, attempts have been made to investigate the effects of instructional and motivational ST on performance. Mallett and Hanrahan (1997) and Landin and Hebert (1999) reported that the use of instructional ST significantly improved performance of elite sprinters and tennis players, respectively. Theodorakis, Chroni, Laparidis, Bebetsos, and Douma (2001) examined the effects of instructional ST on a basketball-shooting task. The results indicated that participants using appropriate-for-the-task ST improved their performance as compared to those using inappropriate ST and those of a control group. In one of the few ST intervention studies, Perkos, Theodorakis, and Chroni (2002) tested the effectiveness of a 12-week program involving instructional ST on basketball tasks. They reported that, at the end of the program, dribbling and passing performance of the experimental group was significantly better than that of the control group. Finally, in another intervention study, Johnson, Hrycaiko, Johnson, and Hallas (2004) examined the effectiveness of an ST program on skilled female soccer players, using single-subject multiple baseline design. The results revealed that performance on a shooting task improved for two of the three participants who practiced ST.
Theodorakis, Weinberg, Natsis, Douma, and Kazakas (2000) speculated that the effects of ST on performance should depend on the nature of the task to be performed. After conducting four experiments involving heterogeneous tasks, they found that for tasks involving fine execution, instructional ST was more effective, whereas for tasks requiring gross execution, instructional and motivational ST were equally effective. Hatzigeorgiadis, Theodorakis, and Zourbanos (2004) compared the effectiveness of instructional and motivational ST on a precision and on a power task. The results revealed that for the precision task, both types of ST facilitated performance with instructional ST being more effective, whereas for the power task, only motivational ST facilitated performance. The researchers suggested that the effectiveness of ST depends on the appropriate selection of ST cues in relation to the nature of the task.
Summarizing the above research, it becomes evident that ST can be an effective cognitive strategy for performance enhancement. Nevertheless, there is a dearth of research regarding the likely functions through which ST affects performance. In the literature, the distinction between positive and negative ST, as well as between instructional and motivational ST, has not been explicitly clear (Conroy & Metzler, 2004). The terms have been used to describe either the content (e.g., positively-phrased cues) or the effects (positive in relation to performance) ST may have, and this seems to obscure the identification of the functions of ST. Thus, the exploration of the functions through which ST operates can enhance our understanding of the ST phenomenon.
Meichenbaum (1977), in his self-instructional approach to cognitive-behavior modification, highlighted the significance of examining the functions through which (how) self-statements affect behavioral processes. He suggested that "the goal of a cognitive functional assessment is to describe ... the functional significance of engaging in self-statements of a particular sort followed by an individual's particular behavior" (p. 202). Meichenbaum viewed self-statements as indices of individuals' beliefs that may play a mediational role in behavioral performance. He supported that self-statement instructions can …
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Publication information: Article title: Self-Talk: It Works, but How? Development and Preliminary Validation of the Functions of Self-Talk Questionnaire. Contributors: Theodorakis, Yannis - Author, Hatzigeorgiadis, Antonis - Author, Chroni, Stiliani - Author. Journal title: Measurement in Physical Education & Exercise Science. Volume: 12. Issue: 1 Publication date: January-March 2008. Page number: 10+. © 2009 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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