Back in high school, on the soccer field, poised to take a crucial penalty kick, "I always had a lot of thoughts going on in my head; I think most people do" says sports psychologist Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis. "I was setting the ball and planning my shot; I was the captain and never missed those types of shots; then I had that thought striking me that it was not going to be good. I knew I was going to miss," he recalls, "and I did miss." Even then, he could see that his mind had a big effect on his body.
From these unhappy experiences evolved Hatzigeorgiadis' interest in the psychology of sport - the link between one's thoughts and performance, and specifically in "self-talk" the mental strategy that aims to improve performance through the use of self-addressed cues (words or small phrases), which trigger appropriate responses and action, mostly by focusing attention and psyching-up.
"We know this strategy works, and it works in sports," says Hatzigeorgiadis. But what makes it work better, and in what situations? To find out, Hatzigeorgiadis and his colleagues at the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Thessaly, Nikos Zourbanos, Evangelos Galanis, and Yiannis Theodorakis conducted a meta-analysis of 32 sport psychological studies on the subject with a total of 62 measured effects. Their findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
As expected, the analysis revealed that self-talk improves sport performance.
But the researchers teased out more - different self-talk cues work differently in different situations. For tasks requiring fine skills or for improving technique "instructional self-talk", such as a technical instruction ("elbow-up" which Hatzigeorgiadis coaches beginner freestyle swimmers to say) is more effective than 'motivational self-talk' (e.g., "give it all"), which see
|Contact: Divya Menon|
Association for Psychological Science