Is negative self-talk all that bad?: examining the motivating functions of negative self-talk

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University of New Brunswick


The purpose of this study was to investigate the motivational function of negative self-talk (ST). One suggestion is that negative ST is motivational when it is interpreted as a challenge. For example, an athlete may say, “my legs are tired” and challenge it by saying “but I can push through it.” This study examined the potential motivating functions of challenging negative ST on a 20-minute cycling task. Participants (n = 93) participated in one of four ST interventions: a) positive, b) negative, c) neutral, or d) negative-challenging. Overall, there were no between-group differences on task performance. However, a significant group by time interaction effect was present, where the challenging group outperformed the negative group in the final stage of the task. The findings suggest that time within an endurance task is a moderator of the ST-performance relationship, and this study provides initial evidence for implementing challenging ST techniques.