Sunday, June 8, 2014

Teach Children to "Self Talk" to Improve Abilities

Improve skills with self talkSelf talk is a mental strategy used to improve performance in sports.  Using self addressed cues (short phrases or a few words), self talk attempts to trigger appropriate responses by focusing your attention on the skill therefore  improving performance.  Researchers performed a meta analysis on 32 sport psychological studies on self talk with a total of 62 measured effects and publisher the results in Perspectives on Psychological Science.  The analysis indicated that self talk improves sport performance.  In addition, the results indicated that self talk is more effective in certain situations.  Here are the results:

1.  For tasks requiring fine skills or for improving technique “instructional self-talk”, such as a technical instruction is more effective than ‘motivational self-talk’ (e.g., “give it all”)

2.  Motivational self talk seems to be more effective in tasks requiring strength or endurance by boosting confidence and psyching-up for competition

3.  Self-talk has a greater effect on tasks involving fine skills (such as sinking a golf ball) rather than gross skills (e.g., cycling) (probably because self-talk is a technique which mostly improves concentration).

4.  Self-talk is more effective for novel tasks rather than well-learned tasks because it is easier to improve at the early steps of learning.

The researchers recommend to practice your self talk using a consistent script in varying conditions to improve potential.

Why not instruct children in scripts for self talk for certain skills such as handwriting (i.e. child self talks the strokes), organizational skills (i.e. self talk the steps of packing up materials), self talk tying shoe laces, etc.  Use motivational self talk when working on increasing endurance or strength.

Reference:  Association for Psychological Science. Thoughts That Win. Retrieved from the web 6/8/14 at


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