The Sport Psychologist, 2008, 22, 458-471
© 2008 Human Kinetics, Inc.
Investigating the Functions of Self-Talk:
The Effects of Motivational Self-Talk on
Self-Efficacy and Performance in Young
Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, Nikos Zourbanos, Christos Goltsios,
and Yannis Theodorakis
University of Thessaly
The purpose of the current study was to examine the effects of motivational self-talk
on self-efcacy and performance. Participants were 46 young tennis players (mean
age 13.26, SD 1.96 years). The experiment was completed in ve sessions. In the rst
session, participants performed a forehand drive task. Subsequently, they were divided
into an experimental and a control group. Both groups followed the same training
protocol for three sessions, with the experimental group practicing self-talk. In the
nal session, participants repeated the forehand drive task, with participants in the
experimental group using motivational self-talk. Mixed model ANOVAs revealed sig-
nicant group by time interactions for self-efcacy (p < .05) and performance (p <
.01). Follow-up comparisons showed that self-efcacy and performance of the exper-
imental group increased signicantly (p < .01), whereas self-efcacy and performance
of the control group had no signicant changes. Furthermore, correlation analysis
showed that increases in self-efcacy were positively related to increases in perfor-
mance (p < .05). The results of the study suggest that increases in self-efcacy may be
a viable mechanism explaining the facilitating effects of self-talk on performance.
In the sport psychology literature the study of self-talk has been progressively
growing. Self-talk is a cognitive strategy aiming at enhancing performance, and as
such, the vast majority of the self-talk research has justiably focused on the
effects of self-talk on performance. Studies using various research designs and
tasks have thoroughly supported that self-talk can be an effective cognitive strat-
egy for skill acquisition and performance enhancement. In particular, the effec-
tiveness of self-talk has been supported in studies using experimental tasks (e.g.,
Harvey, Van Raalte, & Brewer, 2002; Theodorakis, Weinberg, Natsis, Douma, &
Kazakas, 2000), intervention studies (e.g., Johnson, Hrycaiko, Johnson, & Hallas,
2004; Perkos, Theodorakis, & Chroni, 2002), and studies employing single-sub-
ject multiple-baseline designs (e.g., Landin & Hebert, 1999; Hamilton, Scott, &
Hatzigeorgiadis, Zourbanos, Goltsios, and Theodorakis are with the Dept. of Physical Education and
Sport Sciences, University of Thessaly, Trikala, 42100 Greece.
Investigating the Functions of Self-Talk 459
Based on the solid evidence regarding the effectiveness of self-talk in relation
to performance, research has recently begun to examine the functions of self-talk,
that is the mechanisms through which self-talk operates. The signicance of
investigating the functions through which self-statements affect behavioral pro-
cesses was rst highlighted by Meichenbaum (1977). In his self-instructional
approach to cognitive-behavior modication, he suggested that “the goal of a cog-
nitive functional assessment is to describe . . . the functional signicance of engag-
ing in self-statements of a particular sort followed by an individual’s particular
behaviour” (p. 202). Meichenbaum viewed self-statements as indices of individu-
al’s beliefs which may play a mediational role in behavioral performance.
Hardy, Gammage, and Hall (2001) in a qualitative inquiry examined the rea-
sons for which athletes talk to themselves. They identied two broad dimensions
of self-talk functions, motivational and cognitive. The motivational dimension
refers to functions such as psyching-up, increasing self-condence, and regulating
anxiety, whereas the cognitive dimension refers to functions such as the execution
of skills and development of strategies. Based on Hardy’s conceptualization of
self-talk functions, Zervas, Stavrou, and Psychountaki (2007) developed an instru-
ment assessing these two broad dimensions. Their results supported the distinc-
tion of self-talk functions in motivational (e.g., I talk to my self to enhance my
condence) and cognitive (e.g., I talk to my self to give directions); nevertheless,
the authors identied that research should examine the relationships of self-talk
with other psychological aspects such as anxiety, concentration, and self-con-
dence, as potential mechanisms through which self-talk facilitates performance.
Toward this direction, Theodorakis, Hatzigeorgiadis, and Chroni (2008) presented
a multidimensional approach of self-talk functions, attempting to address the
issues of how self-talk operates. In developing an instrument based on athletes’
reports and empirical evidence from the literature they identied ve distinct
functions of self-talk. In particular, they suggested that self-talk can serve to
enhance attentional focus, increase condence, regulate effort, control cognitive
and emotional reactions, and trigger automatic execution.
Several experimental studies have tested the assumptions described in the
above conceptual frameworks. A rst attempt to examine experimentally the func-
tions of self-talk was made by Hatzigeorgiadis, Theodorakis, and Zourbanos
(2004). They investigated the effects of instructional and motivational self-talk on
performance and cognitive interference in two (a precision and a power) water-
polo tasks. After an initial assessment, participants were divided into three groups,
two experimental (instructional and motivational self-talk) and control. The results
showed that for the precision task performance improved for both self-talk groups,
whereas for the power task performance improved signicantly only for the moti-
vational self-talk group. With regard to the effects on cognitive interference, it was
found that for both tasks participants in the experimental groups reported less
interfering thoughts compared with the initial assessment, whereas no differences
were found for the control group. The authors suggested that the use of self-talk
reduces cognitive interference, thus increases in performance were attributed to
the enhancement of concentration, which was identied as one of the possible
functions of self-talk. Furthermore, the authors suggested that different types of
self-talk have different performance effects and speculated that self-talk may
serve several functions depending on the type of self-talk that is used.
460 Hatzigeorgiadis et al.
Hatzigeorgiadis (2006) further supported this assumption in a subsequent
experimental study. Participants were tested before and after the implementation
of a self-talk training program on a swimming task. At the nal assessment when
instructional and motivational self-talk was used, participants reported that moti-
vational self-talk had greater impact on effort, than instructional self-talk. In a
similar experiment, Hatzigeorgiadis, Zourbanos, and Theodorakis (2007) used an
experimental water-polo precision task to examine differences in self-talk func-
tions when using a technical instruction and an anxiety regulation self-talk cue.
They found that the use of both self-talk cues reduced interfering thoughts and
increased effort. In addition, they reported that the anxiety regulation self-talk cue
had greater impact on anxiety (reduced anxiety to a greater degree) than the tech-
nical instruction self-talk cue. They concluded that self-talk enhanced concentra-
tion and effort, and that the functions of self-talk can be moderated by the type of
self-talk that is used. This preliminary evidence highlights the importance and
encourages further research on the issue of self-talk functions in sport.
Hardy (2006) in a critical review of the self-talk literature stressed the lack of
theory-based research and considered, among others, the relevance of self-efcacy
theory (Bandura, 1997) with regard to the effectiveness of self-talk. Self-efcacy
refers to one’s beliefs that a certain level of performance can be attained in a given
situation. These beliefs activate cognitive, motivational, and affective responses,
and subsequently are important determinants of performance accomplishments.
According to Bandura, one of the sources contributing to the formulation of self-
efcacy beliefs is verbal persuasion. Signicant others are considered most inu-
ential agents, nevertheless, Hardy indicates that verbal persuasion can also origi-
nate from oneself in the form of self-talk and can have an important impact on
efcacious beliefs. The effects of self-talk on self-efcacy were rst examined by
Hardy, Hall, Gibbs, and Greensdale (2005). After performing a baseline sit-up
task, participants were assigned to three groups, instructional self-talk, motiva-
tional self-talk, and control. Examination of the manipulation protocol revealed
that the intended groups were not formed. In particular, more than half partici-
pants in the instructional self-talk group reported using in addition some form of
motivational self-talk, and most of the participants in the control group reported
using some form of self-talk. Even though the a priori groups were not formed, the
authors tested the relationship between self-talk and self-efcacy based on reported
rather than assigned self-talk. They found that self-talk was moderately related to
self-efcacy. In addition, they reported that self-efcacy was positively related to
performance, however, self-talk was not related to performance. The researchers
argued that their results provided preliminary evidence regarding the effects of
self-talk on self-efcacy and highlighted the importance of detailed manipulation
checks to ensure the integrity of the experimental design.
Further preliminary evidence regarding the above propositions can be found
in studies examining the effectiveness of self talk and athletes’ perceptions regard-
ing the effects of self-talk through postexperimental reports. Johnson et al. (2004)
in an intervention study using a single-subject multiple-baseline design with
female soccer players reported that according to participants’ perceptions self talk
helped them increase their condence. Similar reports have been provided by
Investigating the Functions of Self-Talk 461
Perkos et al. (2002) in an intervention study using a free-throw task in novice
basketball players, and Thelwell and Greenlees (2003) in a qualitative inquiry
with triathletes. As self-efcacy can be viewed as a situation-specic variation of
self-condence (Feltz & Chase, 1998) the above studies further encourage the
examination of the impact of self-talk on self-efcacy.
The relationship between self-efcacy and performance is well established in
the sport psychology literature in various settings and sports such as distance run-
ning (Martin & Gill, 1995), swimming (Miller, 1993), and volleyball (Alexander
& Krane, 1996). Feltz and Chase (1998) in their review of self-efcacy research
in sport have supported the positive relationship of self-efcacy with performance
and skill acquisition. Moreover, Moritz, Feltz, Fahrbach, and Mack (2000) in their
meta-analysis showed an average positive effect of .38 for the relationship between
self-efcacy and performance in various sports. Thus, if self-talk increases self-
efcacy, then this increase may contribute, at least partly, to the explanation of the
facilitating effects of self-talk on performance.
Investigating the functions of self-talk will enhance our understanding regard-
ing the mechanisms underlying the facilitating effects of self-talk on performance
and will allow athletes, coaches and sport psychologists to better design, imple-
ment and evaluate self-talk training plans, in accordance to the needs of the ath-
letes. The primary purpose of the current study was to examine the effects of
motivational self-talk on self-efcacy in young tennis players. In addition, to
explore whether increases in self-efcacy were related to increases in perfor-
mance, the effects of self-talk on performance were also examined. Research has
shown that the effects of self-talk are particularly evident when the technique is
practiced (Ziegler, 1987). Thus, a self-talk training program was implemented.
Research has also supported that different self-talk cues can have different effects
on performance, which led Hatzigeorgiadis et al. (2004) to suggest that the rela-
tive impact of self-talk on measured outcomes depends on the content of the cues
that are used. It has been suggested that motivational self-talk can have greater
impact on motivational-related outcomes, such as effort, self-condence, and self-
efcacy beliefs (Zinsser, Bunker, & Williams, 2006). Preliminary evidence in
favor of this assumption has been provided by Hatzigeorgiadis (2006) in an exper-
imental study where it was found that motivational self-talk increased effort more
than instructional self-talk. Therefore, the impact of motivational self-talk on self-
efcacy was tested. Overall, it was hypothesized that the use of motivational self-
talk will enhance self-efcacy and performance.
Participants were 46 young tennis players (22 boys and 24 girls). Their mean age
was 13.26 (SD = 1.96) years. All participants had at least one year of competitive
experience (M = 2.33, SD = 2.17 years) and had been training systematically for
4.46 (SD = 2.61) years. All players had regional age-group rankings and their com-
petitive experience involved regional and national competitions at junior level.
462 Hatzigeorgiadis et al.
Performance. The Broer-Miller Forehand Drive test (as described by Barrow,
McGee, & Tritschler, 1989) was used to evaluate performance. The one side of the
court was divided into zones corresponding to a point-system (2, 4, 6, and 8
points), with balls landing close to the baseline counting for 8 points and balls
landing close to the net counting for 2 points. A rope was placed at the height of
1.22 m above the net. Participants were standing on or near the baseline of the
other side of the court and were hitting the balls coming from a ball machine
(Lobster Elite Freedom). The score of participants was the total points gained out
of ten strokes. In accordance with the description of the test, balls traveling over
the rope were scored half their original value.
Self-Efficacy. In the recent sport literature, self-efcacy has been conceptualized
as a multifaceted phenomenon, comprising certain types of self-efcacy (Feltz,
Short, & Sullivan, 2008; Hayes, Maynard, Thomas, & Bawden, 2007). For the
purposes of the study, a performance self-efcacy measure was used to assess
participants’ beliefs regarding their capabilities to attain certain performance
levels to the task to be performed. In particular, following the recommendations
of Bandura and Jourden (1991) a hierarchical task-specic self-efcacy scale
regarding participants’ beliefs for the points to be scored was constructed. The
scale comprised seven items asking participants how certain they were that they
could score (a) 20 out of 80 points, (b) 30 out of 80 points, (c) 40 out of 80 points,
(d) 50 out of 80 points, (e) 60 out of 80 points, (f) 70 out of 80 points, and (g) 80
out of 80 points. Answers were given on a 5-point scale from 1 (not at all certain)
to 5 (totally certain). Cronbach’s alpha for the scale in this study ranged from .78
to .91. Responses for the seven items were averaged to produce self-efcacy
scores (min. 1, max. 5), with higher scores indicating higher self-efcacy for
achieving higher scores on the test.
Permission to conduct the study was obtained by the institution’s research ethics
committee. Athletes agreed to participate and written parental consent was also
obtained. The experiment was completed in ve sessions, which took place over a
week: initial assessment (session 1), training (session 2 to session 4), and nal
assessment (session 5).
Session 1—Initial Assessment. Participants were initially informed that for the
ve sessions to follow they were going to take part in a program evaluating tennis
abilities. To raise participants’ involvement, they were informed that three partici-
pants with the best record would be awarded tennis goods. Participants were then
instructed regarding the procedures of the initial assessment. Subsequently, the
initial assessment took place. Three sets of ten forehand strokes were performed,
with a one minute interval in-between. The rst set was used as familiarization
(not assessed). After the completion of the rst set, participants completed the
self-efcacy scale with regard to the second set. Subsequently, they performed the
second set, completed the self-efcacy scale with regard to the third set, and per-
formed the third set. All participants were tested individually.
Investigating the Functions of Self-Talk 463
Sessions 2–4—Training Phase. After the completion of the initial assessment,
participants were divided into two groups, balanced for performance and self-ef-
cacy scores, to facilitate the interpretation of the results. The two groups were
randomly assigned as experimental and control. For the three sessions that fol-
lowed the two groups underwent the training phase. The backhand drive was used
during the training phase so that participants do not practice the stroke that was to
be evaluated at the nal assessment. The use of the backhand drive was decided to
minimize possible increases in performance due to practicing the stroke, and
attempting to isolate to the highest possible degree the effects of self-talk on per-
formance. At the onset of the second session, the experimental group was given a
short introduction on the use of self-talk. In brief, they were told that self-talk is a
cognitive strategy used by many athletes aiming at enhancing performance. They
were informed that self-talk refers to the use of key words before or during play
that athletes use out loud or in their head, and that the key purpose of self-talk is
trying to follow the instruction that is used and trigger appropriate action. They
were also told that the test applied in the previous session was a test assessing the
ability of players to place the ball deep in the opposite side of the court, which is
an important element of tennis performance. Finally, they were told that a special
training program involving the use of self-talk cues relevant to the execution of the
tennis strokes will be implemented to test whether their performance on the test
will be affected. Participants were given instruction regarding the procedures to
follow and were allowed questions on these procedures. Finally, an assistant dem-
onstrated how and when they should use the key words that they would be
instructed, and were told that they could use the self-talk cues either out loud or
internally, according to their preference. Subsequently, participants performed
four sets of eight strokes on the backhand drive using a different self-talk cue for
each set. Balls in the training session were thrown by the coach. Because the pur-
pose of this phase was to train participants using self-talk, learn how to use self-
talk and get a thorough understanding of how self-talk works in each instance,
instructional cues (e.g., ‘deep’, ‘shoulders’) and motivational cues (e.g., ‘go’, ‘I
can’) were used. For each day participants practiced two sets of backhand drives
using instructional cues and two sets using motivational cues. After the comple-
tion of each set participants completed the scale assessing how often they used the
instructed cue. Overall, the instructional cues that were used were “shoulders”,
“step”, “ball”, “low”, “follow”, “deep”, and the motivational cues were “I can,”
(I’m) “Strong,” “Let’s go,” (I’ve) “got it.” In the fourth session, for the nal two
sets participants were asked to choose among the motivational cues they had pre-
The control group was given a short introduction on tactical aspects of the
stroke (regarding the importance of placing the ball deep in the opposite side of
the court, what are the implications of deep strokes and how the game of the oppo-
nent is disadvantaged). Subsequently, they were told that the test applied in the
previous session was a test assessing the ability of players to place the ball deep
in the opposite side of the court, and were informed that a special training pro-
gram will be implemented for the three sessions to follow to test whether their
performance on the test will be affected. Subsequently they performed the same
number of sets, without the use of self-talk. The same procedures were followed
for the third and the fourth sessions. During this phase, to avoid contact between
464 Hatzigeorgiadis et al.
participants, the training of the two groups took place in different hours of the day.
The training program was applied to groups of four or ve athletes.
Session 5—Final Assessment. On the fth session the procedures of the initial
assessment were repeated. With regard to the awards, and to sustain levels of
involvement for all athletes, it was pointed out that awards would be given to the
three athletes that showed greatest improvement, in relation to their initial scores.
Participants of both groups performed three sets of forehand drives and completed
the self-efcacy scale as in the initial assessment. Athletes of the experimental
group were asked to choose and report one of the motivational self-talk cues that
had previously practiced, to use it (overtly or covertly) during their strokes. In
particular, eight participants chose the cue “I can”, six the cue “strong”, four the
cue “let’s go”, and four the cue “got it”. After the completion of the nal assess-
ment the manipulation check protocol regarding the use of self-talk was adminis-
tered to the experimental and the control group. After the conclusion of the experi-
ment participants were explained the purpose of the study and were thanked for
Manipulation Check Protocol
Two protocols were used for the manipulation check. The rst involved the use of
self-talk during training for the participants of the experimental group. Partici-
pants were asked to indicate how frequently they were using the instructed self-
talk cue on a 10-point scale, from 1 (not at all) to 10 (all the time). The second
protocol involved the use of self-talk for the nal assessment. Participants in the
experimental group were asked to indicate (a) how frequently they were using the
self-talk cue of choice, (b) whether they were using some other type of self-talk,
(c) if so, what were they saying to themselves, and (d) if so, how often, on a
10-point scale (1 = few times, 10 = all the times). Participants on the control group
were explained what self-talk is and were asked to indicate (a) whether they used
any form of self-talk, (b) if so, what were they saying to themselves, and (c) if so,
how often, on a 10-point scale (1 = few times, 10 = all the times).
Two issues were considered with regard to the integrity of the experimental condi-
tions. First, the use of self-talk during the training phase from participants in the
experimental group, and second the use of self-talk in the nal assessment by
participants in the experimental and the control groups. Regarding the rst, exam-
ination of the means revealed that participants in the experimental group made
adequate use of self-talk during the training phase. The means for the three train-
ing sessions were 7.41 (SD = .76), 7.52 (SD = .67), and 7.51 (SD = .68)
Regarding the second, it was revealed that ve athletes from the control group
reported using consistently some form of self-talk during the trials, whereas one
athlete from the experimental group reported using some other type of self-talk
Investigating the Functions of Self-Talk 465
than the one initially selected. These athletes were subsequently excluded from
further analyses. As a result, the control group consisted of 18 athletes, whereas
the experimental group consisted of 22 athletes.
Within Assessment and Baseline Differences
As described in the procedures section, within each assessment (initial and nal)
performance and self-efcacy were measured twice (once for each set). To test for
differences within each assessment for performance and self-efcacy paired-sam-
ples t tests were calculated for the total sample. For the initial assessment the
results revealed that there were no performance differences between the two sets,
t (39) = 1.48, p = .15, and no self-efcacy differences between the two sets, t (39)
= 1.61, p = .12. Similar results were obtained for the nal assessment; for perfor-
mance, t (39) = 1.20, p = .24, and for self-efcacy, t (39) = 1.01, p = .32. Subse-
quently, scores for the two sets within each assessment were averaged to provide
overall initial and nal assessment scores for performance and self-efcacy.
Because six participants were excluded from further analyses, analysis of
variance were performed to ensure that no differences in performance and self-
efcacy scores existed between the experimental and the control groups for the
initial assessment. The assumptions regarding normality and homogeneity of vari-
ance and covariance were met. The analyses revealed a nonsignicant multivari-
ate effect, F (2, 37) = .09, p = .91, indicating that there were no differences in
performance, F (1, 39) = .12, p = .73, and self-efcacy, F (1, 39) = .02, p = .90,
between two groups (mean scores for performance 42.57, SD = 14.99 and 43.08,
SD = 9.58 for the experimental and control groups respectively; mean scores for
self-efcacy 2.76, SD = .55 and 2.69, SD = .65 for the experimental and control
A 2 2 (group by time) mixed model analysis of variance was conducted, with
group as an independent factor and time as a dependent factor, to test for changes
in performance and self-efcacy for the experimental and the control groups. The
assumptions of normality and homogeneity of variance and covariance were met.
The analysis yield a signicant multivariate group by time interaction, F (2, 37) =
10.09, p < .01,
= .35. Regarding performance, the univariate analysis revealed
a signicant interaction effect, F (1, 38) = 19.10, p < .01,
= .34. Pairwise com-
parisons revealed that performance of the experimental group increased signi-
cantly (p < .01), whereas performance of the control group did not change signi-
cantly (p = .64). The interaction effect and the means for the two groups are
displayed in Figure 1. Regarding self-efcacy, the univariate analysis revealed
signicant interaction effect, F (1, 38) = 5.12, p < .05,
= .12. Pairwise compari-
sons, performed to further examine the identied interaction, revealed that self-
efcacy of the experimental group increased signicantly (p < .01), whereas self-
efcacy of the control group did not change signicantly (p = .08). The interaction
effect and the means for the two groups are displayed in Figure 2.
To examine the association between increases in self-efcacy and perfor-
mance improvement, the correlation between changes in self-efcacy and changes
Figure 1 — Performance scores in the initial and nal assessment for the experimental
and control groups.
Figure 2 — Self-efcacy scores in the initial and nal assessment for the experimental
and control groups.
Investigating the Functions of Self-Talk 467
in performance (scores in the nal assessment minus scores in the initial assess-
ment) was calculated for the total sample. The analysis revealed a positive moder-
ate relationship (r = .38, p < .05), suggesting that changes in self-efcacy were
related to changes in performance.
The present study examined the effects of motivational self-talk on young ath-
letes’ self-efcacy. Furthermore, effects on performance were recorded to test
whether increases in self-efcacy were related to increases in performance. Over-
all, the results showed that the use of motivational self-talk increased both self-
efcacy and performance, and that changes in self-efcacy were related to changes
in performance, thus suggesting that increases in self-efcacy may be a viable
mechanism explaining the facilitating effects of self-talk on performance.
Hardy et al. (2005) highlighted the importance of detailed postmanipulation
checks, which ensure the integrity of the experimental conditions created by the
researchers. They suggested that assigning self-talk to participants does not rule
out the possibility that they use additional self-talk. Furthermore, they suggested
that participants assigned as controls, are also likely to use self-talk, thus threaten-
ing the experimental validity. Toward this direction, two sets of manipulation
checks were employed. First, the use of self-talk during the training phase of the
experimental group was assessed. Following Hardy et al.’s recommendations, this
sort of check was not used in the training phase of the control group to prevent
promotion of self-talk thereafter. Second, the use of self-talk by participants of the
control and the experimental groups during the nal assessment was assessed.
Regarding the rst, the results suggested that the experimental group made ade-
quate use of self-talk during training. Regarding the second, it was found that ve
participants in the control group reported consistent use of self-talk. In particular,
two participants reported using the cue ‘deep’ (referring to the placement of the
ball), and three participants reported using the cues ‘I can do it’ or ‘strong’. Fur-
thermore, it was found that one participant from the experimental group reported
using the instructional cue ‘low’ (referring to the posture) instead of the motiva-
tional one that was originally selected by the athlete. These participants were sub-
sequently excluded from further analyses to protect the integrity of the experi-
In accordance with previous ndings regarding the effects of self-talk on per-
formance (Theodorakis et al., 2000; Van Raalte et al., 1995), in particular when
the technique has been practiced (Johnson et al., 2004), the results of the current
study conrmed that self-talk can be an effective performance enhancing strategy.
Performance of the experimental group improved considerably, whereas that of
the control group remained unchanged. Nevertheless, the primary purpose of the
study was to explore whether self-talk can increase self-efcacy, and if so, whether
increases in self-efcacy are related to increases in performance.
Hardy et al. (2005) based on the premises of Bandura’s (1997) seminal work
on self-efcacy, suggested that one of the likely mechanisms explaining the effec-
tiveness of self-talk is the effects self-talk has on self-efcacy. In their experiment,
even though they were not able to test differences in self-efcacy between self-
talk and control groups, because the manipulation checks revealed that the a priori
468 Hatzigeorgiadis et al.
treatment groups were not obtained, they found that self-talk was related to self-
efcacy. In contrast to Hardy et al.’s study, only one participant from the experi-
mental group reported using some other type of self-talk during the nal assess-
ment and this can be attributed to the training that the experimental group received
and the fact that participants were allowed to choose the motivational cue they
would use. The results of the current study showed that self-efcacy of partici-
pants in the experimental group improved signicantly compared with the initial
assessment. Self-efcacy of the control group also increased, and this was reason-
able considering that they had repeated the test in the initial assessment, however
this increase was not statistically signicant, and was lower than that of the self-
talk group. The identication of a signicant group by time interaction effect sup-
port that the use of self-talk can enhance self-efcacy.
Taken together, the results of the current study suggest that increases in self-
efcacy may, at least partly, explain the facilitating effects of self-talk on perfor-
mance. In one hand, it was found that self-talk increased self-efcacy and perfor-
mance. On the other hand, it was found that increases in self-efcacy were related
to increases in performance. Considering that the relationship between self-ef-
cacy and performance has also been consistently supported in the literature
(Moritz et al., 2000), the current study provides evidence that self-efcacy may be
among the mechanisms explaining how self-talk affects performance.
High self-efcacy is an important psychological asset for athletes. The results
of the current study supported that motivational self-talk can be an effective strat-
egy toward the growth of self-efcacy. Athletes, coaches, and sport practitioners
are therefore encouraged to promote the use of motivational self-talk to instill
athletes’ beliefs regarding their capabilities of accomplishing tasks and goals. To
maximize gains through the use of self-talk, it is recommended that athletes’
needs in relation to desired outcomes are assessed, athletes’ preferences regarding
the content of self-talk are considered, and the use of self-talk is thoroughly prac-
ticed and mastered.
At this point, issues pertaining to the boundaries of the study should be dis-
cussed. It should be noted that for the nal assessment only motivational self-talk
was used. The type of self-talk employed by athletes is said to interact with the
type of the task in determining the effectiveness of self-talk (Hatzigeorgiadis,
2007). Theodorakis et al. (2000) argued that instructional self-talk should be more
benecial for ne tasks and tasks requiring accuracy and precision, whereas moti-
vational self-talk can be more benecial for gross tasks and tasks requiring strength
and endurance. In their experiments they found that instructional self-talk
improved performance on both ne and gross tasks, whereas motivational self-
talk improved performance only for gross tasks. Hatzigeorgiadis et al. (2004)
found that motivational self-talk improved performance in a precision task and a
power task, whereas instructional self-talk improved performance only for the
precision task. Thus, it can be supported that different types of self-talk can have
different effects on performance and this can vary depending on the type of self-
talk and the specics of the task. Zinsser et al. (2006) suggested that instructional
self-talk can more benecial for enhancing concentration and focusing on the
execution, whereas motivational self-talk can be more benecial for psyching-up
and persistence. In the current study motivational self-talk was selected because
motivational self-talk has been considered more effective for motivational out-
comes. Even though it is possible that instructional self-talk can also help increas-
Investigating the Functions of Self-Talk 469
ing self-efcacy, conclusions from the current study regarding the effectiveness of
self-talk in raising self-efcacy are restricted to the use of motivational self-talk.
Participants of the experimental group apart from the use of motivational
self-talk in the nal assessment were also involved in a three-day self-talk training
program that involved the use and practice of motivational and instructional self-
talk. This approach was decided so that participants learn thoroughly how to use
self-talk and get a broader understanding of how self-talk works. As the purpose
of the study was to examine the effects of motivational self-talk, only participants
reporting using motivational self-talk were included in the experimental group,
and only participants not reporting consistent use of self-talk were included in the
control group. Nevertheless, one cannot overlook that the training of self-talk,
which also included instructional self-talk, may have contributed o the facilitation
of self-efcacy and performance. Thus, future studies could apply designs where
the effects of both instructional and motivational self-talk are examined, and com-
pare their effectiveness in raising self-efcacy.
Self-efcacy and performance are said to have a bidirectional relationship.
According to the self-efcacy theory (Bandura, 1997) mastery experiences are
signicant sources and determinants of self-efcacy. Furthermore, plethora of
studies has supported the facilitating effects of self-efcacy on performance
(Moritz et al., 2000). In the current study, self-efcacy was assessed after partici-
pants performed the task for reasons of familiarization, and subsequently before
executing the experimental trials. Thus, one could be argued that the effects of
self-talk on self-efcacy mirror those on performance, thus giving hence to a
reciprocal interpretation. In addition, it should be noticed that only correlational
evidence regarding the self-efcacy—performance relationship were provided.
Thus, the present ndings cannot support the mediational role of self-efcacy in
the self-talk performance relationship, but rather suggest that self-efcacy is a
likely mechanism through which self-talk facilitates performance and foster fur-
ther research with appropriate designs to support the mediational role of self-
Self-talk has been documented in the literature as an effective strategy for
performance improvement. Examining the functions of self-talk enhances our
understanding regarding the mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of self-talk,
and allows the development and implementation of comprehensive psychological
skill training plans. Toward this direction the current study examined the effects
of motivational self-talk on performance and self-efcacy, and provided evidence
that increases in self-efcacy may be among the functional mechanisms explain-
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