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Cork! The effects of positive and negative self-talk on dart throwing performance

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In the applied sport psychology literature, much attention has been focused on the benefits of positive self-talk and the deleterious effects of negative self-talk (Gould, Hodge, Peterson, & Giannini, 1989; Mahoney & Avener, 1977). Proponents of positive self-talk have suggested that positive self-talk can reduce anxiety, increase effort, and enhance self-confidence (Finn, 1985; Weinberg, 1988). Concerns about the harmful effects of negative self-talk have led to the implementation of techniques such as cognitive restructuring, thought stopping, and countering to reduce the occurrence of negative self-talk (Bunker, Williams, & Zinsser, 1993; Weinberg, 1988). Psychological skills training packages that include positive self-talk as an important component have been developed (Kendall, Hrycaiko, Martin, & Kendall, 1990; Weinberg, 1988). However, direct experimental evidence for the role of self-talk in performance is limited.

Indirect assessments of positive and negative self-talk in conjunction with other strategies have resulted in equivocal findings in the sport literature. Rotella, Gansneder, Oljala, and Billing (1980) found that more successful elite skiers did not differ from less successful skiers in terms of the content of self-talk; Mahoney and Avener (1977) found that elite gymnasts who qualified for the Olympic team reported that they used self-talk significantly more in training and competition than nonqualifiers. Highlen and Bennett (1983) explored the self-talk of competitive wrestlers and divers and found that wrestlers who qualified for the Pan American Games used critical self-talk during competition more often than athletes who did not qualify. Divers who qualified for the Pan American Games reported that they used more content based self-instructions during competition and less positive self-talk than did nonqualifiers. Surprisingly, these results suggest that negative self-talk is associated with better, or at least no worse, performance than positive self-talk.

Most sport researchers conducting experimental research on the effects of self-talk on sport performance have compared positive...