New research assessing motivational strategies discovers telling yourself that “I can do better at a given task,” is the most effect strategy as you really may do better.
In the study, UK researchers compared motivation techniques on more than 44,000 people with the participants divided into 12 experimental groups and one control group.
In conjunction with BBC Lab UK, Professor Andrew Lane and his colleagues tested if particular psychological skills would help people improve their scores in an online game.
Investigators wanted to discover if a particular tactic worked best.
This complex study, found in Frontiers in Psychology, examined if one motivational method would be more effective for any specific aspect of a task. The methods tested were self-talk, imagery, and if-then planning.
Each of these psychological skills was applied to one of four parts of a competitive task: process, outcome, arousal-control, and instruction.
People using self-talk, for example telling yourself “I can do better next time” — performed better than the control group in every portion of the task.
The greatest improvements were seen in self-talk-outcome (telling yourself, “I can beat my best score”), self-talk-process (telling yourself, “I can react quicker this time”), imagery-outcome (imagining yourself playing the game and beating your best score), and imagery-process (imagining yourself playing and reacting quicker than last time).
Investigators also found a short motivational video could improve performance.
Participants watched a short video before playing the online game. The coach for these videos was, none other than, four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson, an athlete known for advocating mental preparedness in addition to physical training.
If-then planning was found to be one of the least successful of this study, despite being an effective tool in weight management and other real life challenges.
Professor Lane said: “Working on, ‘Can You Compete?’ was inspirational and educational; since we have been developing online interventions to help people manage their emotions and doing this across a range of specific contexts from delivering a speech to fighting in a boxing ring, from taking an exam to going into dangerous places.”