Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Will we succeed? The science of self-motivation

Date:
June 1, 2010
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Can you help you? Recent research has shown that those who ask themselves whether they will perform a task generally do better than those who tell themselves that they will.

Can you help you? Recent research by University of Illinois Professor Dolores Albarracin and Visiting Assistant Professor Ibrahim Senay, along with Kenji Noguchi, Assistant Professor at Southern Mississippi University, has shown that those who ask themselves whether they will perform a task generally do better than those who tell themselves that they will.

Related Articles


Little research exists in the area of self-talk, although we are aware of an inner voice in ourselves and in literature. From children's books like "The Little Engine That Could," in which the title character says, "I think I can," to Holden Caulfield's misanthropic musings in "A Catcher in the Rye," internal dialogue often influences the way people motivate and shape their own behavior.

But was "The Little Engine" using the best motivational tool, or does "Bob the Builder" have the right idea when he asks, "Can we fix it?"

Albarracin's team tested this kind of motivation in 50 study participants, encouraging them explicitly to either spend a minute wondering whether they would complete a task or telling themselves they would. The participants showed more success on an anagram task, rearranging set words to create different words, when they asked themselves whether they would complete it than when they told themselves they would.

Further experimentation had students in a seemingly unrelated task simply write two ostensibly unrelated sentences, either "I Will" or "Will I," and then work on the same task. Participants did better when they wrote, "Will" followed by "I" even though they had no idea that the word writing related to the anagram task.

Why does this happen? Professor Albarracin's team suspected that it was related to an unconscious formation of the question "Will I" and its effects on motivation. By asking themselves a question, people were more likely to build their own motivation.

In a follow-up experiment, participants were once again parsed into the "I will" and "Will I" categories, but this time were then asked how much they intended to exercise in the following week. They were also made to fill out a psychological scale meant to measure intrinsic motivation. The results of this experiment showed that participants not only did better as a result of the question, but that asking themselves a question did indeed increase their intrinsic motivation.

These findings are likely to have implications in cognitive, social, clinical, health and developmental psychology, as well as in clinical, educational and work settings.

"We are turning our attention to the scientific study of how language affects self-regulation," Professor Albarracin said. "Experimental methods are allowing us to investigate people's inner speech, of both the explicit and implicit variety, and how what they say to themselves shapes the course of their behaviors."

Research like this challenges traditional paradigms regarding public service messages and self-help literature designed to motivate people toward healthier or more productive behavior.

"The popular idea is that self-affirmations enhance people's ability to meet their goals," Professor Albarracin said. "It seems, however, that when it comes to performing a specific behavior, asking questions is a more promising way of achieving your objectives."

The trio published its research, supported by the National Institutes of Health, in the April 2010 edition of the journal Psychological Science.

"This work represents a basic cognitive approach to how language provides a window between thoughts and action," said Dr. James W. Pennebaker, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas. "The reason it is so interesting is that it shows that by using language analysis, we can see that social cognitive ideas are relevant to objective real world behaviors and that the ways people talk about their behavior can predict future action."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The original article was written by Matthew Freeman. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Will we succeed? The science of self-motivation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100528092021.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2010, June 1). Will we succeed? The science of self-motivation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100528092021.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Will we succeed? The science of self-motivation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100528092021.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins