A term similar to "psyching yourself up"
December 20, 2009 12:25 PM   Subscribe

PsychFilter: What's the term for when athletes tell themselves, "come on you got this!" and it helps them play better?

I'm interested in the psychology of self-improvement, and in particular a process that I call "method." Method is when you use a mantra to change your state of mind to achieve a goal. A common example is when athletes use method to clinch games. They repeat a phrase quietly to themselves, "come on, you got this, you're the best, win this, come on, you got this," and that spurs them on to victory. It motivates them, focuses their energy, and otherwise makes them play better. Why does this happen? It seems like magic. These are positive, encouraging thoughts, and much has been written about the power of positive thinking, but how come you can't use method all the time? Why can't you "pump yourself up" throughout the entire game? My experience with method is that it operates almost like a turbo, wherein you can activate it for a few minutes, then it runs out, and it takes some time to recharge.

Is there a different term for this? Is there prior research in psychology about this?
posted by philosophistry to Human Relations (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There may be a more official name, but I have heard it called "self talk".
posted by Iteki at 12:27 PM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @Iteki good one! I Googled "self talk" and it led me to wikipedia's entry on intrapersonal communication.
posted by philosophistry at 12:29 PM on December 20, 2009

Scuse the double post, but googling "self talk" "sports psychology" gives some stuff.
posted by Iteki at 12:30 PM on December 20, 2009

Getting "psyched up"?
posted by tad at 12:32 PM on December 20, 2009

posted by tad at 12:32 PM on December 20, 2009

posted by sockpup at 12:41 PM on December 20, 2009

This is called "positive self talk." A related sports psychology concept, that is actually taught to athletes, is visualization, wherein the successful completion of the play is imagined in detail so that it may be performed in practice.
posted by OmieWise at 12:43 PM on December 20, 2009

Response by poster: How come you can't "psych yourself up" for the entire game?
posted by philosophistry at 12:50 PM on December 20, 2009

In addition to the above, 'positive mindset' is also a good one.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:54 PM on December 20, 2009

"self-fulfilling prophecy"?
posted by skwt at 1:00 PM on December 20, 2009

You can psych yourself up for an entire game.

I always visualize the entire marathon before I run it. I visualize feeling stronger and faster at every mile. When things go wrong during the race, I mentally return to the race I visualized. It really helps.

Team sports are the same thing. You visualize how the game is going to unfold. It doesn't matter that it doesn't happen exactly that way. Your mental image helps you get back on track.
posted by 26.2 at 1:08 PM on December 20, 2009

this information is translated, hence the grammatical errors

"Adaptation to physical exertion is accompanied by structural changes in the tissues of the adrenal glands. These changes lead to increased synthesis of corticoids hormones. Glucocorticoid hormone activates several enzymes that catalyze the formation of pyruvic acid and its use as an energy material in the oxidative cycle. At the same time stimulated and processes of resynthesis of glycogen in the liver. Glucocorticoids increase and energetic processes in the cell, release of biologically active substances that stimulate the body's resistance to external influences.

Hormonal function of adrenal cortex during the muscular work of a small volume remains virtually unchanged. During a large volume load is the mobilization of this function. Inadequate, excessive stress causes inhibition of the function. This kind of defensive reaction of the organism, warning depletion of the functional reserves. "

from http://www.powerdevelopmentinc.com/?id=36

So, the 'turbo' you're talking about is an adrenaline rush and activation of the central nervous system, which, as explained above, cannot be maintained due to lack of functional reserves.

I think what 26.2 is talking is a different thing. Her 'psych up' is referring to a conceptual framework which allows for increased concentration as well as provides a plan for any possibility while competing.
posted by past at 1:49 PM on December 20, 2009

self efficacy is the word for the overall idea.
posted by ishotjr at 1:51 PM on December 20, 2009

Addendum: Positive self-talk can be used at any time. It can be used before an event (often with visualization techniques, as 26.2 mentioned), during an event (especially at tense moments, i.e., what Carlos Boozer should do before he tries a free throw), and even after the fact.

Saying things to yourself silently ("You're totally awesome! You can totally make this shot/win this race/eat this entire cake!") is a fairly broad category, though, and I don't think positive self-talk alone would be enough to psych a person up. Definitely needs the adrenaline and other chemical reactions to go with it.
posted by brina at 2:39 PM on December 20, 2009

How come you can't "psych yourself up" for the entire game?

At least partially because a lot of people do it wrong. You're not supposed to visualise outcomes (or mutter meaningless platitudes) but visualise the process. So, for example, if 26.2 spent her whole training imagining crossing the finish line of the marathon it would feel good but wouldn't really help. During the race that vision doesn't tell her how to go faster and, even more importantly, if something goes wrong it won't give her any tools to deal with it. But visualising the process, thinking about and understanding how the race will go including how things work at different stages and how it feels to be doing really well, those are powerful tools to keep her motivated during the race and get back on track if things go wrong. She quickly forgets any setback and gets back into the midset of how it feels when things are working. Plus having it play out the way you imagined is empowering and boosts performance. You can probably see how understanding the process helps here, it's easier to visualise how it feels to be running well when you've had a good run under your belt, but it works even for novel experiences where you lay out a path to follow in your head (e.g. I imagined how my PhD project might turn out, what it would feel like to be doing each step). Helps you keep moving forward even when things don't work the way you planned.

As others have mentioned there is a bunch of research done into this, both positive self talk and positive visualisations. I saw a poster about atheletes use of positive self talk at a post grad student poster competition at my University a couple of months ago for example so you should be able to google up some information. My information above about processes rather than outcomes comes from a science podcast so I don't have a written page to link to, but I can probably go back and figure out which one it was if you're interested.
posted by shelleycat at 2:57 PM on December 20, 2009

It is an example of "positive priming".
posted by jonesor at 5:47 PM on December 20, 2009

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