I vs. we: Individuals perform better when focused on team's effort

Veronica Son, a doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology, led a study that focused on "self-talk" -- the internal talk one does in getting ready for performance. Credit: MSU University Relations

Individuals perform better and are more confident when they practice motivational tactics focused not on them but on the team they belong to, according to a recently published study by Michigan State University researchers.

The findings, published in the Journal of Sports Sciences and led by Veronica Son and Deborah Feltz of the Department of Kinesiology, reveal that simply changing "I" to "we" in self-talk motivational statements has a significant impact on an individual's – and thus a group's – .

Son, a doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology and lead author of the study, said most of the research on "self-talk" – the internal talk one does in getting ready for performance – examined the effect of building up an individual's confidence.

She was curious about the impacts of self-talk when it was focused on the group's performance and confidence.

"I believe in the power of 'we,'" Son said. "The study revealed that group-oriented self-talk enhanced a team's confidence. The findings provide fundamental information about how to effectively build positive team outcomes using self-talk focused not on 'I' but 'we'."

As part of the study, 80 subjects were randomly assigned to three different groups before completing a team-based dart-throwing activity: One used self-talk statements focusing upon one's personal capabilities; another used statements emphasizing the group's capabilities; and the third was a control group where neutral statements were implemented.

Overall, performance indicators and confidence in the team were all greatest for who practiced self-talk focusing on the group's capabilities.

"By focusing on the team, you include yourself without putting the focus or extra pressure on yourself," said Feltz, chairperson of the Department of Kinesiology.

While the study focused on a sports context, Son and Feltz said working as a is prevalent in many of life's contexts, from business to academia.

"This definitely goes beyond athletics," Feltz said. "Reinforcing the sense of team and focusing on a team goal can help someone change health behaviors or reach sales goals."

Son is already completing a follow-up study focusing on performance anxiety and whether group-focused self-talk plays a role in decreasing anxiety.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Virtual workout partners spur better results

May 18, 2011

Can't find anyone to exercise with? Don't despair: New research from Michigan State University reveals working out with a virtual partner improves motivation during exercise.

Thoughts that win

May 25, 2011

Back in high school, on the soccer field, poised to take a crucial penalty kick, "I always had a lot of thoughts going on in my head; I think most people do" says sports psychologist Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis. "I was setting ...

New data tests the exercise 'talk test'

Sep 13, 2011

New research by University of New Hampshire exercise scientists confirms that a low-tech, easy-to-administer test is an effective tool for gauging exercise intensity, but that it does not correspond as neatly as previously ...

Recommended for you

Suicide risk falls substantially after talk therapy

1 hour ago

Repeat suicide attempts and deaths by suicide were roughly 25 percent lower among a group of Danish people who underwent voluntary short-term psychosocial counseling after a suicide attempt, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School ...

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

Nov 21, 2014

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

Nov 21, 2014

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.