The Role of Self-Talk in the Awareness of Physiological State and Physical Performance


Different studies have suggested that the majority of self-talk during exercise is either positive or neutral in character. The majority of ‘thoughts’ during low-intensity exercise have been described as being dissociative conversational chatter. However, with increasing exercise intensity, there is a greater percentage of associative and motivational thoughts, which includes thoughts about feeling and affect, body monitoring, command, instruction and pace monitoring. It has been suggested that self-talk is necessary for creating a time ‘wedge’ between the activity described by the self-talk, and the self-talk itself. The information redundancy created by this time-wedge allows the capacity for reflection about what is occurring, and self-awareness of the part played by the individual themselves in the activity being performed. Self-talk may be a discussion between a singular ‘I’ and a singular ‘me’, or may be a multi-party dialogue. There are anatomical correlates to self-talk, with neural activity in a number of brain areas related to the occurrence of both overt and subvocal self-talk, particularly in Broca’s region in the left fontal cortex, and Wernicke’s region in the left posterior superior temporal cortex. Whether specific training of self-talk can improve performance is controversial, although recent studies have suggested that taskspecific self-talk appears to have a beneficial effect on physical performance. Further studies are required to assess the ability of physical or mental training to modify self-talk in a beneficial and permanent manner, and whether these changes affect an individual’s exercise performance and sense of self.

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No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this article. The authors would like to thank Dr Gabriel Prinsloo and Lotte Henning for their insightful comments about earlier drafts of this article.

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Gibson, A.S.C., Foster, C. The Role of Self-Talk in the Awareness of Physiological State and Physical Performance. Sports Med 37, 1029–1044 (2007).

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  • Exercise Performance
  • Exercise Bout
  • Speech Production
  • Phonological Loop
  • Anatomical Correlate