Goal-directed and undirected self-talk: Exploring a new perspective for the study of athletes' self-talk
Objectives: The present study aimed to introduce the distinction between goal-directed and undirected thoughts used in general psychology into the automatic self-talk paradigm used in sport psychology. In particular, the purpose of this investigation was to explore the structure and the content of athletes' goal-directed and undirected self-talk. Methods: Overall, 87 athletes participated in two studies (n = 32 and n = 55, respectively). Qualitative methods were used to analyze data, in the form of text units that were collected retrospectively through thought sampling regarding participants' self-talk. Results: The analysis revealed differences in the structure of goal-directed and un-directed self-talk. Spontaneous, undirected, self-talk involved mostly explaining past outcomes and foreseeing upcoming events, whereas goal-directed self-talk aimed at attaining control over cognitions and activation for action. Spontaneous self-talk could be classified based on two dimensions: valence (positive negative) and time-perspective (retrospective, present-related, and anticipatory), whereas goal-directed self-talk could be classified into two different dimensions: activation (activated states, neutral, deactivated states) and time-orientation (past, past present, present future, and future oriented). Furthermore, differences were also observed with regard to the person at which statements were addressed. Conclusions: Overall, the findings attempt to explore a new perspective into the study of self-talk, which can help improving the conceptualization, creating new research directions, and enhancing the understanding of self-talk for developing effective interventions. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.