Asking yourself a question helps boost motivation more than a simple self-affirmation, research finds.
In other words: “Will I exercise?” works better than “I will exercise.”
In the study one group of people told themselves they would complete an anagram task.
The other group, though, asked themselves whether they would complete the task.
The results showed that those who asked themselves the question solved more anagrams than those who ordered themselves.
Further experiments showed that the questioning approach helped to boost internal or ‘intrinsic’ motivation.
Psychologist have found that internal motivation is the strongest type.
It is fascinating how a simple change to language like this can help boost motivation.
Professor Dolores Albarracin, one of the study’s authors, said:
“We are turning our attention to the scientific study of how language affects self-regulation.
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.”
Professor Albarracin continued:
“The popular idea is that self-affirmations enhance people’s ability to meet their goals.
It seems, however, that when it comes to performing a specific behavior, asking questions is a more promising way of achieving your objectives.”
Professor James W. Pennebaker, an expert on the psychology of language, said:
“This work represents a basic cognitive approach to how language provides a window between thoughts and action.
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.”
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Senay et al., 2010).
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Image credit: Atos