Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What do confident people say to themselves before giving a speech?

Before you speak to an audience, can you first talk yourself out of feeling nervous? One step towards this strategy is to find out how confident people speak to themselves in their heads (their internal "self-talk"), compared with others who are more anxious.

Xiaowei Shi and his colleagues surveyed nearly 200 students on a public speaking course. The researchers approached the students after they'd given two public presentations on the course and were soon to give their third. The students answered questions about how much they'd engaged in self-talk in the preceding days, and about how much anxiety they feel towards public speaking.

The women tended to be more nervous than the men. Once this gender influence had been accounted for, the students' frequency of various types of self-talk over the last few days explained 20 per cent of the difference in their anxiety levels. Specifically, the more confident students tended to say they'd engaged in less self-critical self-talk (e.g. chastising themselves about their poor preparations) and less self-talk related to social assessment (e.g. replaying ways people had reacted in the past), whereas they had engaged in more self-talk related to self-reinforcement (e.g. talking to themselves about how pleased they were with their own preparations).

In other words, the students who were more self-confident tended to be less self-focused and less self-critical in the way they spoke to themselves, and when they were self-focused, this tended to be with a positive bias.

This study assumes people are able to remember and recognise their own past self-talk, which some readers may question. Of course, it's also just as likely that anxiety triggers particular categories of self-talk, as it is that the wrong kind of self-talk fuels anxiety. Nonetheless, the researchers said their insights could help inform interventions aimed at helping people overcome fear of public speaking.

"As we know that high public-speaking-anxiety individuals engage in higher levels of self-critical and social-assessing self-talk than low anxiety individuals," Shi's team concluded, "instructors can intervene in the early phases of the speech preparation process by helping these students to attend to, recognise, and adjust the frequency and nature of their self-talk."


Shi, X., Brinthaupt, T., & McCree, M. (2015). The relationship of self-talk frequency to communication apprehension and public speaking anxiety Personality and Individual Differences, 75, 125-129 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2014.11.023

--further reading--
Self-motivation: How "You can do it!" beats "I can do it!"
What are elite cricket batsmen saying when they talk to themselves?
The science of how we talk to ourselves in our heads

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.


Research Digest said...

Unfortunately many people would rather accept a thousand lies than face a single truth.

Research Digest said...

Long live Pyrrho of Elis (although he 's been dead a long time...)

Research Digest said...

Where did you come up with this hogwash? Do you have anything to substantiate your statement other than your opinion?

Research Digest said...

Who cares? Most people are too stupid to defend their beliefs in any case.

Research Digest said...

that hogwash basically boils down to many people are prone to fail to accept truth. And although that statement might be opinion based daily observations of human nature will confirm the trend.

Research Digest said...

It seems like the discussion might have been a bit limited. People who might know themselves well (or think they do), might have a more nuanced picture of themselves, therefore making it more difficult to conform and perform in such a simplistic test as to name their two most important traits. I hope the researchers will continue going deeper into the topic and not settle with inconclusive experiments.

Research Digest said...

I'm a natural sceptic (and atheist) but I find myself falling into such traps from time to time. I suspect even the best of us do. This is why it is so important for critical thinking to be taught in schools, with a particular emphasis on continuously re-evaluating what we believe when presented with new evidence.

Research Digest said...

Yes, I am with you all the way, there.

My father had a law degree, so I got some exposure to critical thinking, with an extra dose of cynicism and sophistry thrown in.
However, as you say, I try to keep myself under pressure strong enough to at least be on my guard against confirmation bias.
Not always successful, but I normally manage to see it in hindsight and sufficient people are forgiving enough to accept an apology when I need to give one.


Research Digest said...

Empiricism -- the underlying premise of this article and research -- has a whole host of its own problems. To pretend that it is the reference by which all other beliefs and arguments should be evaluated is, itself, unjustifiable by any evidence.

Research Digest said...

I think eight examples of a trait when you're probably in your late teens/ early 20s is ridiculous. Eight examples of anything!

Research Digest said...

This article as with many others always tout that Higgs discovery will undermine God and Creation. Yet, the articles never explain why. Why?

Research Digest said...

The article didn't say that the discovery of Higgs would undermine god, it said that in the study they used that assertion as a lever in the research.

They could easily have said that the discovery of a pnk elephant would disprove the existance of god, but the Use of Higgs is more plausible. The focus of the study is not what was said, but how the participants reacted to it.

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