Washington, May 29 (IANS) Asking yourself whether you will perform a task gets better results than telling yourself that you will do it, a study says.
From children's books like "The Little Engine That Could" in which the title character says, "I think I can," to Holden Caulfield's misanthropic musings in "A Catcher in the Rye", internal dialogue often influences the way people shape their own behaviour.
"When it comes to performing a specific task, asking questions is a more promising way of achieving your objectives," said Dolores Albarracin, professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Albarracin led the team that tested this kind of motivation in 50 study participants. They showed more success on an anagram task, rearranging set words to create different words, when they asked themselves whether they would complete it than when they told themselves they would.
In further experimentation, students in a seemingly unrelated task simply wrote two ostensibly unrelated sentences, either "I Will" or "Will I," and then work on the same task.
Participants did better when they wrote, "Will" followed by "I" even though they had no idea that the word writing related to the anagram task.
Why does this happen? Albarracin's team suspected that it was related to an unconscious formation of the question "Will I" and its effects on motivation. By asking themselves a question, people were more likely to build their own motivation.
The results of another follow-up experiment showed that participants not only did better as a result of the question, but asking themselves a question did indeed increase their intrinsic motivation.
The findings are likely to have implications in cognitive, social, clinical, health and developmental psychology, as well as in clinical, educational and work settings.
"We are turning our attention to the scientific study of how language affects self-regulation," Albarracin said according to a University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign release.
Albarracin, along with visiting assistant professor Ibrahim Senay and Kenji Noguchi, assistant professor, Southern Mississippi University, published the findings in Psychological Science.