Exploring Self-Talk and Performance, Dr. Judy Van Raalte, Professor of Psychology at Springfield College

Judy L. Van Raalte, Ph.D. is professor of psychology at Springfield College, Certified Mental Performance Consultant, and listed in the United States Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry. Dr. Van Raalte has presented at conferences in 18 countries, published over 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals on topics such as self-talk, transitions, and professional issues in sport and exercise psychology, and produced more than 20 sport psychology videos.

Her research has been funded by The National Institutes of Mental and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Dr. Van Raalte served as President of the American Psychological Association’s Division of Exercise and Sport Psychology (Division 47) and as the Vice President of the International Society of Sport Psychology. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, and the International Society of Sport Psychology.

In this interview, Judy and Cindra talk about:

  • The latest research on self-talk
  • The connection between self-talk and self-esteem
  • The impact of too much thinking
  • Why we should consider what the negative self-talk is telling us
  • How to find the right self-talk for you and others you work with


“Instructional and motivational self-talk seem to be performance enhancing, and there had been some thought that it might depend upon the task that you are doing. If you need to run through a wall or you’re an American football player or you need to be fired up, motivational self-talk might help. But if you’re doing something that’s delicate, requires a lot of fine motor skills, even something like golf putting, being that fired up can be too much, so instructional self-talk should be better.” – Dr. Judy Van Raalte 
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“The research data shows the key take away may be that the self-talk needs to feel right for the person using it in a particular situation. The person and the situation matter, and that’s why there’s not exactly one type of self-talk that’s best for everyone.” – Dr. Judy Van Raalte 
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“[Research shows] People with high self-esteem, who may not be performing as well, when they use positive self-talk they performed better. But the people with low self-esteem, who were required to use positive self-talk, actually performed worse. They didn’t feel good about themselves, and then they had to say ‘you’re great, you can do it,’ and they felt even more uncomfortable, they felt like they couldn’t do it.” – Dr. Judy Van Raalte
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“The self-talk that works in practice, when someone’s tired and really needs to push themselves and highly motivate themselves might be different than the self-talk they need in a competition when they are already fired up and motivated.” – Dr. Judy Van Raalte
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“System 1 are our gut feeling and impressions. In terms of self-talk it’s when you score a goal and you say ‘YEAHH’ or something goes wrong and you say something negative. System 2, in contrast, is the intentional use of throught or self-talk. Over time and with practice, intentionally approaching something in a particular way can then become automatic over time.” – Dr. Judy Van Raalte 
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