From the Lab: You Can Do It!

In a 2014 study by Sandra Dolcos and Dolores Albarracin, reported by BPS Research Digest’s Christian Jarrett, they found that when it comes to motivating yourself, saying “you can do it” is better than “I can do it.” Participants who were instructed to tell themselves “you can do it” reported greater motivation to solve a set of puzzles and actually succeeded in solving more puzzles than participants who told themselves “I can do it.” This effect also held true for exercising: participants who told themselves “you can do it” reported more positive attitudes toward exercising and expressed greater intentions to exercise in the coming week than those who told themselves “I can do it.”

As for why this might be, the researchers “speculate that second-person self-talk may have this beneficial effect because it cues memories of receiving support and encouragement from others,” which, as we’ve seen before, can be an effective method for calming your nerves. This study goes one step further to suggest that we might be able to provide this for ourselves, simply by speaking to ourselves in the second person.

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