Talking about targets, is verbalization during action facilitative or debilitative?

Raimey Olthuis, John van der Kamp, Koen A.P.M. Lemmink, Simone Caljouw

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Strategies such as self-talk and verbalization have recently received considerable attention in the field of sport psychology. These strategies are reported to enhance movement learning and endpoint accuracy in certain environments (Theodorakis et al., 2012; Janelle et al., 2003; Tod et al., 2009). It is posited that verbalization during movement execution increases the ability to allocate attentional focus to the task at hand (Landin (1994) as cited by Theodorakis et al., 2012). Specifically,”trigger words” such as target-related features are expected to improve a performer’s ability to pick-up facilitative information for functional actions. Meanwhile, visual fixation on a target prior to movement initiation is found characteristic of high levels of accuracy in goal directed movements (Mann et al., 2007; Vickers, 1996; Frehlich et al., 1999; Janelle et al., 2000; Adolphe et al., 1997). Consequently, we would expect verbalization during goal-directed movements to facilitate the pick up of information in performance environments resulting in improved endpoint accuracy. However, there are inconsistencies in the literature, particularly regarding skilled performers, where verbalization may actually elicit “reinvestment” behaviour resulting in de-automatization and deterioration of performance. In the present study we investigate if verbalization during movement influences how actors explore the target surroundings to gather information for goal achievement. Participants (n=36) in our study made visually guided touch gestures on a tablet using a stylus to targets located in one of seven possible positions along a semi-circle. During verbalization trials participants called out the position of the active target (1 to 7) while performing the movement, i.e. participants called out ‘one’ for the first target in the sequence. We analyzed the endpoint error distribution for the peripheral and middle targets. Contrary to our expectations verbalization of the target position did not improve overall constant or variable error. Unexpectedly, Target 1 (the utmost left target) had higher constant and variable error in the verbalized trials compared to the control. These findings suggest that verbalizing target properties can in fact decrease performance, thus verbalization action does not always attune actors to action relevant information.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Perception and Action XV
Subtitle of host publicationTwentieth International Conference on Perception and Action.
EditorsL. van Dijk, R. Withagen
PublisherTaylor & Francis Group
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventInternational Conference on Perception and Action - UMCG, Groningen, Netherlands
Duration: 3-Jul-20196-Jul-2019


ConferenceInternational Conference on Perception and Action
Abbreviated titleICPA
Internet address

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