Motivating goal-directed behavior through introspective self-talk: the role of the interrogative form of simple future tense

Psychol Sci. 2010 Apr;21(4):499-504. doi: 10.1177/0956797610364751. Epub 2010 Mar 9.


Although essential for psychology, introspective self-talk has rarely been studied with respect to its effects on behavior. Nevertheless, the interrogative compared with the declarative form of introspective talk may elicit more intrinsically motivated reasons for action, resulting in goal-directed behavior. In Experiment 1, participants were more likely to solve anagrams if they prepared for the task by asking themselves whether they would work on anagrams as opposed to declaring that they would. In the next three experiments, merely writing Will I as opposed to I will as part of an ostensibly unrelated handwriting task produced better anagram-solving performance and stronger intentions to exercise, which suggests that priming the interrogative structure of self-talk is enough to motivate goal-directed behavior. This effect was found to be mediated by the intrinsic motivation for action and moderated by the salience of the word order of the primes.

MeSH terms

  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Motivation*
  • Problem Solving
  • Semantics*
  • Students / psychology
  • Thinking*
  • Verbal Behavior*
  • Writing