The effects of positive or negative self-talk on the alteration of brain functional connectivity by performing cognitive tasks

Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 21;11(1):14873. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-94328-9.


Self-talk can improve cognitive performance, but the underlying mechanism of such improvement has not been investigated. This study aimed to elucidate the effects of self-talks on functional connectivity associated with cognitive performance. We used the short form of Progressive Matrices Test (sRPM) to measure differences in performance improvements between self-respect and self-criticism. Participants were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging in the following order: baseline, during-sRPM1, post-sRPM1, self-respect or self-criticism, during-sRPM2, and post-sRPM2. Analysis was conducted to identify the self-talks' modulatory effects on the reward-motivation, default mode, and central-executive networks. Increase in sRPM2 score compared to sRPM1 score was observed only after self-criticism. The self-talk-by-repetition interaction effect was not found for during-sRPM, but found for post-sRPM; decreased nucleus accumbens-based connectivity was shown after self-criticism compared with self-respect. However, the significant correlations between the connectivity change and performance change appeared only in the self-respect group. Our findings showed that positive self-talk and negative self-talk differently modulate brain states concerning cognitive performance. Self-respect may have both positive and negative effects due to enhanced executive functions and inaccurate confidence, respectively, whereas self-criticism may positively affect cognitive performance by inducing a less confident state that increases internal motivation and attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Executive Function*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reward
  • Self Concept*
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Young Adult