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We aim to understand and empower the lives of young people in sport and health contexts through the discovery of personal and social sources of optimal functioning. Our special focus is on the internal and external processes of self-talk involved in motivation.

Welcome to the SYSTEM Lab page! SYSTEM uses developmental and motivational science to address optimal development in childhood and adulthood. We address research questions from the following areas:

What are the basic and ongoing processes involved internal speech and motivation?

There is a basic science to our work, through which we investigate the mechanisms of motivation and performance. Self-talk, as inner speaking and inner dialogue with the self, is a basic processes of cognition and motivation behind behavior. Hence, the reason for ongoing – this process cannot be fully ascertained by retrospective and long-decayed memories of self-talk used once upon-a-time. Current projects are exploring the relation between self-talk and performance in experimental and naturalistic conditions, with some use of mixed methods.

What are the sources of motivation, and how do they internalize in the child and the young adult as the approach or avoidance of motivational pursuits develop?

Motivation is a central drive behind action and exploration, and is a process which we continually update and regulate with the changes in our lives. Motivation is embedded in a social context with coaches, teachers, and peers. The SYSTEM lab studies motivation in terms of personal approach and avoidance, goal orientation, and self-efficacy, while maintaining a balanced focus on social-cultural sources such as belongingness, social climate, and scaffolding. We have current projects exploring the relation between motivational climate and motivation in young to middle child athletes, as well as belongingness and motivation in first-generation college students.

How can non-academic sport and health contexts enhance motivation?

The goal of the preceding basic questions is to further the science of motivation, but also to understand how social agents such as parents, coaches, and teachers can strengthen motivation and healthy participation in sport and extracurricular activities. In addition, we are interested in how the motivation for positive behavior can be hindered, quite possibly by these same social processes. However, the fundamental value behind our work is to strengthen participation in extracurricular contexts, and the assets to youth motivation that come with participation. Theory and empirical evidence point to the need connect these contexts as a system, in which the developing person is always assessing their motivation in relation to contexts and interactions. This implication is that research requires a multi-directed approach using experimental and natural observations, but most importantly, a study of the on ongoing and real contexts in which self-talk and internal speech occurs. 

See a video of a talk given on my dissertation research, which led to much of the projects outlined on the lab page.

Go to Google Scholar page for publications and citations.

Lab Conference Presentations

*Rone, C., *Wilson, J., Roosevelt, R., Thibodeaux, C. J. (2019, March). The effect of internal speech on attention to alcohol cues. Paper presented at the 2019 ATU Undergraduate Research Symposium, Russellville, AR.

Thibodeaux, J., *Anderson, C. M., & Samson, J. (2018, April). Relations between motivation, self-Talk, and belongingness in first-generation college students. Poster presented at the 2018 Southwestern Psychological Association Conference, Dallas, TX.

*Anderson, C. M., *Gutierrez, A., Thibodeaux, J., & Samson, J. E. (2017, April). Self-talk in first generation college students. Paper presented at the 2017 Arkansas Symposium for Psychology Students, Conway, AR.

Thibodeaux, J., Bradner, P., Hines, C., Perla, V., Burke, J., & Winsler (2017, April). Young tennis athletes’ self-talk and sport motivation. Poster presented at the 2017 Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, TX.

* = Student co-author