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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 motivation. Our special focus is on the internal and external processes of self involved in optimal youth functioning.

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 processes in motivation oriented toward healthy and optimal performance?

There is a basic science to our work, through which we investigate the mechanisms of motivation and performance. Self-talk, talking aloud or silently to the self, is involved in basic processes of cognition (attention, executive function), visual/perceptual mechanisms (eye-tracking), and health behavior. Current projects are exploring the relation between self-talk and performance in experimental and naturalistic conditions. One study focuses on self-talk messages and attention to alcohol cues in college students, while another is examining the relation between self-talk and performance processes in young athletes.

What are the personal and social sources of motivation, and how do they relate, from childhood to adulthood?

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 goal orientation, self-efficacy, and behavioral persistence, 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 healthy behavior can be hindered, quite possibly by these 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 for social climates to support healthy behavior. Together, these contexts can empower youth, and work as a system!

Theoretical Orientation

Social-cultural and social-cognitive theorists describe motivation as activity stemming from evaluating a goal (e.g., Is it worth pursuing?), and the assessment of ourselves in relation to that goal (e.g., motivational and evaluative self-statements) (Bandura, 1986; Ford, 1992). Researchers studying this problem typically refer to motivation being regulated by the self (e.g., self-regulated learning) (Pintrich, 2000). Self-regulation, and the motivation to self-regulate, likely have key developmental milestones in middle childhood, adolescence (Larson, 2000), and emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2000).

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.

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