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Researchers somehow tracked down 40 college-age guys willing to play Madden NFL for course credit. When allowed to trash talk, the players' confidence in their own ability increased by 46 percent, the study found. Their video game scores also tended to improve, according to the research.
Self-assurance and positive emotion are essential to performance, and talking trash appears to provide a big shot of both, explains study coauthor Gershon Tenenbaum, Ph.D., of Florida State. While the effect on self-confidence and good vibes was clear, exactly how much your performance may improve is a tough thing to quantify, Tenenbaum adds. His experiment involved 1-on-1 play between players of varying skill levels, and so there was no way to accurately gauge ability improvements, the researchers say.
The study looked only at video games, but Tenenbaum says his research can be applied to other competitive situations. Whether you're playing pickup basketball with your buddies or trying to edge out your coworker for account executive of the month, a few well-timed "yo mama" jokes should juice your confidence and chances for success, Tenenbaum suggests.
What constitutes trash talk? Any verbal barb that builds up personal motivation or enjoyment while distracting or intimidating your opponent, according to the study. And no, you don't have to get nasty or offensive. Just shouting out the score or gently poking fun at your pal’s weaknesses is enough to pump yourself up, the study shows.
(Keep your mind in tip-top shape with these 27 Ways to Power Up Your Brain.)