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According to the paper Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others by Wood (2009) positive self-talk is beneficial when the person has a reasonable level of self-esteem in the statement, but harmful when they don't. The PsychCentral article, "Got Low Self-Esteem? Don’t Ditch the Positive Self-Talk Just Yet" by Summer Beretsky points out a few issues with the methodology:

  • Limited sample size
  • Short "bursts" rather than more concentrated time to convince themselves
  • Not controlling for whether they believe in the statement they are proclaiming

Are there any other studies that deal with these issues?

Wood, J., Elaine Perunovic, W., & Lee, J. (2009). Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others Psychological Science DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02370.x

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Is there any way of reading the publication online? –  Chris S Feb 24 '12 at 19:50
    
@ChrisS: I don't think so –  Casebash Feb 24 '12 at 21:57
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The 3rd point seems like a real game-killer. If you don't believe the statement you are saying to yourself, then it is almost the same as saying the negation to yourself... so no surprise that this can cause harm. –  Artem Kaznatcheev Mar 6 '12 at 4:22
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You might want to check out the "cite by" option on Google Scholar for the article to see what's cited the article: scholar.google.com.au/… –  Jeromy Anglim Mar 20 '12 at 11:55

1 Answer 1

Just to be clear, Wood et al (2009) summarise their propositions on page 861:

Thus, we propose that positive self-statements have the potential to make one feel worse if they lie outside one’s latitude of acceptance, are self-discrepant and thereby highlight one’s failures to meet one’s standards, and arouse self-verification motives. We further propose that positive self-statements are especially likely to backfire for the very people they are meant to benefit: people with low self-esteem. Such people, by definition, see themselves as failing to meet standards in more domains or in more important domains than do people with high self-esteem. Moreover, self-verification motives should bias people with low self-esteem to reject positive self-statements, but encourage people with high self-esteem to accept them.

In the literature review, Wood et al cite several articles related to attitude formation and self-relevant feedback. They mention one particular study, where

Eisenstadt and Leippe (1994) asked participants to identify a trait they would like to possess but believed they lacked. When Eisenstadt and Leippe later told participants that they actually did possess that ideal trait, participants felt worse, rather than better.

References

  • Eisenstadt, D., & Leippe, M.R. (1994). The self-comparison process and self-discrepant feedback: Consequences of learning you are what you thought you were not. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 611–626.
  • Wood, J., Elaine Perunovic, W., & Lee, J. (2009). Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others Psychological Science DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02370.x
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This address point 3, right? Is there something addressing point 1 and 2? –  Artem Kaznatcheev Mar 20 '12 at 13:10

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