Is self-deception one of the keys to optimal performance?

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“…Overall, the results were consistent with the proposition that self-deception enhances motivation and performance during competition.”

Hat tip: Ray Pawulich:

We investigated the relationship between self-deception and success in competition. Self-deception has been associated with stress reduction, a positive self-bias, and increased pain tolerance, all of which could enhance motivation and performance during competitive tasks. We selected athletic competition as a model and predicted that swimmers who successfully qualified for a national championship would engage in more self-deception than swimmers who did not qualify. Self-deception was measured by the Self-Deception Questionnaire (SDQ) and by subjects’ performance on a binocular-rivalry task. For the latter measure, subjects’ tendency to perceive words with neutral rather than negative associations was construed as self-deception. As predicted, successful swimmers scored higher on the SDQ and reported fewer negative words on the binocular-rivalry task than did unsuccessful swimmers. The tendency to perceive words with positive rather than neutral associations was not clearly related to competitive success, to SDQ scores, or to performance on the negative binocular-rivalry trials. Overall, the results were consistent with the proposition that self-deception enhances motivation and performance during competition.

Source: “Self-Deception and Its Relationship to Success in Competition” from Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Volume 12, Issue 2, 1991

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