Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Social Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Pamela Sader

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Erik Woody

Advisor Role

Distinguished Professor Emeritus



Self-talk is defined as an inner voice that addresses the self, usually silently but sometimes aloud, with content that is self-relevant. In two studies, this work investigates the pronouns people use within their self-talk, classified by a newly developed pronoun coding scheme, and the interpersonal qualities of self-talk, characterized by an interpersonal framework. For each study we also explore how pronoun usage and interpersonal self-talk styles relate to each other, and to other important variables that pertain to the possible causes and effects of self-talk. In our first study, 131 participants completed a structured interview in which they provided three examples of their habitual self-talk and one of their ideal self-talk, and rated the interpersonal style of each. Compared to their typical self-talk, people’s ideal self-talk showed a preference toward more second-person language and a more dominant and affiliative interpersonal self-talk style. Furthermore, greater habitual use of second-person pronouns, especially with the use of imperatives, tended to co-occur with more dominant, less passive, self-talk. In our second study, 222 participants used a diary-like method to provide instances of their self-talk about a negative and positive event for 14 days, and rated the interpersonal style of each. The frequency of pronoun usage did not differ across event type. Second-person pronouns, especially with imperatives, tended to be associated with a more dominant self-talk style, and first-person pronouns with a less dominant self-talk style. Path analyses, performed separately for negative and positive events, controlled for event intensity and used second- versus first-person pronoun usage and self-talk dominance and affiliation as simultaneous predictors of negative and positive affect. Although not always statistically significant in these path analyses, there was a tendency for second-person language to be associated with dampened subsequent affect. In the path analysis predicting negative events, self-talk affiliation was associated with lower subsequent negative affect and higher positive affect. In the path analysis predicting positive events, self-talk affiliation was again associated with lower negative affect, whereas dominance was associated with higher positive affect. Using hierarchical cluster analysis, a five-cluster solution showed that a high proportion of participants tended to stick to one habitual pronoun style, and this style was not affected by negative versus positive events. Together, these results have important implications because they demonstrate that both pronoun usage and the interpersonal style of self-talk should be considered when studying the way in which people talk to themselves.

Keywords: Self-Talk, Pronoun Usage, Interpersonal Theory, Self-Distancing

Convocation Year


Convocation Season