Talking to yourself is the preserve of mad men, right? Well, if you do this I have some great news, according to a recent study, the seemingly irrational act of chatting to yourself actually improves cognitive function.
Research carried out by Gary Lupyan and Daniel Swingly, was inspired by the pair’s experiences of seeing people audibly muttering to themselves when trying to find items on supermarket shelves. To test and see if the act of speaking to oneself was actually beneficial, Lupyan and Swingley devised a set of experiments.
In one of their experiments, they gave 20 people the name of an object and were told to find it in a supermarket. During the trial, participants were bound to silence. In the second, they were told to repeat the name of the object until they found it. Naturally, the subjects not bound to silence found the items sooner than those who were.
But, it only works when you know what you need! When you want to find something, it is useful to speak the objects name but only when you are familiar with the object.
“Speaking to yourself isn’t always helpful,” says Lupyan. “If you don’t really know what an object looks like, saying its name can have no effect or actually slow you down. If, on the other hand, you know that bananas are yellow and have a particular shape, by saying banana, you’re activating these visual properties in the brain to help you find them.”
Also, although you may not remember it, you learned a whole new language as a child! And, if you have never tried to learn a foreign language in your adult life, it is tough! You learned the alphabet, to count, the names of all animals in the farmyard and much more. You will have learned all these things by repeating and speaking out loud.
“Self-directed speech can help guide children’s behavior, with kids often taking themselves step-by-step through tasks such as tying their shoelaces, as if reminding themselves to focus on the job at hand.”
Lastly, it is a great way to organize your thoughts! When you have a lot going on, you will be amazed at how helpful it can be to vocalize things. It can calm your nerves as you end up being your own kind of therapist. Your outer voice is sort of helping your inner self with the problems.
“It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to what’s important and firm up any decisions you’re contemplating.”
So, you are not crazy! The people around you who mutter to themselves are not crazy. People only talk to themselves to listen and vocalize your inner voice. It makes you organized and more likely to achieve your goals, so keep on keeping on!