Talking to yourself isn’t a sign of a breakdown or eccentricity or loneliness.
Psychologists like Gary Lupyan at the University of Wisconsin now know that it’s a sign of someone with good memory recall, confidence and focus.
His test is simple: He asked folks to look at objects on a computer screen. Those who named them aloud (dog, table, house) were able to find them on the screen more quickly than those who silently held the words in their minds. Likewise, the group he asked to recite their grocery lists aloud found the food in photographs faster than the people who remained silent during the task.
“While we all know what a banana looks like, saying the word aloud helps the brain activate additional information on that item, including what it looks like,” Lupyan told the BCC. “Think of it as a pointer to a chunk of information in your mind. Hearing the name exaggerates what might normally happen if you just bring something to mind. Language boosts that process.”
Meanwhile, the Harvard Business Review has published results from University of Michigan Professor Ethan Kross, who discovered that giving yourself a pep talk in the third person creates a calmer and more confident on-task result. Many athletes have engaged in such third-person pep talks like reading aloud words of praise, going over game strategy or reciting mantras in order to pump themselves up. And last decade, researchers confirmed that five-year-olds who talk to themselves do better at motor tasks than when they’re quiet — a sure sign this trait isn’t a sign of mental instability.
Instead, it seems, it’s fundamental to human development.