Talking out loud to yourself is a bit of a social no-no. We feel a bit ashamed when we find ourselves quietly muttering street directions to commit them to memory or counting our dinner guests on our fingers in the plastic plate aisle. To us, it’s kind of in the realm of what we understand – thanks to the prevailing stereotype of our eccentric art teachers – to be some manifestation of psychosis. Despite the fact it’s perfectly innocent and unfailingly common, we don’t want strangers around us to know that we’ve got outer (or inner, for that matter) dialogue happening.
But if you consider the situations we are most likely to chat to ourselves in, you might notice a correlation between mumblings and activity.
For example, considering this study that asked participants to read instructions either silently or aloud found that both concentration and performance where improved for those who read the directions verbally.
“Silently reading the cue only provided medium levels of mixing cost,” the study concludes. “The experiments demonstrate that relevant verbal instructions boost sustained concentration on task goals when maintaining multiple tasks.”
In other words, you recounting a scenario to yourself or talking it through, actually helps you grasp more control, and therefore achieve a task that little bit better.
Talking aloud to ourselves also helps differentiate neurological pathways than those of our language-less friends, monkeys, in a very interesting way. This study, where the ability to both internally and externally communicate to ourselves while doing a task was removed by making participants having to say the unhelpful words “blah blah blah” repeatedly actually made our brains more like the primates. In depriving ourselves of the ability to self-talk, the brain activates different visual and sounds sections of the brain and demonstrates, say researchers, that our language underpins our ability to effectively control our behaviour and activate memory.
In other words? Time to embrace your inner mad scientist.