Talking to Yourself May Actually Be A Good Idea

Talking out loud may not be as bananas as previously thought.

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Guillermo Granja / Reuters

Verbally saying the word "banana" may help you find it quicker, if that is what you are in fact looking for, new research suggests.

Let’s all stop judging people who talk to themselves. New research says that those who can’t seem to keep their inner monologues in — raving bus station denizens, for the most part, excluded — are actually more likely to stay on task, remain focused better and show improved perception capabilities. Not bad, really, for some extra jabbering.

According to a series of experiments written up in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology by professors Gary Lupyan and Daniel Swignley, the act of using verbal clues to trigger mental pictures helps people function quicker.

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In one experiment, they showed 20 volunteers pictures of various objects and asked them to find just one of those, a banana. Half were instructed to repeat out loud what they were looking for and the other half kept their lips sealed. Those who talked to themselves found the banana slightly faster than those who didn’t, the researchers claim. In other experiments, Lupyan and Swignley found that uttering the name of a common product when on the hunt for it helped quicken someone’s pace, but talking about uncommon items showed no advantage and slowed you down. (The utility of talking may depend on how familiar your brain is with the item in question; the researchers speculate there are fewer internal visual reminders of alfalfa sprouts, say, than there are of bananas stored up in your brain.)

Common research has long held that talking themselves through a task helps children learn, although doing so when you’ve apparently matured isn’t a great sign of brilliance. The two professors hope to dispel that idea, claiming that just as when kids walk themselves through a process, adults can benefit from using language not just to communicate, but also to help “augment thinking,” as Lupyan told LiveScience.

Of course, NewsFeed encourages you to keep the talking at library tones and please, whatever you do, keep the information you share simple, like, say, a grocery list. At any volume, there’s still such a thing as TMI.

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