Imagine the scene: A man ambles down the street, muttering under his breath as he looks through the pockets of a disheveled blazer. As you pass by him on the sidewalk, what goes through your mind? “This guy’s having a rough day”, or maybe even “I should walk further away from that crazy person”?
Well, maybe it’s time to rethink that. For every time we seem to pass judgment on any person found talking to themselves, we may be discriminating against someone who happens to be much more intelligent than average. The power of the inner monologue has given us entire works of classical fiction and brilliant scientific innovation — so why do we hold such a negative opinion of it?
As it turns out, scientists have been finding that talking to yourself may help your brain function better. A study in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology has shown that talking to yourself actually enables your brain to work more efficiently at identifying objects. This goes to show that speaking to yourself may help to engage the memory centers of your brain!
However, it seems that talking to yourself is limited by knowing what it is that you’re looking for. Saying the name of something you’re searching for out loud can engage the memory sensors in your brain to full functioning — but if you don’t know what it is you’re looking for, you’ll likely only end up more confused. So, talking through identification of an object can also be a helpful tool.
Thinking back on our childhoods, it becomes clear that we talk to ourselves as a way of learning. This auto-feedback mechanism uses our own voice as a way to both learn how things sound, as well as how it feels to say them — both important elements of object identification. We learn more efficiently by talking through our actions.
What’s more, talking to ourselves can be a way to organize our thoughts. In the midst of confusion or disorganization, our brain activation goes wild, lighting up many parts of our mind in order to make some sense out of what’s happening. Verbalizing our thoughts provides another frame of reference, a source of self-created external validation of our actions.
So, next time you find yourself out on a walk and run into someone talking to themselves, take a second look. They may be using a sophisticated form of self-referential feedback to help them achieve their goals, find perspective and grounding, and become more self-reliant. Not bad for a crazy person, eh?
This article inspired by one found here