- Talking to Yourself Can Be Beneficial, Study Says -

By Rebecca Lewis republished on February 07, 2018

Many people have the habit of talking to themselves especially when looking for something. Odd as it may seem, talking to oneself has positive effects, reported a new study.

Benefits of Self-Directed Speech

Past studies revealed that self-directed speech helps children become more familiar with various activities. For instance, a child who mutters the step by step process involved in tying his shoelace becomes more focused on the task at hand.

But just recently, scientists revealed that self-directed speech doesn’t just benefit children. A group of psychologists found out that it has positive effects on adults too.

In a new study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, it was found that self-directed speech can benefit individuals most particularly when trying to find something. In a series of experiments, Gary Lupyan and Daniel Swingley, psychologists from University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Pennsylvania respectively, observed some people who often audibly mutter when searching for an item – like for instance, a peanut butter jar in a supermarket shelf or a stick of butter in the fridge.  When compared to those who don’t do such seemingly ‘irrational behaviour’, they found that those who do self-directed speech are able to find things quicker.

The Experiments

During the first experiment, participants were asked to identify several objects among the 20 items shown in a picture. In some trials, they were given a text label that shows what objects or items they need to find. On the other trials, participants were asked to look for the items while saying the names of the items to themselves.  The result – those who applied self-directed speech were able to find items faster.

In the second experiment, participants were asked to perform a virtual shopping activity. They were shown 35 pictures of items that are commonly found on supermarket shelves and out of these figures; they need to locate one item. As instructed, participants read the name of the item out loud several times while others remained silent while looking for the same items. The challenge is to find particular target item in the quickest time possible. The result was similar to the first trial. Researchers found that audibly muttering the names of the items they’re looking for is advantageous. For instance, saying the word ‘Coke’ several times when looking for coke helps them easily locate such item.

The third experiment was similar with the second one, but more complex. Instead of finding only one target, participants were asked to locate several items.


Researchers arrived on several findings. First, self-directed speech affects only the cognitive process and not the virtual process of recognising things. Second, self-directed speech helps people remember the subjects/items they’re looking for. Third, self-directed speech helps in word-to-word matching. So the next time you’re looking for something, maybe your wallet, you might as well try muttering the words ‘wallet, wallet, wallet’ to have better chances of finding it quicker, even if that means getting bizarre looks from other people.  

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