Why you talk to yourself and why you answer back
Is talking to yourself out loud just a quirk of personality? If so, then how come all of us do it?
When our minds wander, we find ourselves encountering our many selves and engaging in colorful conversations with our own selves. Didn’t he know that I found that so annoying? Could I have done a better job with that? Should I forgive her? Should I have really fired that shot? Should I have really voted for P1,000 for the Commission on Human Rights budget?
We are so good at this – it is called self-reflection. Science has constantly been attempting to understand this really elusive aspect of how our mind works. A 2010 study thinks that it found that there is a correlation between those who reflected more and the amount of grey matter they had in the brain part located right behind the eyes. So, more thoughtful people apparently have more of a kind of brain matter somewhere in their heads but so what?
Self-reflection does not guarantee a realization of the truth; in fact, science has found out that often, self-reflection is a way of coming up with our own neat justification for why we felt what we felt or did what we did. It is our own built-in operating system so that we do not get stuck by second guessing ourselves. But it does not necessarily mean that you are a better person that way. A sociopath or psychopath could reflect a lot more than those who are not and still come to the conclusion that would favor hurting others. Just listen to the seemingly reasonable statements in the news of people justifying why they did what they did, even if it is a patently immoral or improper act. In fact, “thinking out loud” falsely gives the impression that you are more “authentic” that way because you “walk your talk” and gives you a feeling of accomplishment, especially when you are applauded for it by those who think like you. To get to the truth or to make things better, you have to actually test your own ideas and their effect on the real world AND listen to other people who do not think like you.
That is why I don’t think it is mainly the lack of enough self-reflection that make people like those say or do what they do. It is just who they are and that is where all those inner conversations take place. Giving these people more time to think on their own will not necessarily produce a better country or a better world. It is just giving them enough time to justify their own actions to themselves.
But not all reflections are created equal. Some are more emotionally-charged than others. Many of our reflections involve our own quick chats with ourselves pertaining to a specific task. A physical task on an obstacle course? A dare to eat a strange dish? Sometimes, in the course of conversing with our own selves, we catch ourselves verbalizing them. What does this do to us? Do we perform better when we hear ourselves verbalize an instruction meant for ourselves in the first place? A study recently checked out what is the advantage of reading instructions out loud versus just reading them silently.
The experiment had an interesting design because aside from comparing the performance on a given task after reading instructions silently and out loud, it also included having the subjects utter nonsense (“blah blah”) intended to suppress one’s tendency to verbalize what s/he is reading. The result was a victory for the performance done because one verbalized what s/he was reading and also when they heard the instruction through a headphone. For silent reading, performance was still good but a little less than when it was verbalized. The worst performers were those who were made to verbally express “blah” instead of what they were reading. This “suppressed” the verbal expression of the instruction and slowed down their performance of the task and also made for more errors.
This means that in specific tasks, hearing yourself say the instructions helps you perform better. You cannot think one thing and be conscious of saying another thing and still do well at the task. This kind of processing is very pronounced in children as they develop. You will observe that they are always saying things as they do them.
In some fields like math, a 2009 study found that math problems could be solved faster when they thought out loud than if they were silent. But it should also be noted that other ways, like drawing a diagram or representation of the math problem also helped in faster solutions.
So talking to yourself at the level of performing specific tasks really does help you perform better. It does not necessarily mean you are losing control of your inner thoughts because they spill out into the audible scene. – Rappler.com