Washington: Do you often find talking to yourself? Well, nothing to worry, it can rather benefit your thinking and perception, researchers say.
Such muttering may seem irrational, but past research has shown that self-directed speech can help guide children`s behaviour. The new study, published in Journal of Experimental Psychology, was conducted to see if talking to oneself could also help adults.
In one experiment, volunteers were shown 20 pictures of various objects and asked to look for a specific one, such as a banana. In half of the trials, the participants were asked to repeatedly say what they were looking for out loud to themselves; in the others, they were asked to remain silent.
It was found that self-directed speech helped people find objects more quickly by about 50 to 100 milliseconds. On average participants took 1.2 to 2 seconds to find an item.
"The general take-home point is that language is not just a system of communication, but I`m arguing it can augment perception, augment thinking," study author Gary Lupyan, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was quoted as saying by a magazine.
In another experiment, volunteers carried out a virtual shopping task in which they saw photos of items commonly found on supermarket shelves and were asked to find all instances of a particular item, such as Jell-O, as quickly as possible.
The results were more complex -- there was an advantage to speaking the name of an item only when volunteers looked for familiar objects. For instance, saying "Coke" helped when looking for Coke, but saying less familiar item "Speed Stick" when looking for the deodorant actually slowed people down.
"Speaking to yourself isn`t always helpful -- if you don`t really know what an object looks like, saying its name can have no effect or actually slow you down," Lupyan said.
"If, on the other hand, you know that bananas are yellow and have a particular shape, by saying banana, you`re activating these visual properties in the brain to help you find them," he added.
Future work can scan the brain at the same time as these experiments are conducted to see what brain circuits are involved, Lupyan suggested.