The idea of one’s own internal monologue is something most people are familiar with, the inner voice that streams our verbal thoughts while they are conscious, and is tied to our very own sense of self. When we discuss an internal monologue, even though not everyone’s thoughts run on this sort of system, it is something that is typically normal and isn’t seen as any cause for concern. It is even seen as healthy and good for our mental health, it helps us organize our thoughts, plan our actions, regulating emotions, etc. So, why is it that when our internal monologue becomes external, and we engage in speaking to ourselves, it is seen as negative and is often associated with mental illness? Most people who talk to themselves are even too embarrassed to admit they do so, because in most circumstances, self-talk remains internal. For some people who have schizophrenia, they may be observed carrying on conversations with the multiple voices that are in their head, out loud. However, this form of self-speech occurs with ownership of inner-speech being attributed to other people or forces outside the individual, unlike what occurs within typical self-speech.
The idea of talking to yourself out loud, I think, isn’t a concept anyone is particularly unfamiliar with. Whenever we get injured we exclaim an obscenity or say “ouch”, even at times when no one is around. When we read out a list, or we’re studying by ourselves and reading out loud, these are all things that can be seen as normal. Even research has been done to show that talking to ourselves out loud can be beneficial and improve our concentration and performance and lead us to success. Even how we refer to ourselves when using our inner monologue can affect our attitude and feeling and boost our confidence. In 2014, the University of Michigan’s Ethan Kross et al. conducted a study about the way we refer to ourselves, in first, second, or third person and its effect on our self confidence. The results showed that people who used second or third person were more confident than those who used first person when preparing for a public speech. “Our findings are just a small part of a much larger, ongoing stream of research on self-talk, which is proving to have far-reaching implications. “Not only does non-first-person self-talk help people perform better under stress and help them get control of their emotions, it also helps them reason more wisely.”
Even when considering Piaget’s stages of development, and his observation of toddlers beginning to control their actions when they start to develop language. Associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Gary Lupyan, has studied how hearing ourselves speak can impact our memories. Using the feedback hypothesis, Lupyan wanted to test self-talk by asking participants to search for a common object among pictures of random items. They made some participants say the name of the item as they were looking for to see if saying the name aloud would help activate visual features. They found that when participants said the word out loud they were more likely to find the word faster.“My bet is that self-talk works best on problems where you’re trying to stay on task and there are possible distractions,” Lupyan said. “For tasks with a multi-step sequence, talking to yourself out loud can help you keep out distractions and remind yourself where you are.” Different types of self-talk have the effect where they improve performance overall.
While I don’t particularly have any times I can remember actively talking to myself, or catching myself having a conversation out loud with myself, I think that this research showing positive benefits and more acceptance towards people who do is really interesting. I have never seen talking to yourself as a bad thing, and I’ve always been confused by the idea that other people see it in a negative connotation, to me it just makes sense that some people are more comfortable having conversations with themselves because that’s how a lot of stories and movies are portrayed. I think in the right context and with positive topics, it’s important for everyone to have this ability so they can better understand themselves, so it only makes sense to me that it would have positive effects. As far as referring to myself in second or third person, I don’t know if I would ever be able to do that in a serious way? It would probably help whenever it came to looking at a situation in a different perspective and getting through harder concepts, but I don’t think I could ever seriously be like “you have to do this” or something. Other than that, I hope that in the future it can be more normalized for everyone to do this as long as it’s healthy and helps them.
Kross et al. study on self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-02577-006
Lupyan self-directed speech and visual search performance study: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17470218.2011.647039
Article “Is This Normal? ‘I talk to myself out loud'”: https://theswaddle.com/is-it-normal-to-talk-to-yourself-out-loud/