We used to think that people who walked around talking to themselves were a bit unbalanced. Now we notice the Bluetooth and shrug. But talking to yourself appears to have its uses, at least when you’ve misplaced something. A team of psychologists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Pennsylvania has reported on a study showing that talking to yourself when you’re looking for something actually helps you find it. First, they asked study participants to look through 20 images and asked them to find a specific one. Sometimes, there was a label telling them what to look for; a teapot, for example. Later, the participants were asked to search again while saying the word of the object they had to find. In another experiment the participants were asked to find photos of common supermarket items like apples or peanut butter or a product name, such as Diet Coke. In both experiments, the participants who repeated the names of the objects they were searching for found them faster – and shortening the name to, say “Coke” rather than Diet Coke additionally speeded the searches. Try that the next time you can’t find your keys or your glasses.
Gary Lupyan, Daniel Swingley. “Self-directed speech affects visual search performance.” The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2011; : 1 DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2011.647039
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