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Talking to Yourself Could Have Mental Benefits

FRIDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- People who talk to themselves while searching for specific objects may be able to find them faster, researchers say.

Previous studies have suggested that when children talk to themselves it helps guide their behavior. For example, kids may talk themselves through tying their shoes to help remember how it's done. The authors of the new study set out to determine if the same was true for adults.

The findings, from Gary Lupyan, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Daniel Swingley, of the University of Pennsylvania, were published online in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

In the experiment, adult participants were shown 20 pictures of different objects and asked to find one of them (for example, a jar of peanut butter on a supermarket shelf, or a stick of butter in the refrigerator). In some tests, they saw only a text label informing them what they had to find.

In other tests, the participants were told to locate the object again. This time, however, they were instructed to say the name of the object to themselves. The study revealed that by talking to themselves, people found the objects more quickly.

In a second experiment, participants completed a virtual shopping task. They were shown pictures of items commonly found on supermarket shelves and asked to identify those items whenever they appeared. Once again, the researchers found that by telling themselves the name of familiar objects the participants often were able to find them faster.

The study authors concluded in their report, however, that "although the present results provide evidence that self-directed speech affects some aspect of the visual search process that is specific to the target category, there is no evidence at present that self-directed speech affected the efficiency of locating the target."

More information

Harvard Medical School has more about the human brain and how it works.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, news release, April 17, 2012

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