Talking to Yourself May Help Your Brain

Next time you're chattering away to no one, just tell yourself (out loud) that you're boosting your brain power. A new study has found that talking to yourself actually improves your memory, at least temporarily.

"We were interested in whether speaking to yourself over and above just thinking can help you find an object," said Gary Lupyan, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

The small study, published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that people who talked to themselves found items more quickly than those who did not.

Researchers divided up study participants and instructed them either to repeat the name of the food item they were searching for, or keep quiet. Those who said the name of the object sped up the process of finding it.

But this was only true for "objects that people were quite familiar with and knew what they looked like," said Gary Lupyan, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin and the lead author of the study.

Items with characteristic colors like bananas, grapes and Cheerios had stronger associations with the chitchat than those with less specific colors, like Jell-O and Pop-Tarts, the researchers wrote.

"The idea is that saying words out loud helps to activate properties more actively in the brain and efficiently configures your brain to help temporarily process the information," said Lupyan. "Language is applicable to all sorts of tasks that are not even consciously incorporated into these kinds of functions, like searching for objects."