We all do it – we talk to ourselves. When someone catches us talking to no-one but ourself, we apologise and say something like “I must be going crazy”. But far from it. Talking to yourself actually improves cognitive performance.
If you’re not sure about that, ask a primary school teacher. They will know children who are given a task and talk themselves through it. “Now I’m going to get the blue paint,” they will say. “That’s good,” they add, “Now I want something bright.” Meanwhile, some children in a junior school will just do their work in silence. Ask the school teacher if they know which ones perform better in tests and appear to “get” things more quickly. Yes, they’ll tell you it is the children who talk themselves through things, rather than the silent ones. Primary school teachers often do not realise they are encouraging the silent ones to become self-talkers. They sit with them and ask questions like “What are you doing now?” so the child can vocalise their activities. Teachers encourage youngsters to be self-talkers because it is clear it helps learning.
As we grow up, social pressures suggest that we shouldn’t talk to ourselves as it is a “sign of madness”. It isn’t, of course, but we see it as such child-like behaviour that we think it would be “madness” for an adult to do it. Hence there is strong pressure for us not to talk to ourselves. Yet we all lapse into it from time to time – largely because it helps.
Now, new research shows that talking to yourself improves performance. Researchers in the USA tested the ability of people to find objects in pictures when they were asked to either be silent or to talk to themselves about the object. When people talked, they were able to find the objects more quickly. In addition, they were more accurate. It appears that the self-directed speech enables the better formation of visual images and thereby the more rapid and accurate location of objects.
So, as you sit in front of Google (or your favourite search engine) today simply say out loud what your are really looking for. The chances are the links you really want will then jump out of the page at you, saving you time by not clicking on search results which prove fruitless.
Talking to yourself while you search online could actually save you hours each week by increasing the speed and accuracy of your results. Of course, you will have to put up with your colleagues thinking you have gone crazy..!
- Google gets more personal with ‘Search plus Your World’ (zdnet.com)
- Search Engine Users Dislike Personalized Search But Like the Results (searchenginewatch.com)
- New Site Helps You Control Google Search Results for Your Name (mashable.com)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+