Talking to yourself out loud is typically seen as a social faux pas. Indeed, we get encouraged to stop guiding our behavior by talking out load as we get older. However, a recent study from Bangor University has found that thinking and talking out loud may actually offer a number of benefits and talking to yourself might even be a sign of intelligence.

But can thinking aloud really have benefits in terms of concentration, achieving multiple tasks, and controlling emotions as this study suggests? In this post, we will look at 5 surprising benefits of thinking aloud and the science behind why.

Thinking Aloud vs. Inner Thinking

We are often talking to ourselves silently in our own heads throughout the day, asking ourselves silent questions to find what we need to get out of the house, cook the dinner, or complete our work. This inner talk is both healthy and helpful when it comes to organizing our thoughts and emotions. However, in the study from Bangor University thinking out loud whilst completing a task was found to improve control in comparison to inner talk.

A separate study also found that participants told to say random words aloud repeatedly whilst trying to carry out a variety of tasks made it impossible for them to tell themselves what to do to achieve the tasks. This serves to show the power of talking out loud in a negative way, but what are the benefits of thinking thoughts out loud?

5 Science-Backed Benefits of Thinking Aloud

  1. Boosts self-motivation
  2. Improves perceptual processing
  3. Enhances problem-solving skills
  4. Improves timing & precision
  5. Boosts memory

Here we outline five of the most surprising ways thinking out loud can be beneficial and the scientific studies that explain why.

  1. Self-motivation

Sometimes we may find motivation elusive when it comes to approaching a challenging task. However, we can actually be great at giving ourselves our own pep-talk. Kamal’s study on positive self-talk shows that our thoughts can have huge implications over our emotions, motivations, and achievements and a greater impact can be attained by thinking aloud.

Indeed, when preparing for interviews, it is a great idea to not only think positively about the outcome but to actually tell yourself it is going to go well. If you are feeling low, telling yourself things will be okay and complimenting yourself on something you have done well today can also have a noticeable effect on your mood. However, you should be sure to avoid letting negative self-talk ruin your life.

  1. Improved perceptual processing

Audio cues are much easier to process than instructions we read or think silently through inner talk. This is backed up by a study for the University of Wisconsin. Participants were either given written instructions or told to read the instructions out loud when looking at a picture. Those reading the instructions out loud were better able to find it.

The vocalization of the word improved participants’ ability to visualize what they were looking for, indicating an increase in their brain’s processing power. This is because, when we use inner talk, we are much more likely to jump from one thought to another and at a quicker pace than we would be able to when thinking and speaking out loud.

  1. Enhanced problem-solving skills

Computer programmers commonly use a method known as rubber ducking to overcome the most challenging problems. It refers to talking through the problem in its most basic step-by-step form to the nearest thing on your desk, say a rubber duck for example? By explaining what they want the code to achieve and going into the line by line detail of how it will do this whilst speaking aloud, the answer soon springs to mind as if leaping from the spoken thoughts.

This is backed up by a study by Dr. Christopher Atkin for Nottingham Trent University which found participants talking through complex tasks were far better at problem-solving. In fact, participants in this study made 78 percent fewer mistakes than participants asked to complete tasks by working things out in their heads. Thinking out loud focuses your attention and improves concentration facilitating enhanced problem-solving.

  1. Improved timing & precision

Thinking out loud has also been found to be beneficial when it comes to timing and precision. For example, one study looked at the effect of using thinking aloud as a motivational tool to improve basketball performance. They found that players instructing themselves verbally were able to pass and shoot more accurately. The study specifically noted that instructional self-talk (IST) improved precision and timing, whilst motivational self-talk (MST) helped with speed-based tasks.

Similarly, a study by Yannis Theodorakis found that thinking out loud using IST and MST improved timing and precision for both methods in comparison to the control group with statistically significant results. Indeed, self-talk is commonly used in sports-psychology at the highest levels and you will often see professional tennis players using this method as they move between points.

  1. Boost memory

One way we commonly use thinking out loud naturally as we get older is to ensure we have properly memorized information. This works great with lists but has also been found to be beneficial when it comes to retaining information we read. This is because memory is improved by the brain being actively involved with what we do as it is when we speak versus when we simply read.

As such, thinking out loud could have potential benefits as we get older. We are commonly told that doing puzzles and crosswords can help us to stave off some of the mal effects of aging on the mind. However, making sure our brain is more actively involved in other tasks, such as reading the newspaper in the morning or a book in bed can be similarly beneficial.

Final Words

Thinking out loud has long been much maligned. However, as more and more research shows a wide range of benefits that talking our thoughts out loud can have, it can be a good idea to try and bring this practice into your daily life. Indeed, it turns out thinking out loud can be a great way to get your mojo back.

Lottie Miles, M.A.

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