Talk outloud to yourself

Talking to ourselves may seem strange because we tend to associate speaking out loud to nobody in particular as a sign of mental illness. For those of you who talk to yourself there’s a growing body of research to indicate that self-talk can help memory recall, confidence, focus and more.

Talking to yourself: a sure-fire way to become the most interesting person in the conversation

“It’s not an irrational thing to do,” says Gary Lupyan, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, who has studied how hearing ourselves speak can impact our memories. “You don’t know everything you’re going to say – you can even surprise yourself.”

His work, which is one of the most cited studies in this field, had people look at objects on a computer screen. Some had to say the name of the item out loud, while others were instructed to remain silent and keep the word in their head. The result? The ones who said the word out loud were able to locate the objects on the screen more quickly.

A similar experiment had people say the names of common grocery store items out loud. They then had to find those items by looking at photographs. The ones who said the words found the foods faster.

“Saying a name out loud is a powerful retrieval cue,” says Lupyan. “Think of it as a pointer to a chunk of information in your mind. Hearing the name exaggerates what might normally happen if you just bring something to mind. Language boosts that process.”

Feel better with self-talk

“Anne Wilson Schaef, a former psychologist and now author and speaker, often encouraged her clients to speak to themselves. Not only did it improve her clients’ memories, but it also changed the way many of them felt. For instance, if a patient was angry, she’d tell them to say out loud what they were upset about. The anger would then disappear.”

We have to say the right words for this to work

In 2014, the University of Michigan’s Ethan Kross released a paper saying that self-talk can make us feel better about ourselves and instil a confidence that can help us get through tough challenges. However, we have to say the right words for this to work.

“Kross, . . . conducted a series of experiments that had people describe emotional experiences using their own names or words like “you,” “he” and “she.” He found that talking in the third or second person, helped people control their feelings and thoughts better than those who spoke in the first person.”

“In another study, Kross, who outlined his research in the Harvard Business Review, asked people to refer silently to themselves in the second or third person while preparing for a speech and found they were calmer, more confident and performed better on tasks than those who used only first-person words. The results were so profound, wrote Kross, that he now gets his young daughter to speak to herself in the third person when she is distressed.”

Improving muscle memory 

There is also a lot of research that shows that self-talk among kids is an important part of their development. A 2008 study found that five-year-olds who talk to themselves out loud do better at motor tasks than when they’re quiet.





9 comments on “Talk outloud to yourself

    • Jess T.,
      We’ve not posted about those studies but both of us having been psychotherapists for decades know that talking to a QUALIFIED/licensed counselor/therapist works. However, it’s not helpful to talk about it over and over and over as all that does is intensify the feelings and embed new angry/anxious signals to the brain.
      The reason I put “qualified” is that often talking to friends or family is not helpful for lots of reasons as they can unknowingly contribute to the feelings.

      We’ve posted many times on how to deal with anger/anxiousness and if you’re interested put those words in the search.

      Thanks for your excellent question.
      judy and Peggy

      Liked by 2 people

  1. “What you talkin’ ’bout Willis?”
    I have found that talking out loud after being cut off by an incompetent driver does relieve the stress of a near-accident. I’ve also tried to incorporate one of your prior posts about the “4 Fast Ways to Get Happy in a Hurry”; e.g. – and all OUT LOUD 1) Express Gratitude “…glad I still have this wonderful car that just avoided an accident”, 2) Label the Negative Feeling – “that really ticked (or similar) me off” 3) Make a Decision “I’m going to give more room to those idiots on the road” 4) Touch – pat myself on the hand and congratulate self on my defensive driving skill.
    All of which makes me unqualified to help anyone other than myself.


    • DuffysDad,
      Since you have now realized you are unqualified to help anyone other than yourself and met the #1 criteria for giving advice to others you may have found a new profession . . . and



  2. OMG, have you been following me around? I talk to myself all the time, to the point that my voice wears out. Are you one of the drivers I find staring at me in astonishment as I chat to myself, so that I start tapping on the steering wheel, pretending I’m singing along to the music? Really, I’ve been busted by people asking me who I was talking to as I drove my otherwise empty car to the same place they were going.

    I used to practice lesson plans while driving, working out presentations and trying to determine areas the kids would find troubling. It really helped. I talk to myself in the shower, I talk when I cook, and I talk out my writing scenarios before typing them. Bob has given up asking me who I’m talking to – he knows it’s the alter ego in my head.

    My weakest learning mode is auditory yet I always repeat number sequences, names, locations, all kinds of trivia information, out loud because speaking helps me remember. And I’ve always believed that poetry should be read out loud to be fully appreciated.

    So I’m not crazy after all. I’m normal, by golly, I’m normal. Thank you for this wonderful article. I’m going to read it out loud tonight before I go to sleep. YAY!

    (Normal, I’m normal.)


  3. Very interesting post. It is also interesting to note that people who are multilingual like myself may elect to “park the information” differently. In my case, I would more likely talk to myself in English to keep track of a short term focus requirement whereas I might talk to myself in French if its something I want to emphasize and “park for the long term”. Not sure if its a quirk or common with those who speak more than one language.

    But yes I agree from personal experience that talking out loud is a valuable tool for remembering and for focus. (At the same time, it can drive others mad).



    • Ben,
      So glad you brought up multilingualism cuz that’s something that many of us (especially in the USA where a good percentage of the population thinks there’s only one language on this planet). You are not quirky – in my experience with people I know who are bi/multi-lingual they do have preferences for certain languages in specific condition. Most people count in their primary language but like to swear in other languages because it seems more colorful.

      I also like the idea of driving others mad tangentially! It appeals to my passive-aggressive side.


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