Why should we talk to ourselves?

Inner speech is part of our daily life: "I have to remember to get the car inspected," “Don’t forget to pick the kids up from school at 5pm.” All of these things we say to ourselves, whether out loud or internally, are actually quite useful because they improve our performance. In his article, F. Jabr sheds some light on the question: how can speaking to oneself be both natural and beneficial?

Self-talk begins in childhood with what Piaget referred to as “egocentric speech,” and which was the subject of much debate with Vygotsky. Unlike Piaget, Vygotsky insisted that this "egocentric” language does not regress over the years, but qualitatively progresses. He considered it to hold several functions linked to the child’s intellectual activity: abstraction, attention-concentration, memory, planning, movement regulation, managing uncertainty, etc. A child who stops counting on his fingers in favor of mental calculation would be a good example of this. Less controversially, psychologists speak of private language when children speak out loud and tell stories while playing with a doll, cars, or other toys. From adolescence, this practice of audible self-talk tends to diminish, though studies have shown that many adults continue to do so occasionally.

What doesn't decrease however is inner speech. In fact, it represents nearly a quarter of our conscious life. Contrary to “photographic” thoughts (imagining myself on the stage of the theater where I will be performing, or imagining what that lamp will look like in my living room), as its name indicates, inner speech is expressed through language: “I hope the room will be packed this evening” or “Would this chandelier go well in the living room?” It's clearly a conscious activity, which means that it can, for example, be rephrased: “Hmm, I wonder if it will go with the color of the curtains..." But this inner speech is also present while a coworker is speaking to you, and you are considering your reply, trying to choose the most appropriate response. Inner speech thus helps us structure our thoughts.

In this article, published in Cerveau and Psycho n°72 (Nov - Dec 2015), the author states that just as they belong to separate neural networks, one must still distinguish voluntary inner speech, focused on a specific goal and associated task ("Come on, you can beat him!") from “nomadic” inner speech, which occurs spontaneously and fleetingly, as we are falling asleep, for example.

Psychologist Charles Fernyhough, from Durham University in the United Kingdom, says that we resort to inner speech on a daily basis to read, write, count, motivate ourselves, and prepare future actions. In summary, self-talk is natural, helps channel our emotions, and enhances our performance.
Source: http://www.cerveauetpsycho.fr/ewb_pages/a/article-les-avantages-de-se-parler-a-soi-meme-36086.php

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