Not All the Voices in your Head Are Bad

Derron Santin M.F.T.

No matter how social you are, the person you speak to the most is probably yourself. Our internal monologues are constantly running. Academics have long thought that it’s not what others say about you, but what you are say to yourself that is important. In fact, according to new research, our inner voices are crucial to our decision-making processes, assisting us by holding back our impulses.  That’s right, the voices in your head may help you solve problems.

In order to determine the impact our inner-monologues have on our impulses, researchers enlisted 44 college students to undergo a series of simple but rapid verbal and spatial tasks such as pushing a button or repeating a word at specific times. While the spatial tasks would allow the subjects a chance to talk to themselves, the participants were unable to communicate with themselves via inner voices during the verbal tasks because they were already saying other words aloud, thus busying this portion of their brains.

Though errors are likely in any high-speed activity, the results showed that the test subjects made significantly more mistakes in the verbal tasks than the spatial variations.  The students were also more likely to respond instantly and impulsively during the verbal tasks, implying that they were messing up more when talking aloud rather than utilizing the self-coaching voice in their heads.

Though the researchers are the first to admit that further studies must be conducted before making any firm conclusions, they believe that the findings demonstrate that “we can use our inner voices to ignore and resist temptation – one of the defining abilities of our species.”

In the meantime, as we wait for the follow-up studies, we can learn to listen to our internal monologue rather than dismissing it as craziness.  Internally talking through a problem might not only help us reach a correct answer, but the researchers speculate that it might also help counsel us through personal struggle and interpersonal conflict. We already know how to make successful self-affirmations with our inner voices, so maybe it’s time to embrace the voices in our head.

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