Tuesday, May 24

What science has to say about talking to yourself in a confinement | Charles Fernyhough

CAmille remembers the first time she realized that she was talking to herself out loud. “It was almost like, Oh that’s my voice, ‘in a way that I wouldn’t have thought of her if she had been speaking in a meeting. Usually he reported on what he was doing. I could say Come on, have an onion; take an onion and cut it.“I think it reminded me of certain types of game.”

Despite all that the pandemic has taken away from us, it may have helped us become more aware of some aspects of our everyday mental processes, such as the fact that many of us speak to ourselves, loudly and silently. in our head, for most of the time. Many of us will have spent more time alone in the last 16 months than ever. In the case of my friend Camille, the consciousness arose from deep isolation: her partner was trapped in a foreign country and she lived alone with little contact other than Zoom meetings.

Her self-talk aloud seemed in part to create company for herself and in part to something more deeply existential, an affirmation of her own continuous self. And he noticed that he did it more during the confinement. “It’s being alone in a pandemic: suddenly the walls close in a different way. I felt a bit crushed by that; Just for the fact that it was shutting down, it was the same. “His words literally broke the silence.” It’s kind of a punctuation, isn’t it? “

In other cases, people tell me that they have done it to guide themselves through a busy, but often lonely day at work: a Homer worker explained that he talks to himself through stressful “traffic jams” when he feels he has too. a lot, and there are no real life colleagues to turn to.

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Language is a multifunctional device. We use it to make things happen: ask questions, give orders, ask for forgiveness. Anything you can accomplish in the social world, you can do just as well when only we are listening.

These internal dialogue functions have been a growing focus of research in recent years. Known as private speech in its out loud form, self-talk is particularly noticeable in children. talking to themselves when playing or thinking of a task. Its silent way internal dialogue, is the conversation that many of us report having with ourselves when we go about our daily activities. This internal and silent version seems to develop from the form out loud, as we internalize the exchanges we have with others in conversations with ourselves. Those conversations gradually become more compressed and abbreviated, so talking to ourselves is more like a note version of what would otherwise be fully written sentences.

Great claims have been made for the power of internal dialogue. Many studies have the flaw of instructing people to talk to themselves and then never measuring what kind of speech results. When scientists go to the trouble of ask people what their inner speech is like, they find a great variety. Some of us seem to do it all the time, while others (recently internet amazement) say they don’t do it at all.

Getting good data on something so elusive and intimate is challenging, but newer methods mean that the the science of inner speech thrives. One way in which experience varies is the extent to which it takes the form of a dialogue. There is evidence that assuming the structure of a conversation can be particularly valuable for flexible and creative trains of thought.

A main function of inner speech is to think about language problems: guiding and controlling yourself, as well as understanding the words of a caregiver can guide a child. When the going gets tough, when we are stressed or faced with a difficult task, the highly abbreviated inner speech that probably occupies much of our waking life can become expanded in a full dialogue. It can also take the loud form it did when we were kids.

Words that assume a material form – which hang in the air as spoken expressions – have a particular power: a point made by philosopher Andy Clark. Combine that with social isolation (and thus the absence of the usual inhibitions that might cause us to keep it all to ourselves), and you end up with a perfectly natural response to lockdown.

That’s because thinking in words is inherently a social process. We constantly assume other perspectives in our internal dialogues and respond to them: challenging, accepting, qualifying, persuading. When we lack the usual social contrasts to exchange ideas, it is not surprising that we simply do it for ourselves. The range of people who can join our internal conversations is limited only by our imagination. It is not uncommon for people to report that other characters find a voice in their inner speech, including their deceased loved ones, imaginary companions and spirit beings.

Internal dialogue has many advantages, but also disadvantages. In mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, negative comments towards oneself can be harmful and something that therapy will try to control. Whether positive or negative, a greater understanding of the words in our head and what they are doing there can only be a good thing.

There is no single reason you have been talking to yourself more during the pandemic. Although it has yet to be studied systematically, there are reasons to think that locked-in self-talk, if you have found yourself in that habit, is actually just an external version of what you were probably doing internally for much of the time anyway. . . At an elementary level, it could be because it’s fun and comforting. Camille found that her burgeoning self-talk also included other interlocutors. “I talked to the weird thing, like a bird. I would ask the bird a question: ‘What are you doing? OMG.'”


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