By Kimberly Clark, Features Staff Writer
It was once believed that talking to oneself was the first sign of insanity. However, I am sure that you have found yourself holding a conversation alone. But you’re not crazy. Right?
A recent study led by Gary Lupyan, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, suggests that not all people who talk to themselves are crazy. In fact, talking to oneself can benefit thinking.
In one experiment from the study, volunteers had to look for a specific picture of an object from a group of 20 pictures. Researchers asked half of the volunteers to repeat the name of the object they were looking for out loud to themselves. The rest of the volunteers were asked to remain silent. Researchers found that the volunteers who talked out loud found the correct picture about 50 to 100 milliseconds faster than the volunteers who did not.
“The general take-home point is that language is not just a system of communication, but I’m arguing it can augment perception, augment thinking,” Lupyan said in an interview with LiveScience.
Talking out loud only helped when the object being searched for was familiar to the volunteer. In a second experiment, volunteers were sent on a virtual shopping trip. The volunteers found Coca-Cola more quickly when they repeated “Coke” out loud but repeating “Speed Stick” while looking for deodorant actually slowed them down. This is because the term “Speed Stick” is not as familiar as the term “Coke.”
“Speaking to yourself isn’t always helpful — if you don’t really know what an object looks like, saying its name can have no effect or actually slow you down,” Lupyan said. “If, on the other hand, you know that bananas are yellow and have a particular shape, by saying banana, you’re activating these visual properties in the brain to help you find them.”
So talking to yourself does not necessarily mean that you are losing your mind. It can actually mean the exact opposite.
But just in case you are worried that talking to yourself will not be enough, here are some other LiveScience tips to keep your mind sharp:
1. Aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes regularly can help your brain get fit. It won’t be so bad for the rest of your body, either.
2. A high fiber diet with moderate amounts of protein and fat delivers a regular flow of energy to the brain to ensure health and high performance.
3. Two to four cups of coffee a day might delay normal cognitive decline and lessen the likelihood of Alzheimer’s by 30 to 60 percent. This may be a result of the caffeine or the antioxidants in coffee.
4. Relaxing activities, such as yoga, socializing and scrapbooking, might ward off memory impairment. Stress releases harmful chemicals over the areas of the brain that involve memory.
5. Doing mental exercises, such as crosswords or Sudoku, can help keep your brain in shape. Research has found that lack of education is a predictor of a decline in mental faculties.
So as finals come looming around the corner, remember these helpful tips to keep your mind in tip-top shape for the grueling days to come.