Inner Voice Plays Role In Self-Control
- Talking to yourself might not be a bad thing,
especially when it comes to exercising self control.
New research out of the University of Toronto
Scarborough - published in this month's edition
of Acta Psychologica - shows that using your
inner voice plays an important role in controlling
"We give ourselves messages all the time with
the intent of controlling ourselves - whether
that's telling ourselves to keep running when
we're tired, to stop eating even though we want
one more slice of cake, or to refrain from
blowing up on someone in an argument," says
Alexa Tullett, PhD Candidate and lead author
on the study. "We wanted to find out whether
talking to ourselves in this 'inner voice' actually helps."
Tullett and Associate Psychology Professor
Michael Inzlicht, both at UTSC, performed a
series of self control tests on participants.
In one example, participants performed a test
on a computer. If they saw a particular symbol
appear on the screen, they were told to press
a button. If they saw a different symbol, they
were told to refrain from pushing the button.
The test measures self control because there
are more "press" than "don't press" trials, making
pressing the button an impulsive response.
The team then included measures to block
participants from using their "inner voice"
while performing the test, to see if it had
an impact on their ability to perform. In order
to block their "inner voice," participants were
told to repeat one word over and over as they
performed the test. This prevented them from
talking to themselves while doing the test.
"Through a series of tests, we found that
people acted more impulsively when they couldn't
use their inner voice or talk themselves through
the tasks," says Inzlicht. "Without being able
to verbalize messages to themselves, they were
not able to exercise the same amount of self control
as when they could talk themselves through the process."
"It's always been known that people have
internal dialogues with themselves, but until
now, we've never known what an important function
they serve," says Tullett. "This study shows
that talking to ourselves in this 'inner voice'
actually helps us exercise self control and
prevents us from making impulsive decisions."
Source: University of Toronto
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