While talking to yourself is often regarded a social no-no, possibly hinting at psychological problems, new research suggests that point of view may need revision. Scientists at Bangor University in the UK found talking to yourself out loud is not only be helpful but may indicate a higher level of intelligence.

The study’s participants were given written instructions and told to either read them out loud or silently. After measuring the concentration and how participants performed on tasks, researchers concluded that people were more concentrated and absorbed what they read better when doing so out loud. 

As the study’s co-author and psychologist Dr. Paloma Mari-Beffa explains, the benefits may be coming “from simply hearing oneself, as auditory commands seem to be better controllers of behavior than written ones”. 

Dr. Mari-Beffa sees speaking out loud as an extension of our inner silent talk, which has been shown to help us organize thoughts, emotions and memories, as well as plan actions. 

She cites athletes, especially tennis players, who talk to themselves in stressful moments. They use spoken self-instructions to help focus their minds and motivate themselves to achieve specific goals.

The inventor Nikola Tesla was known to talk to himself during lighting storms.

The researcher adds that talking out loud could actually be “a sign of high cognitive functioning”.

“The stereotype of the mad scientist talking to themselves, lost in their own inner world, might reflect the reality of a genius who uses all the means at their disposal to increase their brain power,” points out Dr. Mari-Beffa.

The experiment in the study was performed on a relatively small sample of 28 participants but previous studies also indicated that talking to oneself had cognitive benefits, like helping find objects quicker. 

You can read the study “The impact of verbal instructions on goal-directed behaviour” here.