Inner voice plays role in self control

Sep 21, 2010

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 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."

Explore further: Echolocation acts as substitute sense for blind people

Related Stories

Stereotyping has a lasting negative impact

Aug 10, 2010

Aggression. Over-eating. Inability to focus. Difficulty making rational decisions. New research out of the University of Toronto Scarborough shows prejudice has a lasting negative impact on those who experience it.

Self-control impaired in type 2 diabetics

Feb 10, 2010

Type-2 diabetes, an increasingly common complication of obesity, is associated with poor impulse control. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine suggest that neurological change ...

Got sugar? Glucose affects our ability to resist temptation

Dec 03, 2007

New research from a lab at Florida State University reveals that self-control takes fuel — literally. When we exercise it, resisting temptations to misbehave, our fuel tank is depleted, making subsequent efforts at self-control ...

Recommended for you

Echolocation acts as substitute sense for blind people

2 hours ago

Recent research carried out by scientists at Heriot-Watt University has demonstrated that human echolocation operates as a viable 'sense', working in tandem with other senses to deliver information to people with visual impairment.

User comments : 9

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Tuxford
1 / 5 (4) Sep 21, 2010
Not everyone is tormented by incessant internal dialogue. Through discipline, I have learned to command mine to cease. Imagine the silence. It is achieveable. Too bad science is often so short-sighted. (That voice is not your own.)
Marquette
5 / 5 (1) Sep 21, 2010
Good job at not reading the article, Tuxford.
Marquette
not rated yet Sep 21, 2010
This would explain why I feel the urge to talk to myself about my possible purchases while shopping (much to the consternation of my fellow shoppers).
Javinator
5 / 5 (2) Sep 21, 2010
Congratulations on learning to command your mind not to think.
HaveYouConsidered
not rated yet Sep 21, 2010
So many people seem to equate "thinking" with having an internal conversation with their inner voice! Is this the norm in the general population?

What a low-bandwidth way to think!

I can conjure up my inner voice but rarely do so. My thoughts are conceptual and visual in nature with no need to verbalize them, and that is how I reason.

I sometimes engage an inner conversation, perhaps, to curse at some frustration.

I am curious how many others do not "think" with an inner voice? For what it's worth I don't care much for small talk either, and have often been labeled rude simply for remaining quiet in social gatherings. My IQ tests on the higher side (145).

I fear this will come across as boasting; it is not intended so. I'm really curious to learn if most people think predominantly verbally?
axemaster
not rated yet Sep 21, 2010
"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."

Ummmm... perhaps having to split their attention between repeating a word constantly and pressing a button made their performance drop?

I really hope this study isn't as poorly designed as it seems...
hush1
not rated yet Sep 22, 2010
lol

What do I say? (Ah ha! A question!)

That critical, analytical, rational and logical assessment in parenthesis is attributed to a critical, analytical, rational and logical being. Called "Adult".

The "Ah ha!" part is discovery, surprise, astonishment, amazement, emotional. Called "Child".
Exclamations indicate, in this case, the "Child". attributes as well.

The original question displays "Adult", "Child" and "Parent", simultaneously. ('What do I say?')

"Parent" - all things authoritarian (oversimplified for sake of brevity).

If the "Parent" is not readily apparent, rearranging the word order unmasks the not readily recognizable "Parent".

Do what I say!

Whether "conceptual", "visual", or in- or externally verbal/written, all three "you's" are always 'present'.

The "you's" are simplified terminology borrowed from an 'orphaned' branch of psychoanalysis called:
Transactional Analysis.

The internal 'trialogue' never ceases.
Your awarness can 'ignore' the 'threesome'.

trekgeek1
not rated yet Sep 22, 2010
That would explain my internal voices. "But we loves the Hobbit's" *cough* "NO! Sneaky little Hobbit's".
TheQuietMan
not rated yet Sep 26, 2010
Long winded, but it applies

http://www.youtub...=channel

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.