Why Do Some People Talk to Themselves?

People talk to themselves to reinforce thought by externalizing it, improve their memories and encourage themselves while performing difficult tasks. However, when self-talk becomes obsessive and continues in situations when it is not socially acceptable, it can be a symptom of schizophrenia.

Many small children narrate their behavior to themselves or go over steps they need to take while performing tasks as a natural part of the learning process. Adults encouraging themselves verbally while undertaking a difficult task demonstrate a natural extension of the process. Studies have shown that adolescents using self-talk as a mnemonic aid while taking complex examinations get higher grades. Another study showed that if those seeking lost objects repeated the names of what they were searching for out loud, they were more likely to find them.

People who experience uncertainty also talk to themselves. Students who are unsure how well they did on an exam are more likely to talk to themselves than those who definitely thought they did well or poorly. However, psychologists caution against people referring to themselves negatively when they self-talk as it reinforces low self-esteem. When people talk to themselves as a symptom of schizophrenia, they often replay past events or conversations out loud.