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Self-talk good for pre-schoolers

5 April, 2008

Talking to self actually helps kids perform better, says a new study.

Researchers in the United States have found that private talk is very common and perfectly normal among pre-school children, and it helps them communicate better with the outside world.

The study, led by Adam Winsler, an associate professor of psychology at George Mason University, the United States, has shown that that pre-schoolers perform better while doing their tasks when they talk to themselves out loud (either spontaneously or when told to do so by an adult) than when they are silent.

Adam Winsler wrote in the study, published in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly, the journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the United States: “This is when language comes inside. As these two communication processes merge, children use private speech in the transition period. It’s a critical period for children, and defines us as human beings.”

The researchers, who came to this conclusion after analyzing a group of pre-school children aged 5, found that 78% of the kids performed either the same or better on motor task when speaking to themselves than when they were silent.

In the study, titled Should I let them talk? Private Speech and Task Performance Among Pre-school Children with and without Behavior Problems, the researchers also came across the fact that children with behavioral problems – like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – are inclined to talk to themselves more often than children without signs of behavioral problems.

“Young children,” Professor Winsler writes, “often talk to themselves as they go about their daily activities, and parents and teachers should not think of this as weird or bad. On the contrary, they should listen to the private speech of kids. It’s a fantastic window into the minds of children.”

Professor Winsler, who also conducted the study in children with autism, noticed that high-functioning autistic children talk to themselves often and in the same ways that non-autistic children do. Talking aloud improved autistic children’s performance on tasks.

He wrote in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, published from the United States and covering severe psychopathologies in childhood, including autism and childhood schizophrenia, “Children with autism have problems with their external social speech, so psychologists assumed that their private speech would also be impaired. But this study shows that it is not the case – that autistic children use their private speech very effectively as a tool to help them with tasks.”




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