Talking to yourself in third person can ease up your emotional tension

A quite unexpected thesis, don’t you think? What might look as a bold psycho-trick at first glance is a promising self-management technique and a shortly revealed paper in the Nature Journal, one of the most prestigious scientific journals worldwide.

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We all have an internal monologue we engage in time to time. We use this kind of introspective to prepare for an intense moment, to structure our thoughts or just clear things up in our head. But can we qualify this approach scientifically? Why does it help, to engage in self-talk and what are the important underlying processes?

Prof. Jason S. Moser et al. from the University of Michigan, USA investigated the scientific part of self-talk and found out, what really works. The team of scientists asked participants to watch aversive images and recall painful autobiographical memories and reflect on them in words using either “I” or the name of the participant while measuring neural activity via event-related brain potentials (ERPs and functional magnetic resonance imaging - fMRI).

The scientists discovered, that using one’s own name to refer to the self during introspection, rather than the first-person pronoun “I”, increases peoples’ ability to control their thoughts, feelings, and behavior under stress.

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Sources:

[1] Moser, J.S. et al. Third-person self-talk facilitates emotion regulation without engaging cognitive control: Converging evidence from ERP and fMRI. Scientific Reports, 7 (2017)

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