A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Children Perform Tasks Better When They Talk to Themselves

By Mason Spirit contributor on October 1, 2008


In a recent study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Adam Winsler, professor of psychology at Mason, showed that five-year-olds do better on motor tasks when they talk to themselves out loud either spontaneously or when told to do so by an adult.

The study also showed that children with behavioral problems, such as attention deficit hyper-activity disorder, tend to talk to themselves more often than other children.

“Given that kids with behavior concerns need more direction and control from adults, teachers may unnecessarily ask children to be quiet in classrooms out of fear that such speech coming from difficult-to-manage kids will lead to problem behavior,” says Winsler. “Yet nondisruptive private speech would actually help these children as they develop.”

In another study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, Winsler looked at private speech in children with autism and found that high-functioning children with autism talk to themselves often and in the same ways that children without autism do. Talking aloud also improved their performance on tasks. Winsler says that although children with autism have problems with their external social speech, this study shows that their private speech is not impaired.


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