Can You Learn More if You Talk Out Loud to Yourself?

Joe Weinlick
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Knowledge is power, and the more information you process, the more advantage you have in the ever-changing global economy. One psychologist advocates that you talk out loud to yourself as a way to learn and retain more information. He found that self-explaining enhances your ability to learn, even if you aren't as adept at one particular skill as other people.

Brian Ross and Computer Science

University of Illinois psychologist Brian Ross decided to take a computer science class to test his theory on himself. He was about 10 years older than his classmates, and computer science wasn't his area of expertise. Ross discovered that when he asked questions to himself, out loud, his ability to learn was just as good as the other students' in class. He understood computer programming in ways other students didn't.

One study shows that when you talk out loud, you learn almost three times more than people who don't. Learning is one key to predicting your future earnings, and teaching yourself new skills enhances your career prospects.

Examine a few ways to talk out loud to help you get ahead in your career.

1. Talk to Yourself

Although society may frown upon talking to yourself out loud, this is the crucial step to self-explaining. When you talk out loud, it forces you to slow down in your thinking as you ponder the concepts in front of you. Self-talk lets you ask important questions, such as, "Why do I need to know this?" or "How do I know what I know?" Once you ask these questions, your brain starts to seek answers.

2. Ask Why

Asking why leads to further questions that get to the core answer. For example, ask yourself, "Why is the sun vital to all life on Earth?" You might answer with, "The sun warms the planet." Then, you might ask, "Why does a warm Earth help life?" The follow-up question could lead to further inquiries into the water cycle, plant growth and weather patterns.

Take these lines of inquiry into your professional life. Ask yourself why things are a certain way as you solve a problem or figure out a trend.

3. Make Connections

One question leads to another, and the answers help you make connections as you talk out loud. Notice that one thing leads to another that leads to another. Your self-explaining helps you to follow the trail to the right answer. These connections enhance critical thinking skills that move beyond formal learning settings. You may find yourself speaking out loud as you self-explain the details of your everyday work to gain a better understanding of what's happening on a project.

4. Put Things in Your Own Words

As you explain things to yourself, summarize them in your own words. This makes your learning experience personal and more memorable. When you learn things in your own way, you retain knowledge better because you make sense of a certain concept that's personal to you. Try this when you say a set of instructions out lout to yourself or to another person.

Talk out loud to help you learn new concepts. You just might find yourself outwitting and outplaying the competition as you seek new ways to get ahead in the business world.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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