Trending News: Science Discovered A Strange Trick For Controlling Your Emotions
Long Story Short
Having trouble regulating your emotions? You need to talk to yourself more (in the third person, that is).
You’re talking to yourself wrong. That’s the finding of a new study from researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.
Talking to yourself isn’t unusual in times of stress. How many times have you asked yourself, “Why am I upset?” It’s an instinctive technique to step outside of your brain and analyse your emotions. But what if there was a way to make it a lot more effective — and it was as simple as referring to yourself in the third person?
That was the inkling of the MSU and Michigan team. And in a first-of-its-kind study they found that third-person self-talk does indeed constitute a relatively effortless form of self-control. They’re findings are published online in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.
It makes sense, the way MSU associate professor of psychology Jason Moser explains it: “Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain,” he said in a news release. “That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.”
The study involved two straightforward experiments. In the first, participants viewed neutral and disturbing images, reacting to both in the first and third person while having their brain activity monitored. When reacting to the disturbing photos, participants’ emotional brain activity decreased very quickly — within a second — when they referred to themselves in the third person. What’s more, using third person required no more brain effort than talking to yourself in the first person.
The second experiment had participants reflect on painful experiences from the their past using first and third person language. While they did this, their brain activity was measured using an MRI. The scans lined up with the results of the earlier experiment, participants displaying less activity in a brain region involved in painful reflection when using third person self-talk techniques.
Researchers cautioned that more research is needed to confirm their findings. There were just 37 participants in the first experiment and 52 in the second. Still, the way the results lined up was compelling.
“There are lots of important implications these findings have for our basic understanding of how self-control works, and for how to help people control their emotions in daily life,” said Michigan psychology professor Ethan Kross in the same news release.
In short, get talking. To yourself.
Own The Conversation
Ask The Big Question
Should I really be doing this in front of my coworkers?
Drop This Fact
Research has shown talking with yourself not only relieves loneliness but may also make you smarter. It helps clarify thoughts and firms up decision-making.