It’s not the first sign of madness after all: Scientists say talking to yourself is totally normal

It’s often said that the first sign of madness is talking to herself. However, according to a leading psychologist, it’s actually something we all do and it’s perfectly normal. Professor Molly Andrews, who works at the University of East London, said that people who chatted to themselves were not living in a fantasy world, but were escaping from the “dreariness” of day to day life.

She said that people talked to themselves all the time. The professor explained that humans are unique in the animal kingdom, in that we have an imagination. Far from being a source of madness, said the professor, imagining other scenarios and worlds, and even talking to ourselves about them, was all part of what it means to be human. She said that we could both be the author and the narrator in our own worlds.

Pretending

The professor was brought onto the Radio 4 programme Women’s Hour after a discussion on Mumsnet in which a forum user revealed that she pretended to be a bestselling author when she was on her own, even talking to herself about the scenario.

Immediately, the programme was met by responses from people who said they could totally relate to those who talked to themselves. One person writing on Twitter said that she always talked to herself, because it helped her to get her ideas straight in her own head.

Another added that talking to herself was the best way to get a sensible answer. Meanwhile, explorer Sarah Outen, who is often by herself for long periods of time said that rowing solo across oceans meant that she had got into the habit of talking to herself.

Professor Andrews said that we all often had a dynamic conversation with ourselves. While we might not always say it out loud, we used our imagination to think about counter positions and to play those out.