Talking to Ourselves to Engage Control? Testing Developmental Relations Between Self-directed Speech, Cognitive Control and Talkativeness


Is self-directed speech critical to cognitive processes supporting complex, goal-directed behavior? If so, how? In this cross-sectional study of 86 5- to 7-year-old children we measured overt, partially covert, inner, and strategic speech on four cognitive tasks, along with task performance and child talkativeness. We did not find consistent evidence that self-directed speech changes with age; however, we did find consistent associations between self-directed speech and talkativeness. Partially covert and strategic speech predicted performance on one task, and inner speech was implicated on another. Self-directed speech tended to correlate across tasks, and these correlations held controlling for talkativeness. Taken together, these findings suggest 5- to 7-year-old children may use different forms of self-directed speech to support cognitive control, and that the form this speech takes depends in part on factors beyond age, such as the cognitive demands of a task and child characteristics like talkativeness.

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