Arguing with yourself can be a highly productive exercise, a new study finds.
Imagining both sides of the argument helps people reach a deeper, more sophisticated understanding of the subject, the researchers found.
Ms Julia Zavala, the study’s first author, said:
“Envisioning opposing views leads to a more comprehensive examination of the issue.
Moreover, it impacts how people understand knowledge — constructing opposing views leads them to regard knowledge less as fact and more as information that can be scrutinized in a framework of alternatives and evidence.”
For the study, 60 students were told to write a 2-minute TV spot promoting one of a number of political candidates for office.
Beforehand, though, some were told to imagine a dialogue between two TV presenters discussing the candidates.
The results showed that imagining the dialogue led to more ideas included in the final assignment.
Students who engaged in a dialogue with themselves were more likely to:
- link problems and solutions,
- identify more criticisms of the opponent,
- and integrate different problems into a framework of understanding.
Professor Deanna Kuhn, study co-author, said:
“These results support our hypothesis that the dialogic task would lead to deeper, more comprehensive processing of the two positions and hence a richer representation of each and the differences between them.”
Arguing with yourself also created a more sophisticated understanding of the subject, a separate study showed.
Ms Zavala said:
“The dialogue task, which took no more than an hour to complete, appeared to have a strong effect on students’ epistemological understanding.”
Professor Kuhn concluded:
“Everything possible should be done to encourage and support genuine discourse on critical issues, but our findings suggest that the virtual form of interaction we examined may be a productive substitute, at a time when positions on an issue far too often lack the deep analysis to support them.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Zavala et al., 2017).