Arguing with yourself can be a highly productive exercise, a 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.”
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Zavala et al., 2017).