At some point or another, most of us have caught ourselves speaking out loud to, well, no one. But although you may think talking to yourself makes you look crazy, scientists say it could actually have some real benefits.

Previous research has shown that self-directed speech about a particular task can help kids focus on doing things like tying their shoes, so researcher Gary Lupyan, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wanted to know if the same was true for adults.

In one experiment, volunteers were shown 20 pictures of various objects and asked to look for a specific one, with half the participants told to repeatedly say the name of the item and the others told to remain silent.

The results showed self-directed speech actually helped people find objects a bit more quickly, but only if they were already familiar with what they were looking for. For example, saying “Coke” helped when looking for Coke, but saying the name of less common items actually slowed people down.

Lupyan said in the case of familiar items, saying their names “activates visual properties in the brain to help you find them,” adding, “The general take-home point is that language is not just a system of communication, but … can augment perception [and] thinking.”

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