by Tory Wolk, blogger
We all go to our friends when we need to talk. We use them to listen to our problems, to bounce ideas off of, and simply to enjoy a conversation. The benefits of talking with a friend, though, depend on what kind of conversation you are having, according to a new study at the University of Michigan.
Talking to a friend for only 10 minutes about something casual, like going shopping or your favorite TV show, can boost your working memory and self-monitoring, thus enhancing your performance on cognitive tasks like problem-solving. This is the same kind of boost your brain gets when you try your hand at a crossword puzzle.
Researchers explained that when you interact with others you automatically put yourself in their shoes, thus improving brain performance.
In the study, 192 undergraduate students participated in an experiment. The students talked to one another about an assigned topic, and then tested to see how their performance was affected.
Even though casual conversation can improve some brain functions, other functions are not affected. No matter what social interactions you have, your general knowledge and the speed at which you process information will not change. The researchers also discovered that when the conversation revolves around some sort of competition, there are no extra benefits to the brain.
These results can be used to improve performance on certain tasks. Before a big test or a debate, chat with a friend. There is finally scientific proof that social interactions are not only fun, but actually help us think better.