Splitting of the Mind: When the You I Talk to is Me and Needs Commands

Ethan Zell, Amy Beth Warriner, Dolores Albarracín

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-talk has fascinated scholars for decades but has received little systematic research attention. Three studies examined the conditions under which people talk to themselves as if they are another person, indicating a splitting or fragmentation of the self. Fragmented self-talk, defined by the use of the second person, You, and the imperative, was specifically expected to arise in contexts requiring explicit self-control. Results showed that fragmented self-talk was most prevalent in response to situations requiring direct behavior regulation, such as negative events (Study 1), experiences of autonomy (Study 2), and action as opposed to behavior preparation or behavior evaluation (Study 3). Therefore, people refer to themselves as You and command themselves as if they are another person in situations requiring conscious self-guidance. The implications of these findings for behavior change are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-555
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012


  • control
  • language
  • self
  • self-regulation
  • self/identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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