Today I Learned That Not Everyone Has An Internal Monologue And It Has Ruined My Day.

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My day was completely ruined yesterday when I stumbled upon a fun fact that absolutely obliterated my mind. I saw this tweet yesterday that said that not everyone has an internal monologue in their head. All my life, I could hear my voice in my head and speak in full sentences as if I was talking out loud. I thought everyone experienced this, so I did not believe that it could be true at that time.

Literally the first person I asked was a classmate of mine who said that she can not “hear” her voice in her mind. I asked her if she could have a conversation with herself in her head and she looked at me funny like I was the weird one in this situation. So I began to become more intrigued. Most people I asked said that they have this internal monologue that is running rampant throughout the day. However, every once in a while, someone would say that they don’t experience this.  

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My life began to slowly spiral out of control with millions of questions. How do they get through the day? How do they read? How do they make decisions between choice A and choice B? My friend described it as “concept maps” that she sees in her brain. Another friend says that she literally sees the words in her head if she is trying to think about something. I was taking ibuprofen at this point in the day because my brain was literally unable to comprehend this revelation. How have I made it 25 years in life without realizing that people don’t think like me? 

NoUkL6drTiahwkMY0qqBJQ_thumb_13d6.jpgI posted a poll on instagram to get a more accurate assessment of the situation. Currently 91 people have responded that they have an internal monologue and 18 people reported that they do not have this. I began asking those people questions about the things that they experience and it is quite different from the majority.

I would tell them that I could look at myself in the mirror and have a full blown telepathic conversation with myself without opening my mouth and they responded as if I had schizophrenia. One person even mentioned that when they do voice overs in movies of people’s thoughts, they “wished that it was real.”

gfva7cPSQEGZvIHGIM0vlg_thumb_13e5And to their surprise, they did not know that the majority of people do in fact experience that echoey voice in their head that is portrayed in TV and film. Another person said that if they tried to have a conversation with themselves in the mirror, they would have to speak out loud because they can’t physically do it inside of their mind. 

 I started posting screenshots of these conversations on my instagram and my inbox started UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_13e2to flood with people responding to my “investigation.” Many people were reassuring me that I was not crazy for having an internal monologue, while others were as absolutely mind blown as I was. People were telling me that I ruined their day and that they now do not understand anything about life. Maybe you are all just a figment of my imagination, but regardless, yesterday made reality seem even more skewed. 

How do they think? How does this affect their relationships, jobs, experiences, education? How has this not been mentioned to me before? All of these questions started flooding my mind. Can those people without the internal monologue even formulate these questions in their mind? If they can, how does it happen if they don’t “hear” their voice? I mentioned earlier that I was spiraling out of control. Well, as I write this and as I hear my own voice in my head, I am continuing to fall down the rabbit hole. 

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Whether people just have different definitions of their thoughts, or if people literally don’t have an internal monologue, there is one thing that we do know… you will definitely get a headache if you keep thinking about this. Just trying to wrap my head around it is causing irreversible brain damage. I suggest asking people around you what they experience. If you are one of the few that do not have this internal monologue, please enlighten me, because I still do not understand life anymore. Send help.

@RyanLangdon_

 

2,450 thoughts on “Today I Learned That Not Everyone Has An Internal Monologue And It Has Ruined My Day.

  1. Pingback: Most of us have an inner voice, but if you’re part of the minority who doesn’t, this could be why – This Could Be Your Magazine Website

  2. This is extremely interesting. I have multiple ways of conversing with myself. I have internal dialogue at times but other times the words don’t come to me and I need to talk aloud to myself. Sometimes it’s a series of visual pictures or scenes that I need to play out, but I never just see a word. I think it has to do with having a more scattered brain, it doesn’t think in 1 way. Interesting to read everyone’s comments!

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    • I am like this as well. I’ll drive my husband bonkers because I’ll say something out loud making him think I’m speaking to him when I’m actually just thinking out loud. And I as well am a bit scattered brain.

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  3. interestingly this topic came up in an acting class many years ago..and since then I think that pictures are still there its just that words or reassuring sound of the words overlays. The tutor called it a ‘running commentary’ and also asked the girl who brought it up if they grew up in alot of fear…she said yes. I did too. Now I’m not saying it applies to everyone…how would I even know, but i am just wondering. I also think one can look for the pictures behind the words and learn to think more in pictures. They are there. Interesting that some people have a bit of both. Visualizing things is quicker, more healthy even? I’d like to think we all have this ability. Maybe just something we need to focus on, to improve a bit? I believe it has helped me be more creative and get more things done too.

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    • People who visualize well, or think in pictures, are typically right brained. These people are less likely to have Internal running commentary Because they think in pictures, not words. Turn left at McDonalds, then right at the Walgreens. They make brain maps. They tend to be more creative.

      People with running commentary tend to lean toward the left brained side of the spectrum and typically think in words. Hence the commentary. These people think more linearly. Turn left on Elm Street, go a half mile, then right on Main Street. Or the dreaded “head east “.

      For more on this topic, read Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World by Jeffrey Freed.

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      • I’m completely the opposite. I tend to need directions like “turn towards the McDonald’s” but I have a very active internal monologue. My Husbunny would crack up if anyone told him that I think in a linear fashion. LOL I’m going to read the book you suggested, sounds quite interesting! – Kae

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      • I’m not sure about the right brain/left brain theory. I have a constant running commentary in my head but would never think of directions in terms of “go a half mile” or “head East.” I can definitely think in terms of “Turn right at Main Street” if I’m headed to an unfamiliar area and I’ve had to look up directions on a map first (but even then I’ve most likely done a Google street view and have looked for some building or other landmark that I’ll see before I reach Main Street) , but if it’s an often-traveled route, I’m definitely looking to “turn right at Pizza Hut, pass the thrift store, go over the railroad tracks, turn left by the mural,” etc. I am a writer and have a creative, artistic side and also see fiction books like a movie – even sometimes segments of books popping into my head throughout the day and I have to remind myself that wasn’t real but rather in a book – but that inner monologue is ever-present.

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  4. Pingback: A viral article has split us into two different ways of thinking. This is the science behind it – Totally news

  5. About this whole “internal monologue” thing: no-one seems to be looking at the aspect of groundedness, or presence. When you’re totally present, no thought can arise. You just react as you will, without any internal dialogue or monologue coming into it at all.

    Let’s say something smashes the window right next to you. In instant of the sudden shock, you don’t immediately start an internal monologue. That may happen a few seconds later, but at first there is only your full and present sensory attention. In the same way, a beautiful scene in nature, a magnificent sunset, may bring us for a few seconds into a state of total presence. There are no thoughts, no monologue for that brief interval.

    A thought is always connected with the past or future. In the immediate present, thought cannot find a foothold. If we’re able to practice presence, able to become more aware of the constant immediacy of the present moment experience, we may be able to move beyond the constant internal monologue situation, and into “flow” – that is, into just doing what we do as it unfolds, without the need to stand outside of it and think about it.

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      • It would be less like a machine and more… Animalistic. Not barbaric really, just.. reaction. We don’t have as much fears as we once did for our physical safety as we had way back in the day. We think for longevity, learning from the past to make the future better. But this day in age, we learn more lessons from bullies than predators.
        But the concept of presence could be illuminating… what is the better approach? Being in the present, to say what you think and react accordingly – or to have a complicated thought process before ultimately making a decision? Can we do both? Do we?

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    • In order for presence.. thoughts still ‘can’ arise, don’t they? It’s more of…understanding that you have a thought, accepting it, and ultimately letting it pass on as having run its course. (?) Maybe I’m practicing incorrectly

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    • This is non dual hogwash. This is not something to be idealized. Many of the people who have this sorrowfully wish that they could feel their inner life as normal people could. You have been reading too much Eckhart Tolle. He is dissociated and disconnected from his humanity.

      To anyone who has this sort of brain, I love you and hope the best for you.

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    • Perhaps (western style) prayer is the sort of intentional internal monologue that differentiates between some of these ways of thinking. You are “talking”… silently… to someone/something not physically present… Sort of like Bob Newhart’s one-sided telephone conversations… but anyway, you’ve “externalized” a silent partner to “speak” to. I dunno. Confusing.

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    • Wordless prayer is an old theological standard. I think there have been many people who think without words, either visually or (in my case) in abstracted …ummm… meanings or in other ways, who can link concepts in mind-space and push the totality of the linkage outwards with yearning. Or sort of plop it down into the metaphorical arms of the gods metaphorically in front of one, this lot being up to them now.

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  6. I do have a constant inner narrative, but can’t talk directly with myself in my head, so my mind has to make up someone to talk with 😀 Most of the time it’s an actual person that I know in real life, or someone I don’t but anyway I can imagine the way they would answer. For discussing problematic things I prefer to “turn to” someone who would be likely to have a wise word for me (a well-known scientist, or the Dalai Lama or similar) and quite often this thought process brings very surprising and satisfying results :O

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    • At times I’ve counted numbers is my head. I think that is having some OCD. Other times I find myself , my head with chatter or thoughts in repetition that is mean less junk. Then I think… why am I even thinking about this. It’s useless and UN meaningful. Idk if sometimes the mind has to stay busy?
      Most of the time I think about my day and plan it out in my head, the things I want to accomplish. Or think about family, like what they are doing or what they may be going through. At night sometimes “stuff” or “ junk” repeats in my mind that keeps me awake and serves no real purpose. I can that anxiety.
      I’m interested in this as I also thought all people heard in their minds.

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  7. I didn’t read all 2000+ comments, but has anyone yet asked and responded to this question: How does one without the internal voice pray? For me the inner-monologue type, at my very best, I am speaking to God in my mind while simultaneously envisioning myself in His Presence. At my worst, I am praying a repetitive prayer like the Rosary – repeating 50 Hail Mary’s either out loud or IN MY HEAD WHILE thinking about what I should cook for dinner (or worse). I wonder if there is something to be learned here in praying “from the heart” and not with just words.

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    • I do not have an internal monologue at all, and for me, when I pray I see like a movie of myself with my higher power in my mind’s eye.. I see it and feel it. But no actual words are spoken. It’s like I’m thinking of the feeling that I’m having and relating a message about what I want, need, or am grateful for through telepathy but without any kind of language. Sometimes, I say the words out loud to myself, but never just silently in my mind.. I can’t… Often the things I see when I pray bring goosebumps to my entire body, as my feelings during thought are always very strong, and praying is a powerful thing! I also re-live experiences over and over again like I’m right back there. Arguably not a healthy thing to do, but I can see what I saw, hear what I heard and feel everything I felt all over again.. makes it very hard to let go of people you love if trying to move on from a special relationship lol

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      • My memories work the same way. You’re the first person I have ever came across that does also. When im telling someone about a memory. They’ve told me they can see in my face im their again. It doesn’t matter if it was 30 years ago. I didnt even know i had that memory. First time it has come up. My mind is pictures, complex built scenerios for troubleshooting outcomes. I say complex, because i will even attach the potential emotions for different versions of the dialogue. I feel those emotions as if its really happening. Even the memories of the scenerio ill refeel the emotion like a real memory. Its hard to explain. I have give or take 4 to 5 constant flows of images no stop. I have no control over what they are. Their determined by emotional, physical, all the senses. Triggers i never know what im going to see. Then theyll trigger off each other. I just let it run. Someone can ask me a question about something that i have no knowledge base of. As im saying “f*** bro i got nothing on that lol!” Suddenly im getting images of something that sounds like it (fyi sounds like was not an error on top the images i have constant dialogue multiple dialogues) would be in that field of what they’re looking for. I’ll tell them “i dont even sounds right look up etc… On google. It shouldnt be right. because there is absolutely no reason why i should have that knowledge. I cant even think of a single time i could have acquired it unintentionally in passing.” It will turn out to be spot on. I used to try to fight it and control it. I figured out its faster more accurate and most of the time its right. Which frees me up to work on other things. I know this poor description. My whole life ive never even tried to explain it. No one is going to understand it and then the schizophrenia talk starts coming out. When life gets stressful it takes me down a dark path. I dont have any more control in that dark as tunnel as i do when everythings good. I cant pull myself out of it no one else can pull out of it. Just have to ride it all out until either i come up with a solution or i exhaust all possible paths outcomes and and scenerios. The only way to get out usually is to remove whatever person or thing that its about. From the role they occupy in your life. Which renders the over analyzing and what if tunnel of darkness obsolute. You cant explain to anyone whats bothering you or what your even thinking about. There is no way to get the information from your mind to any form of communication quick enough or even that would make sense. My favorite is “well just gotta worrying about!” “Its not good for you.” They cant fathom that you have no control. I battled it non stop my entire life. Every telling me there was something seriously wrong with my thought processes and emotional responses. I needed professional help. I was very aware that its not like everyone elses. Its negatively affecting my life. I was miserable and felt trapped and tortured almost all the time in my own head 24/7. A professional wasnt even an option for me because i cant get express it in anyway that anyone could understand. I was my own worst enemy and mean bully at that. Two suicide attempts. I just wanted some peace. The bully in my head had a hayday with that. “Cant even do that right”. Lol. I tried medication it didn’t have any effect. About three years ago i was dating someone who was on some medication i had never tried. Things were rough. So itried them they worked took 2 days of taking 1 a day. I took them for a few weeks. To me if that was how everyone elses brains operate “normal”. “Well it explains alot of the ignorance. I never could understand lol.” They were telling the truth. When they said they didnt think of that, or didnt notice that, or you asked them what they were thinling about and they said nothing. Which you thought was impossible. Turns out they meant it.” I couldn’t do any deep thinking or just thinking of some to think about i could come up blank. Unless something handed to me to think about. It was like sitting in an abandoned factory. After two weeks i decided being normal way worse. I would rather be miserable and the way i was. So i stopped taking them. I was really scared it was irreversible it wouldnt come back. As insane as that sounds. Then last year i dont know what the trigger what it was but suddenly it was like a wall came down and someone added an additional massive faster processor. I didnt get into those what if scenerio loops anymore or i would realize it and it didnt consume me. I could walk away from it. It was like i had been living in a flooded dark closet my whole life and someone opened the door. Im still mind blown about the difference and i dont know what the trigger was because i wasnt trying to do anything but survive i didn’t know there was a possibility of anything else or any other way. Since then ive been peeling back layer and layer of my own inter working and societies accepted excuses and things that are accepted as fact. They actually are just bs. No one thinks about them. Or why its done that way. Or why they are responding to things the way they do. Its like they have blinders on. As soon as you get them to either say it outload to themselves really slow or break it down for them its like someone pulled the blind fold off and they cant believe it never even registered to them. Cause its so obvious. Everytime i catch myself in one of those traps. I start breaking it down. To its core purpose and origin how it probably got started. Alot of them have no purpose or reason anymore. Other than its rude if you dont do it. In reality nothing about it is rude in any way. Someone said it one day and people followed along. Still are. Some of it is completely made up. Without it though the human race would have never made it. It is driving the whole species and it is no more real than a flux capacitor. Lol. Ok im out. Welcome to my world! Have fun with it. The level of peace and clarity im at mentally and understanding of who and what i am and if something someone says can further my knowledge i entertain every idea.

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      • DoctorWho – FWIW you have described mental states which are very familiar to me. Revisiting memories like they were 1st person experiences. Following hypothetical cause/effect chain reactions from a known start point to foresee it’s ultimate ending point well before it comes to be. The dark place when people take you for granted, unable to appreciate what could be, unable to see the future you see or even stay engaged in the present, choosing instead to chase after the shiny objects they hate being so attracted to. Being utterly consumed trying to understand why people do the stupid shit they do, waiting for the attention you’ve wasted on them to finally turn toward something else.

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  8. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse. I don’t hear sounds in my head, not even when I am trying to remember a song, I also can’t imagine images so there are no pictures in there either. I often joke when someone asks what I’m thinking about that there’s nothing going on upstairs, just blank.

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    • I was talking about this with my 16 yr old son and 15 yr old daughter last night, and my son said the same thing. He said when he’s thinking to himself before he speaks he literally sees like a sentence move across a wall in a black room.. he described his mind as a black hole and said that’s why silence makes him nuts, cause it’s like being in a dark, black room in dead silence with no pictures or sounds.. so he needs the radio on while he’s falling asleep! He did say he can sort of reimagine past experiences but it’s always very vague and details do not appear in movies or pictures so much as words somehow still.. which I have a very hard time imagining because I think in ‘movies’ and feelings

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      • How does he experience memories? If someone asked him about a trip he took, for example, can he not visualize the places he went? This is fascinating.

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    • Ella I’m the same
      I can’t visualise anything, i can’t hear anything, smell anything in my head.
      It’s just quiet and nothingness.

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      • I feel I am the same way ie no visualization or hearing. But for example, right now I can think exactly of what I want to say without mouthing or hearing the words. It just appears when I type. Another example, over the holiday I took a vacation back home. When I arrived it was late the air was cold, it was a cloudy night. I remember the bright lights on the dark roads to my friend’s house. I remember the layout of his house and could draw it. I could probably also find his house without using a map (I usually only need to be shown how to get somewhere once) I remember what his dogs looks like. I remember meeting his fiance for the first time and what his face looks like, but I don’t “see” any of those things in my mind. There’s no movie. It’s blank with no “audible” sound. Again, it just is. It’s there and I know. I don’t know how I explain it past that.

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  9. It was an interesting reaction piece, and an interesting interview. Thanks.
    Taking up the point that the interviewee reads while moving her lips, and talks aloud to process thoughts in words, some reader may find this of interest:
    Many slow readers have to move their lips, or at least subvocalize (as I do when typing, with tiny twitches of the speech muscles) and link the words with their mental concepts as a separate link via the word’s physical action. It sounds as though this is so in her case. It also seems that her concept storage can be accessed and manipulated nonverbally., and linked to words as a separate process.(She knows the shape of what she wants to say, but not what the sentences will be.) I wonder whether the concepts “feel” like words to her?

    Some very fast readers (my case) get faster than auditory processing speeds by disconnecting the vocal movement centers from the reading process. With much reading in this form, I started reading directly to the mental concept. (I have to switch back to subvocalization to “get” poetry.) It is very interesting when an author drops in a malapropism, as the error correction starts witb a mismatch of received vs expected concept. I know it is not skim-reading, as minor punctuation errors and typos are detected by some part of the process, which also drops in suggestions of better ways to sequence and word the piece.
    Possibly as a result, much of my thinking is in abstract (non-speech, image, or sound) concepts, mental representation of physical feelings and actions, and logical linkages. When I am thinking for communicating, the linkages include meaning-groups and sound-groups which some process whittles down to make word-choice. I think it made second language learning easier for me than for those who access and process meaning through the physical representation. I can use internal monologue when I choose, but it is just me, even when I take all sides of a complex debate. What I can nearly never do is visualize: I am nearly aphantasic, and was surprised to lean that people cansummon images, and have memories like movies or being there again. (Explained why I had trouble drawing until a teacher of teachers gave us the physical thing to draw!)

    A database, financial processing, and site back-end design IT engineer I know (Footnote: He says he can think in words when he chooses, but I know he had to translate from nonverbal thinking to his first language as a school child. He was known to have concepts before a word was available to express it.) says that in his work he also thinks non-verbally, in multidimensional linkages of concepts and interlocking processes. We both say these can’t really be called mind-maps, as experience shows that it is not really possible to put 4-or-more-dimensional processes onto the 2-D paper surface. A professor of higher mathematics, working in N-dimensional shapes, similarly did much of his work in pure concept and process linkages.

    So it’s not just physical matters which can be – or even are best – thought about nonverbally.

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    • This is the comment that I can most relate to. I also do not verbalize in my thoughts. Although I describe it more like images or sybols in my brain. I don’t “think” words. Not sure what that says about me. Just the way I am.

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      • Me too!!! When I read abstract things are built simultaneously rather than my voice reading in my head. When I analyze things (management consultant), I “see” concepts, interconnections, and process in my head. I think in abstract things like symbols, images, concepts, feelings more than in words… perhaps this has to do more with introversion vs extroversion? It would be interesting to match personality type (eh. mbti… im INTJ) with how ppl think/ process.

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    • Grace, I don’t think the introvert/extrovert theory will pan out. I’ve always joked that my daughter is a “people person on steroids” – she can remember every detail about someone she only spent a few minutes with – and I mean, she remembers five years later! She has to have people around all the time, and when she does, she just seems to absorb every detail about them. Even when she was small, her pretend time would consist of intricate stories that linked her various stuffed animals or dolls. Even they had to have complex relationships – LOL. But, that being said, she does have the inner dialogue going, can read and pray silently, think things through in “mental words,” etc.

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      • Jae, that sounds like a form of “superior biographical memory”. I have a friend like this, she learned young that it freaks people out that she remembers every detail of their interactions, when they might not even remember meeting her.

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  10. Subvocalization is the official term for silent, internal speech. There is research on the topic, much of it within the study of Linguistics and Cognitive Science. The Oxford Book of Reading discusses subvocalization in some depth as it pertains to reading and linguistics.
    I am often told that I am an audible processor, as others observe I think and read out loud rather than internally. However, most people don’t know that I DO process and speak internally. It seems I use both methods. This is curious and confusing for me when I hear people say they do one or the other. I am able to choose which process method I use, and i use them for different purposes. I imagine there are more people who process like me, i just don’t know it yet! I would be curious to know more about this topic.
    What percentage of people use inner versus outer thinking/speech? What percentage of people can access and use both methods? Is the choice between the two random or intentional? If intentional, why does an individual choose inner or outer? and does this selection increase the success of whatever task it is applied to?
    So much to ponder. 🙂

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    • I do use inner and outer speech when reading. I use inner more, however when using outer it seems it is when I really want to be sure to understand or remember what I’m reading.

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    • I believe I use both depending on the situation like when something initially happens around me I’m in the moment and react without and internal dialogue and then later will internalize it and process the action in my head of what I just did or happened shortly after but I believe it’s helpful to be able to do both live in the moment and not always process things over and over but also be able to read and watch the book in your head like a movie is why I love to read!! It all seems to depend on my state of mind which process my brain is using I hope someone can relate to my perception on this concept. If you can please let me know!! It would be greatly appreciated 😊

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      • I totally relate, and I think you’re right. You first experience something, then later you can go over the experience and potentially learn from it. I wonder if people can’t assess something mentally, are they required to have a conversation with another person to explore an experience and take away something from it?

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      • I TOTALLY agree. Here’s my review from earlier.

        Often, with abstract concepts, I can identify the thought’s point of origin, but in my head I need to articulate to myself before I can fully understand it. It’s like an input, a primary output, and then a secondary output. Within myself, what I’m trying to understand is kind of “input,” and the vague thought reaction I have is the “primary output.” In order to understand the whole equation, however, I need the “secondary output” which identifies itself as my internal monologue.

        I agree that it’s not constant, however for me it is very nearly omnipresent. Thinking in the moment usually involves me speaking to myself extremely quickly. I usually omit punctuation, however, when I am stressed or need to think quickly.

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  11. I do both. Monologue guided by internal, vague notions of ideas that lead from one to the other and may manifest visually or in sound — like a dance of cognitive content where the monologue acts as a grounding element. This sort of shit is hard to communicate. Half the time my verbalisation is so abstract that people dismiss me as up in the clouds.

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    • I feel like Im the same way. Who the fuck knows now though…my mind is spazzing out since I just discovered that not everyone has an inner voice. While typing this, I do not have any visualization or anything else going on in my head other than the sound of my inner voice speaking the words I am typing. But yes I do visualize scenarios or even make them up in my head at times….I also replay conversations or images in my mind. But replaying conversations I use my inner voice to speak it along with the actual visual memory of the moment taking place. If the thought or memory has no conversation to it, then I just see it. Also, I had another thought about reading. For example…while reading a book or anything, particularly that I am disinterested in, I will be reading with my inner voice but will veer off onto a thought about something else and start thinking about that. Like what i am going to eat for dinner or something else random. I then have to go back over what I was reading, shut off all other thoughts and read it again only focusing on what I’m reading to know what it said. Anyways…my brain is exhausted now lol I have literally sat on my phone researching about this for 3 hours now. I need to stop!!!

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      • Gotta love that moment when you realize you haven’t been paying attention to what you are reading, while being more engaged with the things playing out in your mind, then trying to figure out how far back you have to go to find where you stopped paying attention. I recall a few occasions when I had to go back and re-read the same couple of pages 2-3-4 times because it was so disinteresting or I was so internally distracted by something else.

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    • Asked my non-monologue friend and meditation seems ridiculous to her. Sitting in silence just leaves her with lists of things she needs to do or plans she’s making tomorrow. She also doesn’t day dream, so quieting her mind doesn’t bring her peace, it just increases her anxiety to do something.

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      • If she’s getting lists and planning her day whenever it’s silent, I’d say that she probably falls more on the “monologue” side. When I’m in silence, there’s nothing (or if there’s anything, it’s just a repetitive (usually strange sounding) phrase or small snippet of song lyrics. Just on repeat.. Over and over. But besides that, there’s basically nothing at all. No lists, no planning, no wondering about what’s going to happen tomorrow or reminiscing about what happened yesterday.

        If I want to do any of those things, it takes a conscious effort (imagine the effort you put towards solving an algebra problem or reading some technical literature). So as a result, that kind of thinking/monologue requires effort, so I simply don’t default to that. Sort of like how you walk naturally when you want to get from point a to point b.. You could run instead, but it would take more effort.

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  12. Pingback: What We're Reading | Financial Chickens

  13. For me the key is about control – I can have monologue within my brain whenever I want to think about something… & when I don’t want it I simply am “peace & quiet”.
    It’s like using any part of your body… when I want to talk I use my mouth/ tongue/ voice… when I ‘m quiet they are all there sitting quietly with me.

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  14. Well how do animals think? They have no language, but on some level, they certainly have mental processes which are more or less analogous to (nonverbal) thoughts. There likely has to be a continuum throughout the animal kingdom, probably having something to do with brain size or location along the evolutionary “path” (i.e. reptilian vs. mammalian brains (which have reptilian and other precursor-brain regions)). Humans would be no different… (This is of course not to suggest that one thinking style is “superior” to another)

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  17. I’ve known for a while that my brain works in two different ways. Input and output. Normally I’m thinking. And I’m probably thinking in words. Sometimes when I’m tired, I have to narrate what I have to do. So that I can know what I have to do. Just because I’m really tired.
    But what I want to fall asleep Then I have to stop the output of my brain. So I have to what I do these days is listen to episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. . Generally if I’m reading or if I’m watching TV, I might fall asleep. Because my brain is on input mode. If it’s something I’ve heard a thousand times. Then my brain starts to wander and I start thinking and that I won’t fall asleep. And I didn’t think of this until you mentioned sleep. But it’s definitely the input mode and the output mode. And only one of those will give me sleep. And if I’m not tired. Neither one will

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  18. Aphantasia, is the condition where you can’t visualize scenes in your mind at all….

    Can you see the face in reverse in the “rotating mask” visual trick ?

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  19. I have internal monologues. I can also stop it and get into abstract mode. Reading this article made me wonder why its so big deal. Since my school days I knew that my thoughts are different then most other people. Because output of the “Monologues” / “Abstract” that I got were way outside the box for most people.

    When I am with other people, conversing, discussing, brain storming, etc. – my internal monologues take over.
    When I am reading, playing games, or generally by my self – my abstract thoughts take over.

    I can generally switch between them too. Its no big deal really. Although I prefer the “Abstract” more since its usually faster than the monologues (aka full sentences).

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  20. I haven’t heard any mention to why some people have an internal monologue while others do not, so I’ll throw one out there with the caveat that many see MBTI as “junk psychology” as it’s difficult to type people. That said, sensing types (xSxx) are those without monologues while initiatives (xNxx) are those with this internal monologue.

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  21. i think we all have conversation in our head! and those 18 people just dont realise it. I believe you need a guru of mind master to not have conversation in your head and just keep calm. Or maybe, some take those voices personally. some just watch it talking like they watch football

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    • That’s a bit closed minded don’t you think? You experience something a certain way and your response to the idea that other people think differently is “no, they don’t think the way they think they do.. They think the same way as me and just don’t realize it.”

      Lets look at the opposing point.. I don’t have an inner monologue.. As such, I’m convinced that you don’t have one either. You may think you do, but you’re wrong. You need a guru to teach you that the monologue you hear doesn’t actually exist.

      Are you as convinced by my argument as you are by yours? Why or why not?

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  22. This is mind blowing. I thought everybody monologued in their head.
    I wonder how many great Authors monologue ? Does it mean we identify emotions differently ? Is it genetics, evolution, or raised ?
    This is fascinating to know for the future. I don’t think this is so much in psychology though. Who tweeted it and how did they get the fact ?
    So many questions I can ask myself and answer. But how correct is the answer that I’m monologing internally ?
    Thinking should be like a 7th sense but it’s not because not all human brains talk.
    Awesome info ty 😊

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  25. Many Jewish people are incapable of visual thoughts. It comes from either genetics or from our Talmudic traditions against graven images. As a Jew, I cannot think in pictures. I spend all day verbally scheming with myself. In fact, I find visual thinkers repulsive and proto-fascist.

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    • People who think visually are proto fascists??? What are you talking about? That doesn’t even make a single bit of sense..

      Definition of protofascism
      : a political movement or program tending toward or imitating fascism

      How on earth do you view “people who think visually” as some kind of political movement??

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  26. You will have an even worse day when you start thinking of how multilingual people deal with internal voices, and how the internal voice’s language can alter the thought process.
    Myself I speak 5 languages and have noticed that I get different results of my inner voice when forcing it to change to another language.
    I have no idea why, my only hypothesis is that different languages shape the reality in a different way.

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    • Ha! When I was living in France as a teenager and hardly spoke any french, my inner monologue starting talking to me like a toddler – literally in the sentence fragments I could actually say in French. It was the weirdest experience and made me wonder if I had suddenly become really stupid (I hadn’t – once I was home and speaking english again for a few weeks my inner monologue switched back to all english all of the time). Sometimes it would just randomly say words in french at me, or phrases that I had heard that day. In retrospect, it was crazy and very entertaining.

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  27. Maybe those that don’t have internal monologue are just so busy that they don’t have time for themself, I usually have internal conversation when I don’t do anything and I’m trying to fall a sleep, but I also have voice in my head when I’m reading (so I read slow). I can also stop the monologue, if I’m trying. You need to do some effort but it’s doable, this is calling meditation.

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  28. Pingback: “Non tutti hanno una voce interiore che accompagna i loro pensieri” [En] – hookii

  29. That’s an interesting revelation there. I guess I always assumed everyone did this, too, but the older I get, the more I realize that we know so little. Haha. I do have the internal monologue and I’m glad that I do. I may try to write a character that does not. Now that would be a writing challenge. Haha. Thanks for sharing!

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  30. I have a question: When people hear this voice of their internal monologue is it literally like hearing a recording of the sound of your actual voice?

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      • Really, I find it to be an internal sound, not really one that is audible, but has the quality of my voice as I perceive it when I am talking. If I am conversing with someone, my monologue continues to narrate my thoughts. For example, when someone interrupts you, do you stop thinking altogether? Similarly, if I am in a position where I need to think or act quickly, I can partially “read” the words within my brain, instead of speaking them to myself as I speak them aloud.

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      • thanks evans, because you hear it with a different part of your brain than the part you use when you hear through the ears.. no doubt.
        Can you expand on what you mean, you can partially ‘read’ the words within your brain instead of speaking them to yourself?

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    • Part of my reason for asking is, how does it switch on and switch off?
      If you are hearing this voice and someone interrupts you by taking to you, does it stop, or keep going?

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      • You don’t have to distinguish between yourself and the voice, because the voice is coming from you.

        If I touch something that is hot, I experience the temperature and I might or might not say internally, “Damn, that’s hot!” Or I might say it out loud. There’s no difference.

        “How can people ‘speak’ to themselves without thinking first? Speaking to oneself silently IS thinking.

        With some people, there are different forms of thought, only one of which is verbal. So with abstract concepts wouldn’t involve words, but they could accompany it to form conclusions, to pose hypothetical situations, to setup a scenario and see how it plays out (perhaps visually). I might look at the sharp corner of a coffee table, then get a visual animation of a child running through the room, tripping, and hitting their head on the corner, then verbally think, “someone should invent a thick foam cover those corners” then I might imagine what such a cover would look like, then think of abstract things of what it would take to manufacture, market, and distribute such a thing. Then someone might ask, “What are you thinking about?” and I might respond, “I think we should get a different coffee table.”

        Is the voice like an audio recording? No. Our actual voices have a lot of changes in pitch. The internal one seems to be fairly constant in tone. It’s not actually audible, and thus it doesn’t prevent you from hearing actual voices when other people are talking.

        If you were telling me about your trip to Tibet, I might think, “Wow! This is fascinating” but I don’t say it out loud yet because I’m listening to your tale and don’t want to interrupt. But then when it’s appropriate to respond, I might say, “That sounds like a totally awesome experience! Did you take pictures?”

        How does it switch on and off? That’s an interesting question because as far as I know, most people don’t know how to turn it off. One example of this is when it’s in the form of a song playing over and over. Also, haven’t you ever seen the memes about a person who’s really tired but when they go to bed, they can’t sleep because their mind is engaged in wondering about stupid things?

        I wonder what people without an internal voice think thought bubbles are in cartoons or memes. What do they think a voiceover is in a movie where we hear what a character is thinking in their audible voice, but their lips aren’t moving. Like a scene where a person is sitting on a bus and someone is coming toward them and we hear their voice going, “Don’t sit by me! Don’t sit by me! Please don’t sit by me” then the stranger asks, “Mind if I sit here?” and the person responds, “Sure” and moves their purse out of the way.” There’s often a dramatic difference between what a person’s inner monologue versus their outer dialogue. I thought of writing a short story once to illustrate the contrast between what we think and what we say.

        Bob: Hey! Good morning! So, how was your weekend?
        Me: [Who really gives a fuck?] Great! How was yours?
        Bob: The wife and I went to the Carlsbad Caves. It was amazing! We went on guided tour and they took us down these ladders, and then we…
        Me: [I have a ton of shit to get done and now I’m stuck in front of the elevator listening to how Bob explored a cave.]
        Bob: …drove all around Carlsbad and looked at some houses, thinking about possibly retiring there. Did you know the population is only…
        Me: Oh, hey! I’ve got a conference call I have to get on right away.
        Bob: Oh, sorry. Yeah, go ahead. We’ll catch up later.
        Me: [I hope not.] That’ll be great. Awesome weekend, Bob! See ya! [Why can’t be just say ‘Good morning’ and leave it at that?]

        Liked by 1 person

      • thanks Edward. “Speaking to oneself silently IS thinking” – wow, that’s such a challenging concept to get my head around, but I actually enjoy contemplating why it appears as a contradiction to me. (maybe I am just sick, ha).

        Like

      • “It’s not actually audible, and thus it doesn’t prevent you from hearing actual voices when other people are talking.” – that seems miraculous to me, since I dont have the internal audio. Wow, I wonder how or why variations in the way people experience this exist in the first place, how it evolved and if there are other personality traits that go along with having an audible monologue or not (eg. does one or the other mean a person is more creative, or practical (since you sound logical in regards to the table issue etc.),… left wing or right wing politically.. likely or less likely to be religious…etc.. ?

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      • When you do this below, do you sometimes tune out of what the other person is saying because you are waiting to cut in with what the inner monologue wanted you to say?
        “If you were telling me about your trip to Tibet, I might think, “Wow! This is fascinating” but I don’t say it out loud yet because I’m listening to your tale and don’t want to interrupt. But then when it’s appropriate to respond, I might say, “That sounds like a totally awesome experience! Did you take pictures?”

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      • Does this mean you have an inner monologue when you dream sleep too?:
        “How does it switch on and off? That’s an interesting question because as far as I know, most people don’t know how to turn it off. One example of this is when it’s in the form of a song playing over and over. Also, haven’t you ever seen the memes about a person who’s really tired but when they go to bed, they can’t sleep because their mind is engaged in wondering about stupid things?

        Like

      • That is very entertaining to read actually ! ha. Yes. Definitely do that. I’d read it:

        There’s often a dramatic difference between what a person’s inner monologue versus their outer dialogue. I thought of writing a short story once to illustrate the contrast between what we think and what we say.

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  31. Also, for those who hear an inner monologue; how do you distinguish between ‘you’ and the ‘voice’ and the actual ‘thought’ eg. the point of origin? For me, any monologue voice would have to be secondary, not the primary experience of consciousness.

    For example, the advice we hear growing up (which is seemingly absorbed as common-sense) is that we should think before we speak, so, how can people ‘speak’ to themselves without thinking first?

    How do you know that it is your thought that is driving the voice and not something or someone else?

    When you have to think hard about a specific problem, like math, or a difficult scenario, is there any point at which the level of thinking simply doesn’t have words and so the voice switches off?.. eg. to cover thinking about abstract concepts?

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    • Often, with abstract concepts, I can identify the thought’s point of origin, but in my head I need to articulate to myself before I can fully understand it. It’s like an input, a primary output, and then a secondary output. Within myself, what I’m trying to understand is kind of “input,” and the vague thought reaction I have is the “primary output.” In order to understand the whole equation, however, I need the “secondary output” which identifies itself as my internal monologue.

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  35. This sounds like a good example about how Intuitive and Sensor thinking people differ. And honestly in North America Sensors outnumber Intuitives a good 3:1, so I’m a bit surprised you haven’t come across this difference sooner.
    Do some digging in Myers Briggs Functions and with a good source it should create a good foundation to understand others from.

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  36. I wonder what sort of voice goes on in their head when they’re reading somebody else’s article. Or, when they’re reading a book. Do they hear that voice in her head when they’re going through the dialogue? I do. It’s hard for me to comprehend that someone might not

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  40. Ryan, you have blown my mind with this. As a writer, a stroke survivor with an acquired brain injury (so I understand the speech center in the brain) and a person whose BA degree is in mass communication with a digital media minor, I cannot even process a world without an internal monologue.

    I watched your video yesterday, just read the blog tonight, and I’m still sitting here thinking, “but how?!” Incredible! I always have words running through my mind, whether it’s me conversing with myself, thinking of my next move, or a word someone says suddenly making a song start playing in my mind, I always hear things.

    Your video sent me down another rabbit hole, aphantasia, and now I’m questioning “people really can’t see things in their minds?! How?” But it’s true! Some people really cannot imagine a picture in their minds, if you ask them to. It’s intriguing, and I thank you for sparking this discussion!

    The human brain is such a mystery and a marvel!

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  41. Hi! I came across your article and I am just mindblown. I though I was just one of those who use internal monologue a lot but I did not expect there would be people who don’t use it at all!!

    Can I suggest you look into their personality type, introvert or extrovert?
    It’s just that I feel like I use internal monologue to fill the social part of my being human (Idk how to express it better) And when I read this, first thing I though was that maybe that’s why my social and extroverted are just so good at talking, because instead of formulating the question/statement in their mind before speaking, they just say it. Just a though.

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    • I think that I also have both. So sometimes I have those bubbles of feelings I have to consciously express and sometimes thoughts just come and go. So that sometimes it’s hard to put it in words so others would understand what comes so naturally to me.

      Like

  42. Over a week ago, my sister and niece discussed this the night before at length and determined my niece doen’t hear herself but my sister and nephew do.
    At lunch the next day, they asked my mother if she can hear herself and she said no. I indicated I don’t either. They proceeded to ask my mom and I questions and every time it was similar to the answers in this article. My nephew was astonished, he kept saying ‘How do you live!!!! How do you live!!!!’
    Anyhow, I thought it was interesting that 3 family members and probably more don’t have an internal dialogue. We pretty much are astonished that not all people think like we do and that we are the minority and vice versa.

    Liked by 1 person

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