For many of us, as you read this, you are hearing it in your head. This is what most would refer to as an inner monologue, but in case you didn’t know, a lot of people don’t have one.
Roughly 50-70% of people do not have one, according to psychology professor Russell Hurlburt. However, if you are one of the ones that do not, don’t despair, he teaches this at the University of Nevada. “I’m confident that inner speech is a robust phenomenon; if you use a proper method, there’s little doubt about whether or not inner speech is occurring at any given moment,” writes Hurlburt in an article published on Psychology Today.
“And I’m confident about the individual differences—some people talk to themselves a lot, some never, some occasionally.”
An inner monologue is what happens when we use language but do not use our mouths, put simply it is thinking and hearing yourself, without actually saying anything out loud.
Hurlburt concluded that only 30-50% of people had an inner monologue in a study that he carried out. Hurlburt took a sample of 30 students and then had them describe randomly selected experiences. “Five main characteristics emerged, each occurring in about a quarter of all samples (many samples had more than one characteristic). Three of those five characteristics may not surprise you: Inner speech occurred in about a quarter of all samples, inner seeing occurred in about a quarter of all samples, and feelings occurred in about a quarter of all samples.”
Additionally, he said that subjects only experienced talking inwardly to themselves 26% of the time. Some never experienced it.
Psychologists have long debated this topic, since the 1930s. However, after a viral Tweet, this phenomenon (and the lack thereof) came into public discourse.
just found out people dont have an inner monologue ??? i literally dont have peace and quiet up in here unless i meditate because im always narrating everything in my life and thinking ?!?!?!? YOU'RE TELLING ME PEOPLE DON'T ???
— christine (@semiworking) February 12, 2020
“Inner speech is the product of the default mode network or DMN of the brain,” explains Helene Brenner, a psychologist, and creator of the “My Inner Voice,” app. “It’s a network of different areas of the brain that become very active, all together, when we’re not engaged in doing anything task-oriented—when we’re just thinking or daydreaming. It turns out it never fully stops either—it just gets suppressed and more actively engaged we get.”
This begins in childhood, as we develop language skills. Research believes that those who lack aphantasia (the ability to visualize) are tied into a lack of inner monologue. However, there are many theories as to why- and more research is still currently being carried out. Do you have an inner monologue?