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People Are Shocked to Discover That Not Everyone Has an Inner Monologue

Does everyone have an inner monologue?

Photo: Stock Photos from vasabii/Shutterstock

Have you ever had a conversation with yourself, one that took place inside your head? If so, you are one of many that have an inner monologue—or inner voice—that narrates your thoughts throughout the day. But did you know that many people have no such inner dialogue? While that might seem strange to some, it's equally odd for someone who doesn't have an inner monologue to imagine how that manifests itself.

The topic of inner speech has caused a stir on Twitter after the user KylePlantEmoji  put out his own observation on the matter. “Fun fact: some people have an internal narrative and some don't,” he tweeted. “As in, some people's thoughts are like sentences they ‘hear', and some people just have abstract non-verbal thoughts, and have to consciously verbalize them And most people aren't aware of the other type of person.”

This caused strong reactions online, as people on both sides of the coin imagined what life would be like with or without their inner monologue. The phenomenon itself has been debated for years by scientists. Psychologists began looking into the function of inner speech in the 1930s. It was the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky who suggested that external conversation can become internalized. He even proposed that this inner speech was highly abbreviated and included a lot of omissions. The idea of external speech becoming internalized is also supported by evidence that it's the same part of the brain—Broca's area—that deals with both.

So if you have no inner monologue, should you be worried? Not really. Studies show that some individuals never experience it at all, while others only experience it occasionally. “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 Russell T. Hurlburt, professor of psychology at the University of Nevada. “And I'm confident about the individual differences—some people talk to themselves a lot, some never, some occasionally.”

Interestingly, researchers at Harvard University have found that visual and verbal thinking are highly linked. While people often think of themselves as being either more verbal or visual, this isn't necessarily the case. In fact, people with a clear inner monologue typically have stronger mental visuals to accompany their verbal thoughts.

Whether you have a constant narration present in your head or hear nothing at all, the debate raises interesting questions about how we think and process information. Certainly, the next time you see someone lost in thought, you might just wonder what the conversation is inside their head.

KylePlantEmoji created a stir on Twitter with his information about inner monologues.

The reaction was firmly divided between those we can't imagine life without their inner voice…

And those who can't believe that some people have an inner narrative all day long.

Learn more about why some people have an internal monologue in this video.

h/t: [IFL Science!, Vice]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.

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