Some People Don’t Have an Internal Monologue, So What Is Their Brain Doing?


As someone who has an extremely chatty internal monologue, the fact that some people don’t really have an inner voice is mind blowing.

There are many ways one’s inner monologue can manifest. Some people experience a voice that is constantly commenting on the things they do, while others might only hear little bits and pieces throughout the day. Others don’t have an inner voice at all.

A study undertaken in 2011 looked at the inner thought patterns of 30 university students. The students were each given a random beeper and asked to write down what was going on in their head when the beeper made a sound.

According to the co-author Dr. Russell T Hurlburt, many people simply don’t have an inner voice function.

“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,” he wrote on Psychology Today.

“Some people talk to themselves a lot, some never, some occasionally.”

Why do some people not have an internal monologue?

As for those people who don’t have an inner monologue, the reasoning behind why this is is still unknown.

According to the ABC, research has shown that producing inner speech is linked to brain activity spanning from the frontal lobe to the auditory cortex, located near your ears.

This is the same network we use when speaking aloud, but verbal speech also requires the use of the motor cortex to move our mouth and form words.

One scientific reasoning is that those who don’t have inner speech aren’t able to activate the network without activating the motor cortex. So, instead of thinking internally, the thoughts are verbalised.

Verbal versus visual

Others might simply experience their thoughts visually. As Dr Hurlburt noted, you could be one who has “inner seeing” rather than inner speaking. Thoughts might appear in your brain via images, rather than words.

In a study from 2017, researchers from Harvard found that inner thoughts that manifested as words were often related to future, while those who experienced thoughts as images were about the present, as reported by Vice.

Research is still lacking in this area, but what we do know is facinating.

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