How Do I Know If I Have an Inner Monologue? | Iris Reading
How Do I Know If I Have an Inner Monologue?

How Do I Know If I Have an Inner Monologue?

How Do I Know If I Have an Inner Monologue?

You can tell that you have an inner monologue when you experience signs like having songs stuck in your head, replaying a favorite podcast or movie in your mind, or having a conversation with yourself. Some people experience inner monologue in the form of hearing their voice going over the words when they read a book.

The ability to have inner monologue develops during childhood. It has many different benefits for your working memory and other cognitive skills. But you may also experience negative impacts too.

In this post, you’ll learn how to determine if you have an inner monologue. Read on to see why you have it and the benefits and demerits of having it. 

What is an inner monologue?

Also known as internal dialogue, inner monologue is a voice inside your head. It occurs due to certain brain mechanisms that make you hear yourself talk without actually speaking. This “little voice in your head” is a common occurrence, but not everyone experiences it.

Your inner monologue can be your greatest supporter and worst critic. It serves many different purposes, such as giving advice, helping with directions, rehearsing tough conversations, and much more. 

Inner monologue allows you to speak words in your head as you rehearse for a play or a job interview.

It has many benefits but can also be bad in some cases. For example, inner monologue occurring as you read can hinder your speed reading. It is called subvocalization, a common occurrence among slow readers.

Kids learn to read by reading aloud to their teachers. Once they achieve fluency, they start saying the words in their heads. Subvocalization is a bad reading habit that you should stop if you want to achieve speed reading.

You must realize that the inner monologue is unnecessary when it comes to reading. Saying every word in your mind won’t help your reading comprehension. Your brain can process the information you read without the inner voice in your head.

Having an inner monologue is like having an inner voice narrate your thoughts throughout the day. This inner voice is more frequent in some people and seems weird to those who don’t have it at all.

People who experience inner monologue hear sentences in their heads when they think. For others, thoughts are abstract and non-verbal.

How common is inner monologue?

Inner monologue is a common occurrence, but some people have never experienced it. For those who are familiar with the experience, there’s a big variation in the frequency with which it occurs. Psychology professor Russell Hurlburt reports that 30 to 50% of people have an inner voice.

Most people believe that inner speaking does not occur passively. It is something you do consciously. A study involving ten beeps a day for three days shows that some participants have no inner monologue.

Others reported inner monologue for 75% of the beeps. The study involved 30 participants and reported inner monologue for 23% of the beeps on average. However, this doesn’t mean people are speaking to themselves 23% of the entire time.

Inner monologue is common, but it’s not a part of being human. Some people do not process life in words and sentences.

Studies show that children as young as 18 to 21 months of age can use some form of inner phonetics. Also, kids as young as 5 to 7 years can utilize an inner voice.

Why do people have an inner monologue?

Inner monologue occurs due to a brain signal called corollary discharge, a common occurrence among all humans. Everybody experiences it, but not everyone has inner speaking. This brain signal allows you to distinguish between internal and external stimuli.

There’s still a lot that researchers are yet to discover about inner monologue. Corollary discharge helps you tell the difference between various sensory experiences, including those created internally or externally. It also helps your auditory system to process hearing speech.

Corollary discharge explains why your voice sounds different on a recording from when you speak out loud to other people. Internal monologue helps you cancel out other external stimuli and focus on your own voice.

It also allows you to organize your thoughts without speaking out loud. You can ask yourself questions and brainstorm the answers.

Pros and cons of having an inner monologue

An inner monologue offers many benefits such as enhanced problem-solving, productivity, self-reflection, and critical thinking skills. It can make you more resilient against setbacks and lower your stress levels. On the other hand, critical inner voices can affect confidence and self-esteem negatively.

Internal monologue can help support your working memory. It helps you prepare better for a speech or a presentation as you can “play” what you want to say in your mind ahead of time. 

Inner speech allows you to replay instructions in your mind, which means you would always stay on track.

According to a 2018 study, an inner monologue can help with self-motivation, performance, behavior, judgment, and criticism. It’s an excellent way to boost your resilience against setbacks, which means lower stress levels. 

People who experience internal monologue are likely to have excellent critical thinking skills.

However, the downside of having an inner voice is that it can negatively affect self-esteem and confidence. While critical inner dialogue can help you achieve peak performance in terms of creativity and imagination, it may also cause neurosis, depression, and anxiety.

Your inner voice allows you to connect everything you think about (your life experiences) from your past to your present and the future. It can produce all of your opinions and self-comparisons, which can affect you positively or negatively.

Research shows that critical internal monologue is a result of one’s early life experiences. For example, if you have many negative memories with your siblings, parents, peers, or other people, it can influence how you see and think about yourself.

It may have negative impacts on how you perform in school or at work. Negative childhood memories are no good for your mental health. A few examples of such thought patterns include “You’re unattractive,” “You’re not good enough,” and more.

Do you have an inner monologue?

You can tell that you have inner monologue when you experience signs like talking to yourself, having songs stuck in your head, and more. If you’ve ever practiced for a speech by playing what you would say in your mind, you have an inner monologue. 

There are many different signs that show you have an inner monologue. Here are some:

1. You talk to yourself 

The most common one is having a conversation with yourself. For instance, you can attempt to solve a problem by playing out a conversation in your mind.

You’ll find that most people experience verbal forms of internal monologue. Many people find themselves making internal lists of the things they want to accomplish or talking to themselves about issues on their minds.

2. Songs get stuck in your head

Sometimes songs involuntarily pop up and stick in your head. 98% of people experience this and tunes that tend to pop up without warning are triggered by associations your mind makes or by emotions.  

3. You replay a favorite podcast or movie in your mind

Just like with the songs, this happens due to mental associations that flow through our minds. It could be a scene that impressed you or even the entire movie or podcast.  

4. You rehearse in front of imaginary audience. 

If you talk to yourself when preparing a presentation or a speech and “play” what you want to say in your mind ahead of time, you certainly have inner monologue.

5. You read to yourself 

People with inner monologue hear their own voice going over the words when they read a book.


Inner monologue is a common occurrence among many people. If you catch yourself talking to yourself or can hear your voice in your mind as you read, you have it too.

Critical inner dialogue is not a bad thing, as it can help you achieve peak performance. It allows you to enhance your problem-solving, self-reflection, and critical thinking skills.

It gets even better when you take an Iris Reading course. With many high-quality instructional videos, the Iris Personal Productivity course will help you achieve peak performance at work or at home. Why not learn from an expert?

Take this Iris Reading course today!

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  • Bob

    40 years ago I began to suspect that my inner monologue was adding undue stress to my already stressful business life because I couldn’t stop thinking about various problems. I began a simple meditation exercise as a way to attain more peace of mind, and within two weeks I had a major insight that caused me to add another hour of a different meditation. Five months later I began falling into deep states of mind during which everything disappeared except pure awareness. Shortly thereafter I had a huge cosmic consciousness experience that answered many of my existential questions. I continued shifting attention away from the inner monologue to direct sensory perception, and gradually the mind became increasingly silent and more realizations occurred. After 15 years the sense of personal selfhood suddenly vanished, and psychological freedom was the result. Now I live in the unimaginable world that all of the sages have pointed to throughout human history. Life is much more fun without a “me.”

  • Jim

    I find myself conversing as 2 entities, my inner and outer self both contribute, as needed.

  • brody

    for me im not sure if i have an inner monologue or not. i have always thought i did because i think my thoughts in words and hear my own voice in my head. when im reading or typing, i speak the words in my mind but i never talk to myself and if i do it isnt as if there is another person inside of my head talking to me that i can have a conversation with but rather just me thinking in my head a sentence i would say to myself such as “i wonder what that is” or “i should do this”, but i dont experience all of the ‘symptoms’ of what man people call the ‘voice in their head’ and what many people in these comments have talked about.

  • Benjamin

    This topic is gonna fascinate me for sure. I saw that Revolver movie and as I sleep tonight I’m contemplating my internal monologue. Ive always had this dialogue for as long as I can remember, and it had a major impact on my social life because I became too aware of others thoughts about me. Although I’ve grown older and removed that over self consciousness. So, I agree with everyone else, that my critical thinking skills are pretty high. I can solve pretty much any abstract or tangible problem I encounter. Ive never received an English paper grade beneath an A. I am very good at explaining things. I can spot bullshit very quickly and so I know all about the NWO. I never consume propaganda and I am fully aware of big picture ideas. So there are upsides. Now I’m curious about genetic phenotypes being correlated to this phenomenon.

  • Spechter

    I have always been amazed by people that can read faster than they can speak. How??? I wondered…
    I seem to have a strong inner dialogue because I cannot read faster than I can imagine myself saying the words!
    I guess I would need to “Eliminate subvocalization” as your speed reading course seems to emphasize…

    • nikki

      i definitely have an inner voice. i can be really loud and irritating when i cant stop it. sometimes i just lay in bed and wait till sleep shuts it up. i get headaces sometimes when im stressed and it tries to keep me positive so its like im fighting myself. i have social anxiety because its always wondering what others are thinking. Shit im typping this post rite now and hearing every word. i can even scream in my mind. its not a bad thing but i wish i can dial it down some.

  • Nadia Rubin

    Did you know that when you learn a new language and use it instead of your mother language, even your inner monologue will change? It took me years of living in Florida to start thinking in English before talking. When I go back to Italy I have to force my brain to think again in Italian otherwise it would be too complicated to think in English and speak in Italian. Usually the words come out in English.

  • Mark

    Interesting post and comments. I don’t believe I have an inner monologue. In my case I have sometimes tried to rehearse conversations in advance, but I don’t get very far. My thoughts come out when I speak, and are usually well-formed (I believe!) and sound well thought out, but I have no idea what I’m going ot say until I speak .

  • Kyle

    I’d be very curious if people who have inner-monologues have an easier time with writing than people who do not.

  • Jan Witter

    I have 3 levels or layers in American English, and the top one is the running commentary. I have “ticker-taping” synesthesia so I “see” all the words, and the spelling needs to be correct. Below those are 2 levels that are thought without words, and then 2 that are what I call “thought pictures”. I read quite fast with great comprehension, a great memory…..but now I think I was the lifeboat for a sinking UFO or something. How do I keep them straight? But I do.

  • Abbi

    Where, u have an inner monolog, butnits constant, I’m terrible in critical thinking and I read really fast, but my comprehension sucks. My inner voice tires me out, and I literally think every word or letter when I type it. It makes doing stuff really tiring, it’s like someone telling me how to do every little thing, every little’s exhausting and irritant beyond words. I’m not as critical about myself as I used to be, but it still doe mess with my mind a lotm

    • Jen

      Yes!!! I am the exact same way. I was trying to explain this to my husband yesterday and he had no idea what I was talking about lol up until very recently. I thought this happened with everyone… very curious as to how people live life without this!!

  • Elan

    Not sure if this has been previously speculated, but I am inclined to reason that there is a strong positive correlation between whether or not someone identifies as an introvert vs identifying as an extrovert. I’d lean towards introverts are more likely to have an inner monologue while extroverts are more likely to not have an innate monologue. I’m also very good at reasoning because I use arguments that I find to be logical and can think them through in my head, but I am the worst at reading people and determining how someone else might feel about what I’ve said. This has resulted in many conflicts especially at work. For example the job I worked at that I loved the most was when I worked under someone who I thought was the best person in the world because he was strong in areas where I was weak. He would walk into a room and every person would light up. So in meetings whenever I thought his logic appeared flawed I would pepper him with questions, trying to allow him to demonstrate that he had a deep logical understanding of the situation. Frequently (and now I see, unfortunately) my peppering resulted in the decision being changed to the direction I was inclined towards. I left the meeting thinking “great meeting! Expert collaboration!” Yeah…I was fired not long into the position. Now I see it was obviously crummy and undermining on my part.

    • Kristi

      I see where you thought introvert or extravert but I have to argue that since I am a huge extravert and have an extremely loud inner monologue. As does my son and one daughter. Honestly, I’d not heard of this inner monologue until tonight when my other daughter told me about it and how she doesn’t have one. The only introvert in our family really. It’s a very interesting thing and i honestly thought everyone had one.

    • Ronny

      What was the job


    You have helped me understand so much in my life all comes together now… thank you🙂

  • Mr. Nobody

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Cynthia. I am the exact opposite of you. I only knew before reading this article, that there is difference in variation of frequency between people. I did not know, that part of population have none. It was interesting to read your point of view. I am introvert and have extremely “strong” inner voice, meaning, it is pretty much constant thing for me. The only time there is no inner voice for me is during active conversations or partially during watching movies. But I have to “test” it first, since I am not sure there really is none, haha. Anyways, I was surprised hearing about the opposite case, same as you. Which makes sense, right. I dont understand that this is not more common topic. They should teach this in schools. It is very important for understanding people around us, IMO. Anyways, makes me wonder. I have very good critical thinking skills. And I always sucked at everything art related, except writing. Now I might be completely wrong or I might generalize a lot, but I wonder if successful artists (in music, drawing, painting etc.) have inner voice. Would make more sense to me, if they instead had more abstract thinking, which you described. Just a thought.

    • Meow Momma

      Hey.. Enjoyed reading your comment.. Connected with something I was listening to last night, Id very much like to hear more about the difference in variation of frequency between people.

  • Mr Happy

    The worst part about having an inner monologue, is when people interrupt me when I’m speaking to myself. I cant blame them, they don’t no I’m mid conversation. However I look mental when I tell them to hang a moment I’m just talking.

  • Bam

    I’ve had inner voice & conversation since I was a child…can still recall debating things with myself around age 5,6?.
    Stunned to hear others don’t have this. As far as I know, ALL my friends have inner voice, & have mentioned it. But I’m gonna check now I’ve been piqued.

  • Abhijeet Singh

    While reading the part that, people with inner voice read while listening their voice in their head, I think there was a moment when my inner voice looked at me, we both smiled at one another and continued reading.

    • Adam Holden

      I don’t know about you, but I was always considered to be a slower reader, but with a high comprehension level. I wonder if this is the reason why. Basically those who don’t have a inner monologue don’t actually have to say the word while we do, so I can’t read faster than I can speak.

  • Mark

    Hi Cynthia, I don’t think you are different, you are more of the average or like most others. The statistical information in the article is 30 to 50 percent. If we were to flip that for you, that would be 50 to 70 percent of folks do not have an inner voice. (Psychology professor Russell Hurlburt reports that 30 to 50% of people have an inner voice.). While that seems like a broad range, it would suggest that more studies should be done with this.

    My inner voice is always there, it is that voice that makes me a very critical thinker. I’m always asking myself questions. I thought everyone had an inner voice. True statements in the article says that yes, I read every word out loud in my head. When I learn how to speed read, I had to shut up and focus on the words like someone is telling me instructions.

    When I type on my keyboard, I don’t think about where the keys are or what I’m pushing. This is hugely advantages, I think it takes a lot to remember and recite back which key. When I learn the keyboard, I had to think about where the key are and think about it what I’m pushing. That is how the inner monologue works too. I trying to learn how to shut it off. Reading is something I’m trying to improve now by just being instead of analyzing, which is what happens when I say the words in my head. Also, when I type a sentence, I can say it in my head as I type it but will think that I typed a word and did not. So you will see words left out of my written sentences.

    It is true about being a hindrance but I can have some real deep thoughts and analysis in my head. I am an engineer where I love getting into the weeds. Does not help with talking to people, some friends will remind me I’m in the weeds instead of 30k above.

    • Ruby

      Huh, and I thought it was a mental disorder. Mine started off with snippets of music, and continues with that. I started getting the voice, as I call it and find it disturbing because I can’t quite make it out . Now that I am beginning to realize this is my own voice, I might be able to get some kind of cooperation going. And not feel like it’s totally out to get me. It can be hellish.

  • The Captain

    Haha of course Cynthia doesnt have an inner monologue… Writes a novel in the comments.

    • Vinnie

      This is legendary

  • Wen

    I have a question please. Re, #5 of the list, hearing your own voice. I feel like I meet all of the criteria on inner monologue except hearing my own voice. I don’t hear a sound, just my thoughts, so I hear the words I read without sound. If I didn’t hear this no sound while reading what would be happening when I read. I’ve always this, no sound thing, is my brain processing what I’m reading. But now I’m wondering what not hearing the words is. I’m sorry if this is a stupid question.

    • Elizabeth

      There is no such thing as a stupid question here. You might just be processing that information at a high speed. Regardless of this, that voice inside of your head can definitely slow you down when reading. Our speed reading workshop talks about reading and comprehending as separate processes. Check out our speed reading workshop to learn more about subvocalization and how to minimize it’s effects.

  • Cynthia

    I don’t have an inner monologue. I didn’t realize it until today. It actually is foreign to me to think that people form complete sentences in their head — that seems like such a waste of time and energy! I literally thought when people spoke of the “voice in their head” they just meant their conscience. An actual voice? How peculiar! My mind is more abstract and I assumed everyone was like this. BUT — I constantly have have tunes or song lyrics stuck in my head. Sometimes they even continue in my dreams and are still in my head the next day. Often I don’t even realize they are in my head because it’s just like a constant background noise. It can also just be a string of notes or a pleasing pattern. So to me, this is actually a sign of NOT having an internal monologue. Because how could you have lyrics and tunes running and also be talking to yourself? It would be chaos. The music fills that internal silence. I also have weirdly never had self esteem issues in my life and I see how they plague most people and hold them back in life. I’m just an average person in most things, but my confidence has never been something that factored in how I respond to the world. I’ve always wondered why I’m different — if it was something my parents did when I was little — and now I think this may be the key. I have always had a hard time memorizing facts and am much better with learning that is abstract or concept-based. In fact, I’m so bad with facts and names and such that my own physical address often eludes me. I mean, I can of course find my way home no problem, but if I have to write it down, it takes me a minute to think of the numbers and street name. It’s amazing how different our brains can be.

    • Nick

      hmm is this why its hard for me to remember names since i feel i dont have an inner monologue, i can sometimes hear songs in my head but not all times, also i may not have the voice in my head but the way i read words is i have to picture whats going on in order to understand whats going on

    • Imani

      My brain seems to work in a very similar way! I’ve never put much thought about it until now. I have a constant, what i like to call “back track” of music playing in my head at all times, but I never have conversations with myself or narrate my day. I’ve never struggled with self-esteem either or have experienced negative self talk. It’s all so interesting!