Is It Normal to Not Have an Internal Monologue? (Explained!)
In pop culture, inner monologue is portrayed as something that only serial killers have. However, it’s not something that sinister. Many people talk and have conversations with themselves in their heads.
For example, while writing this article, at many different points, I thought, “Okay, now I have to put this section here and that section there.” This was all in my head, but it helped me recollect my thoughts. And that’s how it is for around 30-50% of the people.
Inner monologue was thought to be a part of the human being. But it turns out there are people who have never experienced it. Actually, inner dialogue is a frequent occurrence for only 30 to 50 percent of people.
So, some people don’t have an inner voice. They tend to organize their thoughts more nonverbally, for example, by using pictures.
If you want to know if you have an inner monologue, think about whether you have a conversation with yourself in your head or not. You have an inner voice if your thinking revolves around having an internal conversation. If not, you don’t.
If you are still unsure whether you have an inner voice, just go through this article. You’ll find out all there is to know about your inner monologue.
Let’s dive in!
What’s the science behind inner monologue?
Most people in the scientific community believe that a brain signal controls our inner voices. This signal is called the corollary discharge.
This signal helps us differentiate whether our experiences are external or internal. In simpler terms, it helps us decide whether we are feeling something inside our body or feeling something on the surface of the body.
This signal is also why your voice inside sounds different from your voice on a recording.
Not everyone has inner monologues, but everyone experiences corollary discharge. This is a universal phenomenon. In fact, it plays an important role in your auditory system, where it helps process hearing voices.
But having an internal monologue can actually be quite useful at times. When trying to cancel out any external noise and organize your inner thoughts, you can have an internal dialogue with yourself.
It can help if you imagine visual imagery, ask yourself questions, and try to answer them.
How common is it to have an inner monologue?
Having an internal monologue is a fairly common phenomenon. According to Russell Hurlburt, professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, almost half of the population has an internal monologue.
Our current understanding of inner speech is that it develops during childhood. Most people tend to think of it as private speech.
As young children develop language skills, they start using their voices to perform different tasks. This inner voice can also manifest in the form of different imaginary friends that many kids tend to have.
As we grow older, the inner language becomes integral to our cognitive process. It supports working memory. This inner voice helps us complete everyday tasks and keep track of immediate plans.
Some people even use their inner speech to perform self-reflection. However, because we can hear our inner monologue, it’s important to take note whenever it becomes our inner critic.
Sometimes we tend to remind ourselves of negative memories or think negative thoughts using self-talk. This can develop into self-esteem issues if you don’t become aware of when your thought process turns negative.
You must not let yourself start thinking critical thoughts about yourself.
Now, if you have an inner monologue, you may have full conversations with yourself. However, some people don’t have this internal dialogue.
In fact, some people don’t always hear their thoughts like songs stuck in their heads. They tend to hear them occasionally.
Can someone not have an internal monologue?
If you are reading this article and don’t have an inner voice, you’re probably thinking, “Is it normal not to have an internal monologue?”
Not everyone has an inner voice. And it’s completely normal.
At the moment, scientists don’t know why some people might not have an inner speech. However, some research suggests that it might be due to a correlation between dorsal pathway maturation and early development of inner speech.
There are two language tracks in the brain that help in forming sounds. They are called dorsal and ventral streams. These are also involved in auditory and visual processing.
During early development in a child, the dorsal stream has been found to develop slower than the ventral stream. This development of the dorsal stream leads to the development of inner speech.
However, it is not known why some people don’t develop this inner speech. It might be because of the individual differences people experience in their early life. These differences can cause the development of the dorsal stream to differ slightly, which could lead to lack of inner speech in some people.
In fact, people’s thoughts are not always expressed as words or voices. Some people may “see” their to-do list instead of “hearing” them. These differences start from early life and become cemented later on as we develop into adults.
Those people who have hearing disabilities may not necessarily hear their thoughts either. Researchers speculate that their inner “talking” likely manifests through images. The diversity in our lives is fascinating!
What is aphantasia?
Finding it difficult to picture things in your head is a condition that’s known as aphantasia.
Some studies have found that aphantasia might be correlated with anaduralia. Anaduralia is the inability to form “auditory images,” or an inner voice, in your head. Thus, it’s possible that people who can’t picture things in their heads don’t practice self-talk, either.
According to some self-reported surveys, aphantasics tend not to talk to themselves. However, scientists indicate that this robust phenomenon needs to be verified. This needs to be done using a scientifically proper method.
Inner voice and auditory hallucinations
While having an inner voice is completely fine, sometimes it can be a sign of a neurological disorder. That happens when the inner voice is happening due to auditory hallucinations.
These hallucinations are often associated with medical conditions like schizophrenia or Parkinson’s. While doctors don’t know what can trigger diseases like this, periods of extreme mental stress and anxiety may play a role.
What percentage of the population has an internal monologue?
Professor Russell Hurlburt at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, estimates that around 30-50% of the population has an inner voice.
However, Hurlburt suspects that this estimate can greatly differ if investigated properly. He says the recent hype surrounding inner voices has led many people to explore their minds. But in doing so, they tend to put themselves on either side of the narrative without thinking about how their brain works.
Hurlburt suggests that people might have very little doubt about what they hear in their heads. They are not paying attention, so their impulse feelings can’t really be trusted.
Perhaps when it is explored more scientifically, we would be surprised to know how many have an inner conversation.
What is it like to live without an inner monologue?
Currently, living without an inner voice has no pros or cons. Some reports suggest that having an inner voice can help you organize your thoughts and complete tasks. Conversely, it can also be destructive when our self-talk becomes critical.
On the other hand, people who don’t have an inner speech tend to self-report that, in some ways, it’s helpful. They suggest they don’t have as many self-esteem issues and can block out negative thoughts.
However, they also tend to complain that they often speak without thinking and lack a “filter.” This leads them to say things in different situations that they shouldn’t be saying.
Whether you have an inner voice or not, it doesn’t matter. Currently, there are no known benefits of having an inner monologue. Perhaps the best it does is make you slightly more efficient at completing tasks.
Likewise, there are no cons to having an inner voice either. But sometimes, people can become very critical of themselves during self-reflection. A great way to overcome that is to remain productive and not let your mind wander.
If you are looking for ways to help you be more productive, you should check out this amazing course on personal productivity!
Scientists still don’t know what the inner voice phenomenon is. Guess we will just have to sit back and relax while they uncover that mystery for us.