We Need To Talk About The Voice In Your Head (Or Lack Of)

We’re all used to the idea that everyone thinks differently, but now we need to accept just how different this might be.

Recent studies have shown that whilst some people often or constantly produce inner speech –silent words—about their daily activities, thoughts and feelings, some people never do. Instead, these people understand in more abstract feelings and realisations which do not involve any narration. A percentage of people are said to do both.

This week, social media has been in heated and confused debate about this topic, after an author wrote about his shock through an article that went viral.

A lot of people responded to a viral tweet that made us all wake up to this fact.

So what are the facts and how do we deal with this apparent division in humanity as we know it.

In 2011, a study was done where 30 participants were given a beeper and told to write down what they were thinking, as the scientists randomly set beepers off intermittently.

After several weeks, scientists found from the data that some people had a constant inner monologue, some experienced inner speech occasionally whilst a minority of people never experienced it at all.

Since then, several studies have concluded similar findings. There seem to be different types of inner speech. Most common is the motivational or critical voice which we might hear when trying to build our confidence before an important event.

The next common type of inner speech is dialogic, where one can have a conversational back and forth with themselves. In fact, a famous philosopher and thinker, Hannah Arendt, defined this very ability to “keep oneself company” as an antidote to loneliness and an indication of having a conscience or sense of morality.

So who are the minorities who don’t have a voice in their heads? And is it always really a good thing?

Whilst you may be more self-aware with an internal monologue, scientists warn that a negative or destructive internal monologue can also lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders or a whole suite of mental health issues.

And whilst some people may not have an inner voice, they may think with more images and sensations, rather than sentences and words.

If this is tripping you out, you’re not alone and at least we can all bond over that. Maybe we can celebrate how complex the human mind really is, and more diverse than we first imagined.

Reporting by Urvi Majumdar.