Do you have an internal monologue? Can you have a mental argument with yourself? Talk yourself in and out of things? Amp yourself up?
A recent Twitter trend has shown that not all people do.
A 2017 study led by Elinor Amit, researcher for Harvard’s Department of Psychology, explains why some individuals think visually—sometimes literally in pictures—and others more conceptually abstract.
To summarize the study, “people create visual images to accompany their inner speech even when they are prompted to use verbal thinking, suggesting that visual thinking is deeply ingrained in the human brain while speech is a relatively recent evolutionary development.”
While this research focuses on the interdependence of visual and verbal thought processes, Twitter users were fascinated with the idea that not everyone has an inner monologue.
At The Concordian, five out of 21 staff identify explicitly as only having interior monologues, 13 out of 21 have both, and four identify as having no inner monologue at all. Those without inner monologues said that they don’t have one unless they think about having one and most of their actions, written and spoken ideas are based off instinct or what feels right in the moment.
This thought variation is described as a “robust phenomenon,” meaning that these results are highly dependent on a variety of circumstances, making it an unreliable statistic. For example, the number of languages learned and spoken as a young child, and one’s connection to visual, auditory, and written media can have an effect. It is also possible for one to think tactically, having to actually be doing or saying something in order to absorb information and really understand it.
The very phenomenon is linked to a part of the brain that processes external sound, and in overactive brains can cause overthinking or anxiety. Researcher Mark Scott from the University of British Columbia explains how auditory hallucinations—hearing your thoughts—can be associated with schizophrenia, but picturing thoughts—thinking abstractly—on the other hand, isn’t necessarily linked to visual hallucinations.
Are your thoughts like sentences you hear? Tweet us @theconcordian
Graphic by @sundaeghost