Inner Speech and Thought


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For that matter, researchers have also looked at externalized self-talk, i.

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But why is inner speech so common? In children, for example, their cognitive abilities appear to grow and develop in much the same way that their ability to use inner speech does. This suggests that inner speech is linked to the development of language abilities and the advanced mental abilities to which language is linked. For example, experiments that require people to switch between different arithmetic problems indicate that inner speech helps prepare them for making this kind of transition.

Another skill that appears linked to inner speech is silent reading.

The people who have no voice inside their head

The more difficulty they have understanding what they are reading, the more they need to depend on inner speech to make sense of the material. Brain imaging studies show that areas of the brain linked to language perception are often activated in people who report auditory hallucinations. Many of these hallucinations tend to resemble inner speech in important ways. For example, people who are born deaf or who lost their hearing before they developed language tend not to experience auditory hallucinations the same way that hearing people do.

Thought, Language, and Inner Speech

Inner speech can be an essential part of this kind of mind-wandering though actual research looking at this is still limited. Despite all of the research studies that have been carried out so far, it is still far from clear exactly why humans evolved inner speech in the first place.


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Though it may have originally developed as a tool for better verbal communication, our capacity for inner speech has expanded to become a critical part of our lives as human beings. Not only does it to play an important role in making plans for the future, it is also helps us understand the world around us.

Email Address. Facebook Twitter. Or is inner speech more of an epiphenomenon, something that transpires more as a consequence of the thought than as the medium of thought itself?

Peter Carruthers has recently argued the former. Although there's plenty that's appealing in Carruthers' view, one type of case gives me as it were second thoughts. Russ Hurlburt and I were running an "experience sampling" experiment with a subject named Melanie.

I've mentioned this experiment in other posts. We gave Melanie a random beeper. When the beeper went off, she was to note her "inner experience", as best she could ascertain it, at the last undisturbed moment prior to the beep.

Thought and Inner Speech | On Philosophy

In the sample I have in mind, Melanie was backing her car out of the driveway, saying to herself, silently in inner speech, "Why can't I When we interviewed her about this experience shortly thereafter, she reported having a sense, at the time immediately prior to the beep, that the full content of her thought was this: "Why can't I remember about the parking brake? Let's set aside concerns about the accuracy of self-reports in such conditions concerns I take quite seriously , and just consider her report on its plausible face.

It seems, indeed, that we often have an unarticulated sense of what we're about to say -- in either inner or outer speech -- before we say it. Sometimes this sense is only very rough and inchoate; but in other cases -- as perhaps in Melanie's case here -- it's fairly specific and developed.

Inner Speech, Determinacy, and Thinking Consciously about Thoughts

In the latter sort of case, it seems, then, plausible to say that the thought is complete before the speech is complete -- that there's a kind of thoughtless inertia sometimes in speech, inner or outer. But if the thought is complete before the inner speech is complete, then the inner speech can't be the medium of the thought, can it? Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at AM.

And at the moment of "beep" the sens was rough. Nobody can prove what is true. Hi, Eric!

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