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psych/​inner-monologue directory


“Measuring the Frequency of Inner-Experience Characteristics”, Hurlburt et al 2021

2021-hurlburt.pdf: “Measuring the Frequency of Inner-Experience Characteristics”⁠, Russell T. Hurlburt, Christopher L. Heavey, Leiszle Lapping-Carr, Alek E. Krumm, Stefanie A. Moynihan et al (2021-07-20; similar):

Inner experience is widely accepted by psychologists and lay people as being straightforwardly observable: Inner speech, visual images, feelings, and so on are understood to be directly apprehendable “before the footlights of consciousness.” Many psychologists hold that such characteristics of inner experience play substantial theoretical roles and have applied significance across a wide range of cognitive, affective, performance, and clinical situations. If so, the frequency of occurrence of these characteristics is of fundamental importance. Such frequencies are usually estimated by questionnaires or by questionnaire-based experience sampling. However, there are reasons to wonder about the accuracy of such questionnaire-based estimates. We present three studies that compared, head-to-head, questionnaire-based experiential frequencies with frequencies discovered using descriptive experience sampling (DES), a method for random sampling in the natural environment that aspires to apprehend inner experience with as high fidelity as the state of the art allows. Together, they suggest that estimates of inner-experience frequency produced by questionnaires and DES are irreconcilably discrepant: Questionnaire-based methods produced dramatically higher (from 2 to 4× as high) frequencies than did DES. These results suggest caution when interpreting questionnaire-based experiential results and the importance of additional high-fidelity studies of inner experience.

“Interindividual Differences in Matrix Reasoning Are Linked to Functional Connectivity between Brain Regions Nominated by Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory”, Fraenz 2021

2021-fraenz.pdf: “Interindividual differences in matrix reasoning are linked to functional connectivity between brain regions nominated by Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory”⁠, Christoph Fraenz (2021-04-24; ; similar):

  • Relation between intelligence and functional connectivity exhibited by P-FIT regions
  • 2 independent samples comprising a total of 1140 healthy individuals
  • Matrix reasoning tests and fMRI resting-state imaging
  • Brodmann areas 7, 40 and 46 exhibit relevant connections across both samples

[See also “Multi-Task Brain Network Reconfiguration is Inversely Associated with Human Intelligence”, Thiele et al 2021] The Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory (P-FIT) predicts that human intelligence is closely linked to structural and functional properties of several brain regions mainly located in the parietal and frontal cortices. It also proposes that solving abstract reasoning tasks involves multiple processing stages and thus requires the harmonic interplay of these brain regions. However, empirical studies directly investigating the relationship between intellectual performance and the strength of individual functional connections related to the P-FIT network are scarce.

Here we demonstrate, in 2 independent samples comprising a total of 1489 healthy individuals, that fMRI resting-state connectivity, especially between P-FIT regions, is associated with interindividual differences in matrix reasoning performance. Interestingly, respective associations were only present in the overall samples and the female subsamples but not in the male subsamples, indicating a sex-specific effect. We found 5 statistically-significant connections which replicated across both samples. These were constituted by BAs 8, 10, 22, 39, 46, and 47 in the left as well as BAs 44 and 45 in the right hemisphere.

Given that many of these brain regions are predominantly involved in language processing, we hypothesized that our results reflect the importance of inner speech for solving matrix reasoning tasks. Complementary to previous research investigating the association between intelligence and functional brain connectivity by means of comprehensive network metrics, our study is the first to identify specific connections from the P-FIT network whose functional connectivity strength at rest can be considered an indicator of intellectual capability.

[Keywords: resting-state fMRI, functional connectivity, matrix reasoning, Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory (P-FIT)]

“Keeping the Inner Voice inside the Head, a Pilot FMRI Study”, Stephane et al 2021

“Keeping the inner voice inside the head, a pilot fMRI study”⁠, Massoud Stephane, Mario Dzemidzic, Gihyun Yoon (2021-01-22; ; similar):

Introduction: The inner voice is experienced during thinking in words (inner speech) and silent reading and evokes brain activity that is highly similar to that associated with external voices. Yet while the inner voice is experienced in internal space (inside the head), external voices (one’s own and those of others) are experienced in external space. In this paper, we investigate the neural basis of this differential spatial localization.

Methods: We used fMRI to examine the difference in brain activity between reading silently and reading aloud. As the task involved reading aloud, data were first denoised by removing independent components related to head movement. They were subsequently processed using finite impulse response basis function to address the variations of the hemodynamic response. Final analyses were carried out using permutation-based statistics⁠, which is appropriate for small samples. These analyses produce spatiotemporal maps of brain activity.

Results: Reading silently relative to reading aloud was associated with activity of the “where” auditory pathway (Inferior parietal lobule and middle temporal gyrus), and delayed activity of the primary auditory cortex⁠.

Conclusions: These pilot data suggest that internal space localization of the inner voice depends on the same neural resources as that for external space localization of external voices—the “where” auditory pathway. We discuss the implications of these findings on the possible mechanisms of abnormal experiences of the inner voice as is the case in verbal hallucinations.

“What the Voice inside Your Head Says about You: We Tend to Assume That Our Internal Monologue 'speaks' in Words—but It Turns out That, for Many of Us, It’s Much More Complicated”, Oakes 2019

“What the voice inside your head says about you: We tend to assume that our internal monologue 'speaks' in words—but it turns out that, for many of us, it’s much more complicated”⁠, Kelly Oakes (2019-08-20; similar):

Psychologist Russell Hurlburt at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has spent the last few decades training people to see inside their own minds more clearly in an attempt to learn something about our inner experiences at large. Though many individual studies on inner speech include only a small number of participants, making it hard to know whether their results apply more widely, Hurlburt estimates he’s been able to peek inside the minds of hundreds of people since he began his research. What he’s found suggests that the thoughts running through our heads are a lot more varied than we might suppose.

For one, words don’t seem to feature as heavily in our day-to-day thoughts as many of us think they do. “Most people think that they think in words, but many people are mistaken about that”, he says. In one small study, for example, 16 college students were given short stories before being randomly sampled to find out what they were thinking during the course of reading. Only a quarter of their sampled thoughts featured words at all, and just 3% involved internal narration.

…If people aren’t constantly talking to themselves, what are they doing?

In his years of studying the inner workings of people’s minds, Hurlburt has come up with five categories of inner experiences: inner speaking, which comes in a variety of forms; inner seeing, which could feature images of things you’ve seen in real life or imaginary visuals; feelings, such as anger or happiness; sensory awareness, like being aware of the scratchiness of the carpet under your feet; and unsymbolised thinking, a trickier concept to get your head around, but essentially a thought that doesn’t manifest as words or images, but is undoubtedly present in your mind. But those categories leave room for variation, too. Take inner speaking, which can come in the form of a single word, a sentence, some kind of monologue, or even a conversation. The idea of an internal dialogue—rather than a monologue—will be familiar to anyone who’s ever rehearsed an important conversation, or rehashed an argument, in their mind. But the person we talk to inside our head is not always a stand in for someone else—often, that other voice is another aspect of ourselves.

…Famira Racy, co-ordinator of the Inner Speech Lab at Mount Royal University, Canada, and her colleagues recently used a method called thought listing—which, unsurprisingly, involves getting participants to list their thoughts at certain times—to take a broader look at why and when people use inner speech, as well as what they say to themselves⁠.

They found that the students in the study were talking to themselves about everything from school to their emotions, other people, and themselves, while they were doing everyday tasks like walking and getting in and out of bed. Though it has the same limitations as much research on inner speech—namely, you can’t always trust people to know what or how they were really thinking—the results appear consistent with previous work.

“I can’t say for sure if it’s any more important [than other kinds of inner experience], but there’s been enough research done to show that inner speech plays an important role in self-regulation behaviour, problem solving, critical thinking and reasoning and future thinking”, Racy says…“It gives you a way to communicate with yourself using a meaningful structure”, says Racy. Or as one of her colleagues sometimes puts it: “Inner speech is your flashlight in the dark room that is your mind.”

“Using a Thought Listing Procedure to Construct the General Inner Speech Questionnaire: An Ecological Approach”, Famira et al 2019

2019-famira.pdf: “Using a Thought Listing Procedure to Construct the General Inner Speech Questionnaire: An Ecological Approach”⁠, Racy Famira, Morin Alain, Duhnych Christina (2019-07-09; backlinks; similar):

The construction of existing self-report measures of inner speech is guided by a priori theoretical views regarding how it is experienced or what functions it serves. We present two studies aimed at constructing and validating a more ecologically valid tool called the General Inner Speech Questionnaire (GISQ).

Study 1 employed an open-format thought-listing procedure inviting 227 participants to freely recall what they talk to themselves about in general. The most frequently self-generated inner speech instances were about negative emotions, problem solving/​thinking, planning, self-motivating, emotional control, and self.

In Study 2, we used this inner speech content to construct the 57-item GISQ. The GISQ is normally distributed⁠, shows acceptable internal consistency, and contains four moderately strong factors: self-reflection, self-observation, cognition, and inner speech accompanying activities. Importantly, the GISQ correlates positively with other measures of inner speech and self-related process.

“Pristine Inner Experience While Silent Reading: It’s not Silent Speaking of the Text”, Brouwers et al 2018

2018-brouwers.pdf: “Pristine inner experience while silent reading: It’s not silent speaking of the text”⁠, Vincent P. Brouwers, Christopher L. Heavey, Leiszle Lapping-Carr, Stefanie Moynihan, Jason Kelsey, Russell T. Hurlburt et al (2018; backlinks; similar):

We used Descriptive Experience Sampling to explore the pristine inner experience of 16 college students while reading Fitzgerald and Hemingway short stories. We provide rich descriptions of the phenomena while reading. Visual imagery was frequent. Although many theorists presume the ubiquitous presence of an inner voice that narrates the text as it is read, we found that only about 3% of samples involved such inner narration. Words were experienced during about a quarter of all samples, including: a focus on specific words from the text (but which were not merely inner reading), words innerly spoken in response to the text (content was related to the text but not of the text itself), and innerly spoken unrelated words (apparently not connected to the text). We suggest that presuppositions account for others’ overestimation of silent speech frequency, and discuss the impact of these findings on understanding reading and consciousness science.

[Keywords: Descriptive Experience Sampling; inner speaking; inner speech; iterative method; phenomenology; pristine inner experience; reading; silent reading]

“Inner Speech: Development, Cognitive Functions, Phenomenology, and Neurobiology”, Alderson-Day & Fernyhough 2015

“Inner Speech: Development, Cognitive Functions, Phenomenology, and Neurobiology”⁠, Ben Alderson-Day, Charles Fernyhough (2015; similar):

Inner speech-also known as covert speech or verbal thinking-has been implicated in theories of cognitive development, speech monitoring, executive function, and psychopathology. Despite a growing body of knowledge on its phenomenology, development, and function, approaches to the scientific study of inner speech have remained diffuse and largely unintegrated. This review examines prominent theoretical approaches to inner speech and methodological challenges in its study, before reviewing current evidence on inner speech in children and adults from both typical and atypical populations. We conclude by considering prospects for an integrated cognitive science of inner speech, and present a multi-component model of the phenomenon informed by developmental, cognitive, and psycholinguistic considerations. Despite its variability among individuals and across the life span, inner speech appears to perform significant functions in human cognition, which in some cases reflect its developmental origins and its sharing of resources with other cognitive processes.

“Inner Experience in the Scanner: Can High Fidelity Apprehensions of Inner Experience Be Integrated With FMRI?”, Kühn et al 2014

“Inner experience in the scanner: can high fidelity apprehensions of inner experience be integrated with fMRI?”⁠, Simone Kühn, Charles Fernyhough, Benjamin Alderson-Day, Russell T. Hurlburt (2014-12-09; similar):

To provide full accounts of human experience and behavior, research in cognitive neuroscience must be linked to inner experience, but introspective reports of inner experience have often been found to be unreliable.

The present case study aimed at providing proof of principle that introspection using one method, descriptive experience sampling (DES), can be reliably integrated with fMRI⁠.

A participant was trained in the DES method, followed by 9 sessions of sampling within an MRI scanner.

During moments where the DES interview revealed ongoing inner speaking, fMRI data reliably showed activation in classic speech processing areas including left inferior frontal gyrus⁠. Further, the fMRI data validated the participant’s DES observations of the experiential distinction between inner speaking and innerly hearing her own voice.

These results highlight the precision and validity of the DES method as a technique of exploring inner experience and the utility of combining such methods with fMRI.

“Toward a Phenomenology of Inner Speaking”, Hurlburt et al 2013

2013-hurlburt.pdf: “Toward a phenomenology of inner speaking”⁠, Russell T. Hurlburt, Christopher L. Heavey, Jason M. Kelsey (2013-12-01; similar):


  • Inner speaking is a common but not ubiquitous phenomenon of inner experience.
  • There are large individual differences in the frequency of inner speaking (from near 0% to near 100%).
  • There is substantial variability in the phenomenology of naturally occurring moments of inner speaking.
  • Use of an appropriate method is critical to the study of inner experience.
  • Descriptive Experience Sampling is designed to apprehend high fidelity descriptions of inner experience.

Inner speaking is a common and widely discussed phenomenon of inner experience. Based on our studies of inner experience using Descriptive Experience Sampling (a qualitative method designed to produce high fidelity descriptions of randomly selected pristine inner experience), we advance an initial phenomenology of inner speaking. Inner speaking does occur in many, though certainly not all, moments of pristine inner experience. Most commonly it is experienced by the person as speaking in his or her own naturally inflected voice but with no sound being produced. In addition to prototypical instances of inner speaking, there are wide-ranging variations that fit the broad category of inner speaking and large individual differences in the frequency with which individuals experience inner speaking. Our observations are discrepant from what many have said about inner speaking, which we attribute to the characteristics of the methods different researchers have used to examine inner speaking.

“The Varieties of Inner Speech: Links between Quality of Inner Speech and Psychopathological Variables in a Sample of Young Adults”, McCarthy-Jones & Fernyhough 2011

2011-mccarthyjones.pdf: “The varieties of inner speech: Links between quality of inner speech and psychopathological variables in a sample of young adults”⁠, Simon McCarthy-Jones, Charles Fernyhough (2011-12; similar):


  • We develop a questionnaire to assess a number of qualities of inner speech.
  • We examine its correlations with psychopathology in young adults.
  • The inner speech questionnaire was found to have satisfactory psychometrics.
  • Anxiety, but not depression, correlated with specific varieties of inner speech.
  • Proneness to auditory hallucinations correlated with levels of dialogic inner speech.

A resurgence of interest in inner speech as a core feature of human experience has not yet coincided with methodological progress in the empirical study of the phenomenon. The present article reports the development and psychometric validation of a novel instrument, the Varieties of Inner Speech Questionnaire (VISQ), designed to assess the phenomenological properties of inner speech along dimensions of dialogicality, condensed/​expanded quality, evaluative/​motivational nature, and the extent to which inner speech incorporates other people’s voices. In response to findings that some forms of psychopathology may relate to inner speech, anxiety, depression, and proneness to auditory and visual hallucinations were also assessed. Anxiety, but not depression, was found to be uniquely positively related to both evaluative/​motivational inner speech and the presence of other voices in inner speech. Only dialogic inner speech predicted auditory hallucination-proneness, with no inner speech variables predicting levels of visual hallucinations/​disturbances. Directions for future research are discussed.

[Keywords: Anxiety, Auditory hallucination, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Depression, Dialogic, Inner speech, Rumination, Vygotsky]

“Generalizing From One Example”, Alexander 2009

“Generalizing From One Example”⁠, Scott Alexander (2009-04-28; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

[Alexander defines the “typical mind fallacy”: everyone reasons about their mental experiences as if they are universal. People with vivid visual imagery assume everyone can see things in “the mind’s eye” while ‘aphantasics’ assume that this is simply a poetic metaphor; people with color-blindness wonder why other people get so worked up about various shades of gray, and people with anosmia are puzzled by the focus on flowers etc. Further examples include maladaptive daydreaming, pain insensitivity, the prevalence of visual & auditory hallucinations in mentally-healthy individuals like ‘scintillating scotoma’, misophonia, hearing voices, inner monologues, facial self-awareness, trypophobia, Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory, hypermnesia, ASMR, face blindness/​prosospagnosia, musical anhedonia, ‘the call of the void’/​intrusive thoughts, hypnagogia, the nasal dilation cycle…

This phenomenon for visual imagery was discovered only recently by Francis Galton⁠, who asked if the interminable debate between philosophers/​psychologists like Berkeley or Behaviorists like Skinner, where neither could accept that there was (or was not) visual imagery, was because both were right—some people have extremely vivid mental imagery, while others have none at all. He simply circulated a survey and asked. Turned out, most people do but some don’t.

The typical mind fallacy may explain many interpersonal conflicts and differences in advice: we underappreciate the sheer cognitive diversity of mankind, because we only have access to our limited personal anecdote, and people typically do not discuss all their differences because they don’t realize they exist nor have a vocabulary/​name.]

“Errors in Inner Speech”, Dell & Repka 1992

1992-dell.pdf: “Errors in Inner Speech”⁠, Gary S. Dell, Renee J. Repka (1992; similar):

Many people have the feeling that they can hear a little voice inside their heads. This inner speech accompanies reading and writing and often co-occurs with activities that involve mental planning such as problem solving (Sokolov 1972). Clearly, inner speech is ubiquitous in our mental lives, and so it is not surprising that it has played a large role in psychological theory. For example, it has been proposed that inner speech is a necessary accompaniment to thought and even that inner speech is to be identified with thought (Watson 1919). Although these radical views of the relation between inner speech and thought are held by few, if any, psychologists today, there is, nonetheless, widespread assent that the voice in the head is important.

In this chapter, we investigate the properties of inner speech in a somewhat unusual way, by looking at the “tongue” slips that seem to occur in it. The first experiment compared inner slips that subjects reported “hearing” when imagining tongue twisters with the overt slips that a different group of subjects made when saying the same stimuli aloud. The second experiment extended this comparison to practice effects. The subjects either mentally or overtly practiced saying tongue twisters, and the effect of this practice on the frequency of slips in both inner and overt speech was assessed. By way of introduction to our experiments, we first provide some background on inner speech and then discuss the theory and data concerned with speech errors.

…We further showed that this abbreviated character of inner speech diminishes its effectiveness for practicing phonologically confusing phrases. Feedback regarding potential slips is seen to be deficient in inner speech relative to overt speech, and thus, inner practice does not help prevent slips in the overt repetition of such phrases.

“The Rate of Inner Speech”, Korba 1990

1990-korba.pdf: “The Rate of Inner Speech”⁠, Rodney J. Korba (1990-12-01; similar):

Self-reports of elliptical inner speech were measured to assess the speed of verbal problem solving. Rates of inner speech were correlated with physiological measurements of subvocal activity during verbal problem solving to evaluate the association between self-reports of verbal cognition and covert oral behavior. Sub-vocalization was electromyographically recorded during the silent solution of verbal tasks. Subjects reported the elliptical inner speech used to solve each problem (elliptical word count) and expanded that volume of words into a full statement of their internal problem-solving strategies (extended word count). The speed of processing and task simplicity were important in obtaining a high correlation between elliptical and extended word counts. The extended word count represented an equivalent rate of speech in excess of 4,000 words per minute. The volume of subvocal activity was correlated with the elliptical word count to assess whether subvocalization could be linked to introspection. This correlation was stronger during the rapid solution of simple problems.

Think aloud protocol


The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind


Stream of consciousness (narrative mode)




Internal monologue


Hearing Voices Movement