March 8, 2023 at 6:29 pm

The Science Behind Why We Have Inner Monologues

by Ashley Dreiling

For those of us who tend to get “stuck in our heads,” it may come as a surprise that most of us experience a mix of monologue and other thought patterns. Kristen Carlson, a woman with no inner monologue, explained to the YouTube channel PA Struggles what it’s like living with the surprisingly common experience of having no inner voice.

Thought bubble featured image The Science Behind Why We Have Inner Monologues

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Carlson described thinking without an inner narrator as just “seeing” it, like others who say they feel their thoughts.

“I don’t know I just feel like the information is in there and I can pull it forward if I want it,” she said. “It’s like, it’s like files, there’s categories of information in my head and I can pull them to the front if I need them.”

According to science, human thinking isn’t so black and white; you either have an inner monologue or you don’t. A 2008 study found that most think in the gray area. Researchers gave beepers to a random sample of students. Over several weeks, they recorded their thoughts in the moments before the beeper would go off.

“Subjects experienced themselves as inwardly talking to themselves in 26 percent of all samples,” the study authors noted in Psychology Today. “But there were large individual differences: some subjects never experienced inner speech; other subjects experienced inner speech in as many as 75 percent of their samples. The median percentage across subjects was 20 percent.

It seems clear that regardless of how, Descartes famous philosophy stands true: “I think, therefore I am.”

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