Internal monologue

Mind blown.  Not everybody has an internal monologue.  There are people who do not think in words and sentences- not just people who were born deafand not given sign language until years later, not just people brought up by wolves who don’t speak to their children.  I can’t even. Read this to see, if you are not one of those people, how they think.

Tangentially related- reading in your head.  When I read I hear the voices in my head. They have accents sometimes.  They may be male or female. Or dragons.  I can read without internal voicing but I hate it, and only do that when I am skimming for a specific passage, or to get through a passage somebody wants me to read quickly.  Lots of people do this.  Supposedly it’s slower than not voicing, but I read pretty fast so I don’t know.  The thing is, I think I was in my thirties or forties before I realized that also, lots of people do not do this, can’t do it, in fact.  Who knew?  And probably other people are learning in their thirties that lots of people cannot read without voicing it in their heads.  Who knew?


Do you know what else is fascinating?  Reading to oneself *at all* instead of reading aloud, moving your lips at least, is relatively new in the human history timeline:

“But perhaps there is no writer who admits us intimately into the heart of that age as Augustine. Sometimes he does so by accident, as when he comments on the fact–to him, apparently, remarkable–that Ambrose, when reading to himself, read silently. You could see his eyes moving, but you could hear nothing. In such a passage one has the solemn privilege of being present at the birth of a new world. Behind us is that almost unimaginable period, so relentlessly objective that in it even ‘reading’ (in our sense) did not yet exist. The book was still λόγος, a speech; thinking was still διαλέγεσθαι, talking. Before us is our own world, the world of the printed or written page, and of the solitary reader who is accustomed to pass hours in the silent society of mental images evoked by written characters.”
(C.S. Lewis, Allegory of Love, pp. 64-5)

The book Proust and the Squid also talks about this most interesting development.

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  1. Posted January 31, 2020 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I saw that article and was floored that anyone doesn’t have an internal monologue.

    • Headmistress
      Posted January 31, 2020 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      Right? I mean, it seems like a disability.

  2. Kim L.
    Posted February 1, 2020 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    A note about hearing “voices” when you read: I just realized you sound very much like my mother-in-law, with a hint of my grandmother. (Both wise women I respect, admire & go to for advice.)

    On learning things in your 30s/40s:

  3. Chris
    Posted February 1, 2020 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    I have a vivid internal monologue. It is a major part of how I think and communicate. My middle son claims to not have one AND has significant difficulty verbalizing his feelings and motives, as well as writing in any descriptive manner. He has no trouble socializing or being his charming, amusing self, he simply cannot effectively describe his deeper thoughts and feelings. If the lack of an inner voice is connected to this issue, I wouldn’t be surprised. I tell him he will meet a lovely young lady one day and will need to let her know he has many feelings he can’t articulate. He’s open and good-natured, so if she is somewhat insightful they will be fine. Woe betide them if she is disconnected like him,though! Lol

  4. Lisa Beth W.
    Posted February 3, 2020 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    WELL, we’ve been investigating each other’s brains around here now since you posted this last week. 🙂 It’s been fascinating and seems to help explain personality differences and communication strengths and challenges. I think most of our family has a distinct internal monologue, but some have a more pictorial and conceptual thought pattern, its seems like. As for me, I can’t imagine going through a day without voices in my head! I often have to shut them up by reading before I go to sleep.

    And as for internal voicing while I read, I definitely have that, too. I can read without it, but I don’t like it. What I’m reading seems more dead then, somehow. I usually do it if it’s more technical material and I want to get through it quickly to learn about something. Can’t maintain it for too long, either.

  5. Beth
    Posted February 20, 2020 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    I am completely floored! I couldn’t even imagine anyone NOT having an internal dialogue. But it does make since for my youngest boy (12). I wonder if he has an internal dialogue…will ask him tomorrow about it and my other older kids (17, 15, 10). I will definitely be discussing this with myself tonight as I go to bed!

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