Internal monologue

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Do you have an internal monologue that you're not consciously controlling?

Yes, of course. Doesn't everyone?
7
47%
Sometimes my thoughts are words, sometimes they're not.
6
40%
I can think in words, but it's a conscious thing.
2
13%
No, I can't imagine a voice without moving my lips.
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 15

Fiona T
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Internal monologue

Post by Fiona T » Wed Feb 12, 2020 8:37 am

Saw stuff on t'interwebs this week about people who don't have an 'internal monologue' - the voice in your head that basically is your thought process.

I hadn't realised this was a thing, so I was kinda fascinated about how such people process information.

There was an interview with one young woman, and the interviewer asked questions like "how do you read?"

She said she read extremely fast and looked at shapes of words and sentences but didn't actually say them in her head like (I'm assuming) most of us do.

I vaguely wondered how this different way of processing information would translate into countdown skills, and whether any of our top players don't have this internal monologue? I can't imagine being able to solve a numbers round without saying "6*7=42" in my head!

If you're a "no", I'd love to hear how you do this stuff!

https://mymodernmet.com/inner-monologue/
Last edited by Fiona T on Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Callum Todd
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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Callum Todd » Wed Feb 12, 2020 10:40 am

I voted for 'yes' but I don't feel 'voice in [my] head' is a fully accurate description. It's more of a feeling than a voice. A voice is just the medium I imagine it into when trying to process my thoughts as words rather than feelings, images, sounds etc. So the 'voice in [my] head' isn't my thoughts, it's just my conscious self's best attempt to channel my thoughts through a medium with which I am familiar.

Often (but far from always) when reading I don't internally verbalise the words, I just sort of absorb the meanings of the words. And with Countdown I sometimes see/think of words based on their phonetics, sometimes on their meanings, and sometimes on their physical appearance when written (e.g. 'shape').

From the description given I'm unsure if my experience is typical or if most people really do experience their thoughts just a 'voice' and not much else.

I'd be amazed if thoughts are as dependent on language as we assume, given that conscious thought presumably predates language and thought amongst unlanguaged (naw?) beings still exists today in many animals and even some human cultures.
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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Phil H » Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:43 pm

Interesting stuff again. I think what Callum describes is more or less what I experience and what I assumed to be standard. It's quite common for people to say that their internal voice seems to disappear when they are reading at their most fluently.

I once did an evening class about the "psychology of language" in which it was argued that the near-universal "tip of the tongue" phenomenon, where one can't quite find the word one is looking for, more or less proves that thoughts aren't made up of language at their most basic level. The tutor went on to argue more generally that the idea in popular culture that language influences the way we think is a bit overrated. For example, Russian doesn't have a separate word for "navy" and some people like to cite an experiment that found that Russians therefore take an average of 0.7 (?) seconds longer to register the difference between royal blue and navy blue. But in practical terms, how significant is that, really?
Last edited by Phil H on Wed Feb 12, 2020 5:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Phil H » Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:50 pm

Oh, and on the subject of the top players, I don't actually know my 25 times table in the same way I know my 7 times, so I have to check on myself when I'm looking for 425 - "That's 17*25, right? 400 would be 4*4, which is 16, so yeah, 17 for 425."

I don't quite say every word of that in my head, but recognising 54 as 6*9 is a hell of a lot more automatic. I imagine better numbers players have their larger numbers tables "down" to a much greater extent.

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Innis Carson
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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Innis Carson » Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:29 pm

Phil H wrote:
Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:43 pm
I once did an evening class about the "psychology of language" in which it was argued that the near-universal "tip of the tongue" phenomenon, where one can't quite find the word they're looking for, more or less proves that thoughts aren't made up of language at their most basic level.
This. I'm broadly in line with Callum and Phil, though I voted 'no' in the poll - not to say that I can't imagine voices in my head, but just that I wouldn't ordinarily do so, unless there was a particular reason to (e.g. the thought was actually about how a sentence would sound in a particular voice).

Perhaps there's a spectrum running from "thinks entirely in the medium of recognisable language" and "thinks entirely outside the medium recognisable language". If there is, I'm probably quite far towards the latter extreme - very frequently I struggle to translate my thoughts into coherent sentences (a prime example being this post, which has so far taken me at least 20 minutes to type...)


Think it should also be noted that the people whose tweets are quoted in the article are in some cases talking about quite different things. Not having an internal monologue doesn't mean you never spend time running through a conversation in your head, considering how it might pan out - if anything, not having an internal monologue would surely mean you're more likely to have to do this.

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Fiona T » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:20 pm

Interesting stuff! I have a constant internal monologue - mostly not consciously, but it's there all the time. My thoughts are basically words. Of course there are instinctive things I don't 'voice over' - driving, for example, but even then my monologue is likely to be pondering other stuff - day dreaming if you like. It's never silent. Driving a familiar route I frequently have zero recollection of how I've actually arrived at my destination. I can't imagine reading or writing without saying the words in my head.

Back to Countdown - as a distinctly average player - I try out word sounds and letter combinations in my head to try and unscramble the best word - this isn't a conscious, laboured process, but just how my brain operates.

Even when I'm in conversation with others I can find it difficult to concentrate on what they're saying because of my own 'voice' going off in a direction of it's own. I have to make a real effort to listen.

It does sound like there's a spectrum as Innis suggests!

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Mark Deeks
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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Mark Deeks » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:59 pm

My brain is literally nothing but my own voice saying things and I can't imagine a life without it.
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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Fiona T » Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:15 pm

Mark Deeks wrote:
Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:59 pm
My brain is literally nothing but my own voice saying things and I can't imagine a life without it.
A much more succinct way of saying what I was trying to say.

AIUI (and I've only given it a cursory nod) the basics of mindfulness is getting that voice to shut up for a bit!

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Fiona T » Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:22 pm

I've changed the poll, and perhaps more importantly the question, to better reflect people's experiences.

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Thomas Cappleman » Wed Feb 12, 2020 10:50 pm

Very much on the internal voice side - would love it to shut up when I try and sleep.

On the Countdown side of things, some part of my brain will often chuck solutions out, but they'll still at some point get internally vocalised.

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Phil H » Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:31 am

The first time I played Apterous after contributing to this thread, I found my internal voice a lot more noticeable than previously!

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Gavin Chipper » Thu Feb 13, 2020 8:32 pm

This is a very interesting discussion. I think I would rarely not have any words going through my head. But sometimes I might think of something and then decide to go through the process of wording it out in my head. Like someone might say something I disagree with, and I know exactly why I disagree with it but then my internal thoughts are still saying "OK, let's verbalise this out anyway." So I do that, but in a way I wouldn't have to. Although I think I'd feel pretty uncomfortable not doing so, because I always go through the process and I'm quite conscious about it.

I think it's quite obvious that not all thoughts are verbal, but I think using words does give scaffolding and helps you think stuff through and "check your working". I think there was an article in New Scientist a while ago on the subject and there's been the odd letter written in about it with people having various viewpoints.

I suppose there must be some sort of continuum between people whose thoughts are mainly verbal and those whose are mainly not (just seen that Innis wrote pretty much the same sentence). Although I'd find it very hard to imagine someone (someone who can and does speak in real life anyway) not having any verbal thoughts. I mean, you must sometimes plan what you're going to say and write so it has to happen.

Other thoughts definitely wouldn't be verbal, although you might still have an internal monologue going on at the same time. For example, if you're told to mentally rotate an object in some sort of test, you wouldn't be able to just talk yourself through that (I would have thought), but then you might still be going "Shit, this is hard" while you're doing it.
Phil H wrote:
Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:43 pm
For example, Russian doesn't have a separate word for "navy" and some people like to cite an experiment that found that Russians therefore take an average of 0.7 (?) seconds longer to register the difference between royal blue and navy blue. But in practical terms, how significant is that, really?
Yeah, there's this theory. I'd heard it called the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis. I've seen a few DVD lectures by a guy called John McWhorter who doesn't agree with it.

Apparently some people don't have a visual imagination either.

Edit - Looking at the poll options, I'm not clear what to go for though. I feel in control of my inner monologue. It's me doing the talking. Bah, I'm going for the second one.

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Fiona T » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:20 pm

Yeah, I'd definitely say my visual imagination is nowhere near as strong. I can picture stuff if I try, but I don't generally think in pictures. Probably related is that I'm very poor at recognising/remembering faces. If this poll was on visual imagination, I'd be option 3 - can do it, but it's a very conscious thing.

The wikipedia article on internal monologue is interesting too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_monologue

I don't feel in control most of the time - like Tom says, you can't just switch off when you go to sleep. I have got better at stopping myself if I find myself in a spiral of negative thoughts, but that requires a conscious recognition of what's happening and almost having a separate voice I'm in control of telling the free roaming one to shut up.

Of course, often I consciously talk myself through something, or as you say, planning what to say or write, but I think that's slightly different to the constant stream of chatter going through your head.

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Jennifer Steadman
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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Jennifer Steadman » Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:06 pm

Yes, but what I really want to know is how people's monologue specifically manifests. I'd say about 20% of mine is in the third person.
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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Phil H » Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:13 pm

Jennifer Steadman wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:06 pm
Yes, but what I really want to know is how people's monologue specifically manifests. I'd say about 20% of mine is in the third person.
I've developed a habit of saying to myself, "He was a fucking arsehole/cunt/etc" and then realising it's myself I'm annoyed with at the time.

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Gavin Chipper » Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:37 pm

Phil H wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:13 pm
Jennifer Steadman wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:06 pm
Yes, but what I really want to know is how people's monologue specifically manifests. I'd say about 20% of mine is in the third person.
I've developed a habit of saying to myself, "He was a fucking arsehole/cunt/etc" and then realising it's myself I'm annoyed with at the time.
Most of mine isn't referring to me as such so I can't really answer that. Occasionally I might think something like "Come on Gevin, you can do it". But I think I'm more likely to think "I think I'll do this today" than anything third-person based.

So actually I'll say more likely first person when it does come up.

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Fiona T » Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:42 pm

Phil H wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:13 pm
I've developed a habit of saying to myself, "He was a fucking arsehole/cunt/etc" and then realising it's myself I'm annoyed with at the time.
You're from Glasgow? Cunt is a term of endearment, no?
Jennifer Steadman wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:06 pm
Yes, but what I really want to know is how people's monologue specifically manifests. I'd say about 20% of mine is in the third person.
Mine sometimes talks to me in the second person "what you should do is..." , and sometimes it's my mate, "we need to..."

Edit : yep - like Gevin I sometimes get the "Come on Fiona" thing too, but that's more conscious pep talk myself.

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Jennifer Steadman » Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:58 pm

Fiona T wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:42 pm
Edit : yep - like Gevin I sometimes get the "Come on Fiona" thing too, but that's more conscious pep talk myself.
Oh, see, I do this (although actually this tends to be verbal if it's possible to do it quietly enough for people to not notice, or preferably in a place that no-one else is in - if it has to stay non-verbal it tends to get so repetitive and multi-layered and loud that it becomes kind of disorienting) but that's not what I was thinking of. My third-person narrative is quite literally me third-person narrating whatever is happening as if it were a novel or something. Never a good novel. But very definitely full paragraphs, punctuation, descriptions, the lot.
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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Gavin Chipper » Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:00 am

Fiona T wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:42 pm
Mine sometimes talks to me in the second person "what you should do is..." , and sometimes it's my mate, "we need to..."
Yes, this sounds realistic for me as well actually.

Also on the reading thing, I'm quite slow generally and say the words to myself but sometimes for very brief periods I can sort of clear my mind a bit and read more quickly by perhaps not saying each word so loudly in my head.

And sometimes if I'm looking for a rhyme or something I might look for words that end in OAT, for example, and instead of saying BOAT, COAT etc. in my head, I try and shut up and see the letters in place which can make it much quicker to flick through the alphabet.

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Re: Internal monologue

Post by Phil H » Fri Feb 14, 2020 7:36 am

Fiona T wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 11:42 pm

You're from Glasgow? Cunt is a term of endearment, no?
I once had an argument on the bus with someone who said something about "Asian cunts" and then claimed he meant the word in an entirely neutral way.

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