What’s that inner voice you hear in your head?
You know, the one that says “I can’t stand you anymore” when the physics teacher gives you a bad grade. When your boss “asks” you to stay overtime or when you count the seconds until you get home.
What is its purpose and what’s causing it?
In the ’30s, Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist, stated that this inner voice is the result of the inner analysis of the external speech. Up to the point in which the sound is emitted by your vocal cords.
I think I threw you off. Let me explain it in a simpler way. You see, your brain perceives and analyzes almost all of the sounds surrounding you, especially words. Thus, you’re imitating those sounds, trying to find their meaning. That’s where the cords are transmitting that sound to you but only you can hear it.
In the ’90s, neurologists used neuroimaging techniques like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), also known as Magnetic Resonance Tomography (MRT) or Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging (NRMI). It is a non-invasive medical imaging technique used to investigate the anatomy and psychological processes of the human body, for both health or disease cases, to discover the region of the brain, the area of Broca, which is responsible for the ability of speech you use while the inner voice is active.
From there, you can understand that some muscles, like the larynx, move when you use the inner voice, though they have no reason to do so.
The inner voice is a prediction of what you’re going to say. Researches Mark Scott initiated a study that explored a brain signal called “corollary discharge”. This is a copy of a motor signal that is sent to your brain in order to inform it that you are about to act. This signal is intended to separate the sensory experiences. Experiences that come from the outside, different from those you make, and the brain predicts your movements like that. (That’s why you can’t tickle yourself, because the corollary discharge is sending the signal before you do it).
If this discharge wouldn’t exist, you would hear your own voice, when you speak, very loudly. Ears are close to the sound source and your voice would cover other outside noises. But with this discharge, the brain knows how to talk and adjust the volume of your voice, and you can sense other outside sounds.
You’re using the inner voice right now, while you read my article.
You do it because it helps you understand those words better and associate them with what you already know.
It is believed that dyslexic people (dyslexia is a cognitive disorder, manifested by word changes, reading error) cannot understand this concept, therefore they do not know how to use the inner voice, making room for gaps in expression. When they are made to read something while using it, they will often move their mouth because their inner voice reads at random or does not exist.
This voice has been present since childhood. Children, in the habit of speaking alone when playing, describe their own thoughts.
This is also the period when kids start to doubt and meditate about everything. That being said, I recommend you to read another article here!
In an adult, there are two types of self-dialog. The first is deliberate when we say “I have to buy bread”. The second self-dialog is spontaneous, uncontrolled and can intervene at any time.
Russell Hurlburt, American researcher, and psychologist, after years of experiments, concluded that the intensity of the dialog was different, but a man spends about a quarter of his life talking to himself.
Don’t forget René Descartes’ famous quote “DUBITO ERGO COGITO, COGITO ERGO SUM” (I doubt, I think, I exist). Our existence and development are closely linked to this inner voice. It is connected with rationality. And when we ask questions and seek answers we can make it easier to link information.
Author: Paula Moldovan