What is Inner Monologue & how does it work ?


You can tell that you have an inner monologue when you experience signs like having songs stuck in your head, replaying a favorite podcast or movie in your mind, or having a conversation with yourself. Some people experience inner monologue in the form of hearing their voice going over the words when they read a book.

The ability to have inner monologue develops during childhood. It has many different benefits for your working memory and other cognitive skills.

What is an inner monologue?

"Also known as internal dialogue, inner monologue is a voice inside your head. It occurs due to certain brain mechanisms that make you hear yourself talk without actually speaking. This “little voice in your head” is a common occurrence, but not everyone experiences it." - Source

How does this work ?

You have to think of it has a separation between the actual work and the awareness of the work.

One part of your brain takes in data - your visual cortex if you're reading, or your auditory cortex if you're hearing something. Another part of your brain looks for meaning and patterns and decides if this is "language". If so, it gets sent to the language processing center (Wernicke's area) which provides meaning to the sounds. This forwards information to your pre-frontal cortex and you become aware of hearing or reading the language, but that awareness is a separate thing from actually hearing/reading and understanding it, which already happened.

The above doesn't happen with the internal monologue of course as it's not external. Instead, meaning comes from within, gets processed through a language-production center (Broca's area) and is fed into the pre-frontal cortex, where you become aware of it. For someone without internal monologue, the missing area is the Broca's area to pre-frontal cortex step. It just doesn't happen, but they still read it, they just didn't have the language fed to their consciousness.

For those with internal monologue, all meaning proceeds through Broca's area and to the pre-frontal cortex, (or a lot anyway), creating the monologue and the awareness of it. For others the concepts can exist without processing into language, and the rest of the decision making apparatus still fully operates. i.e translating into language and awareness of the language are not necessary in the actual decision making process - the idea that it is is an illusion.

Interestingly most of our "conscious thoughts" arrive after a decision has already been made. This has been tested and confirmed. We rarely solve problems consciously. We actually solve the problems then become aware of the solution we came up with, while our pre-frontal cortex invents or just becomes aware of the connecting ideas that led to the solution.
Solving a math problem is done "behind the scenes" and then your brain informs your pre-frontal cortex to make you aware of the fact consciously.


What is Inner Monologue & how does it work ? What is Inner Monologue & how does it work ? Reviewed by Kanthala Raghu on July 10, 2023 Rating: 5

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