28 votes

Do you have an internal narrative or monologue, and if so what do you mean by that?

This thread is inspired by an off-topic discussion in another thread that was so interesting that I wanted to make a whole post about it. I've often seen people on the net express surprise that others have different modes of thought, typically with statements like "It was surprising to learn that others do/don't have an internal monologue!", where the do/don't choice depends on the person. I've thought for a while that a lot of this confusion might arise from people interpreting "Internal monologue" differently, and that people might actually think more similarly that it appears at first glance. My attempt to explain this in that thread was:

For example, I certainly do not vocalize all of my thoughts and it seems like my speed of thought goes much faster than the amount of time it would take to vocalize every single thing going through my head. That being said, once I concentrate on what I am thinking about, there is definitely a vocal component. If I think about going downstairs to get a snack, my thoughts are non-vocal, but once I think about the fact I am thinking about going to get a snack, I impose a narrative that has some type of vocal quality to it - I will think, I believe in words, that my thought was "I am going to go get a snack". I suspect in discussions like this a lot of people perhaps conflate the thought with the thought about the thought, since the latter is necessary to convey what one is thinking about and (at least in my case) has some type of narrative element.

So I am curious, Tildes - can you explain how you think, preferably both in moments where you are not actively thinking about thinking and those where you are?

39 comments

  1. [9]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    Yes, and it's honestly kind of annoying. Copying my comment from that thread to here in order to explain my situation, and why it's annoying: So my internal narrator is quite literally narrating...

    Yes, and it's honestly kind of annoying. Copying my comment from that thread to here in order to explain my situation, and why it's annoying:

    I don't have an internal narrative - my thoughts are not vocalised at all. That was a weird thing to realise other people do.

    Vice versa. It was weird to me learning that some people don't have internal narratives, since even as I type this out I can't help but hear my internal narrator speaking the words as I write them... :P And given that, I suspect you're all probably right about that being the root cause of me misspelling Mast a o don too. ;)

    p.s. As an aside, in order to stop misspelling a lot of words I even had to train myself to mispronounce them in my head. E.g. "Wed Nes Day", "Be A Utiful", etc. Even though I still say them correctly out loud, when I am in "spelling mode" when typing, that's what I hear in my head as I type them out.

    So my internal narrator is quite literally narrating in my head as I am typing, and I have had to essentially trick it so I don't constantly misspell stuff. And this narration also happens when I am thinking and problem solving too. As in, I often have vocal (only to me) debates and monologues running in my head as I work through things mentally. E.g. When I am doing Sudoku puzzles I actually hear the logic playing out in my head; like "so this can only be 4 or 8", "now this can't be 2", etc.

    When I am just speaking aloud, or doing regular, everyday tasks that don't require much thought, I don't have a constant running narration describing what I am doing, or describing my intent (like you do), though.

    17 votes
    1. [8]
      Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      I definitely do this when writing. It's like reading in reverse to me. I haven't ever written professionally or taken writing classes, so my writing (according to a friend who writes as a hobby)...

      I definitely do this when writing. It's like reading in reverse to me. I haven't ever written professionally or taken writing classes, so my writing (according to a friend who writes as a hobby) reads very much like I'm speaking. Which I never even thought there was a difference until she said that there was. I still don't really understand the distinction, but I think it's definitely because there's a narrator in my head.

      Taking this in a slightly different direction, I don't just have a narrator in my head, I am the narrator. When I'm writing I'm actually imagining myself speaking. Not in the sense that I picture myself standing somewhere speaking, but my mind is imagining what it would feel like from a first-person perspective to speak these words. A lot of my mindscape is visual. If I want to go downstairs to find some food, it will be mostly a non-verbal thought picturing what standing in front of the fridge looks like.

      If you ask me how to get to the corner gas station, I can picture the entire drive from beginning to end in my head like a movie* (and hopefully describe it to you accurately). I can even "zoom out" if I want and picture that route to the gas station top-down like a map. For most objects I can look at them, and then rotate them around in my head to imagine what things might look like if say, that couch where on the other side of the room. Even as a software developer, when designing classes, systems, architectures, etc it's all visually in my head. I can picture how each piece of the system relates to each other.

      * Which by the way, if you haven't heard of it before, the inability to picture things in your mind is actually a specific condition called Aphantasia. A friend of mine has it and didn't know it until he was 40+, blew his mind.

      7 votes
      1. kfwyre
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        There was actually a comment on Tildes about this a while back that clued me in to the fact that I might have it. It's not complete for me, as I can technically visualize most things, but it's...

        Which by the way, if you haven't heard of it before, the inability to picture things in your mind is actually a specific condition called Aphantasia. A friend of mine has it and didn't know it until he was 40+, blew his mind.

        There was actually a comment on Tildes about this a while back that clued me in to the fact that I might have it. It's not complete for me, as I can technically visualize most things, but it's almost always a sort of featureless, abstract visualization. Details are almost entirely absent. I have a particularly hard time picturing people. If you asked me about the hair length or color of coworkers that I've worked with for years, for example, I honestly wouldn't be able to tell you for most of them without seeing a picture.

        The Wikipedia page you linked mentions this test:

        This questionnaire invites the person to visualize a series of images (a relative, a rising sun, a shop they know, etc.) and rank how vivid the image is, from "perfectly clear and lively as real seeing" (5 points) to "no image at all, you only know that you are thinking of the object" (1 point). A total of 20 or less across 16 questions qualifies as aphantasia

        I haven't done the official questionnaire or anything, but my answers would most likely be 1-2 for everything. I honestly had no idea until recently that some people are capable of visualizing at a 5. Before I had a word for this, I noticed it with reading and talking about fiction when I was growing up. My mom loves vivid descriptions of visual details from authors, because they allow her to create a rich picture in her mind. Meanwhile, I tend to gloss over writing like that, as none of the details have any sort of sticking power in my brain. I'll hear exactly what someone looks like down to the threads on their outfit but for the rest of the story they're mostly just a sort of an approximation of a human-like stand-in -- a SUPERHOT NPC with maybe one or two added distinguishing characteristics.

        8 votes
      2. [3]
        gpl
        Link Parent
        I'm curious, would you say you are describing subvocalization

        Taking this in a slightly different direction, I don't just have a narrator in my head, I am the narrator. When I'm writing I'm actually imagining myself speaking. Not in the sense that I picture myself standing somewhere speaking, but my mind is imagining what it would feel like from a first-person perspective to speak these words. A lot of my mindscape is visual. If I want to go downstairs to find some food, it will be mostly a non-verbal thought picturing what standing in front of the fridge looks like.

        I'm curious, would you say you are describing subvocalization

        5 votes
        1. Omnicrola
          Link Parent
          I would say that I sometimes do subvocalize (or just actively vocalize :p), when writing or thinking about what I want to say. When reading though, that's entirely different.

          I would say that I sometimes do subvocalize (or just actively vocalize :p), when writing or thinking about what I want to say. When reading though, that's entirely different.

          2 votes
        2. cfabbro
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Not who you asked, but I do subvocalize when reading too... however, when I am typing the voice in my head definitely seems to precede my writing, and often even goes on tangents (which never make...

          Not who you asked, but I do subvocalize when reading too... however, when I am typing the voice in my head definitely seems to precede my writing, and often even goes on tangents (which never make it to page, or show up in later sentences/paragraphs) while my fingers catch up. And given that, and the fact that I can also hear internal logic and debate playing out in my head, I suspect my writing is derived from the internal narration, not the other way around as with subvocalization. The two are probably closely related though, and at times may even commingle a little when I reread something, or depending on how much (or little) thought I am putting into something as I write.

          1 vote
      3. [3]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Interesting. My internal narrator uses my voice, but it feels somewhat disconnected from my "self", almost as if it's an entirely separate entity inside my own head during some moments. It can...

        Interesting. My internal narrator uses my voice, but it feels somewhat disconnected from my "self", almost as if it's an entirely separate entity inside my own head during some moments. It can also even be downright hostile, adversarial, and hypercritical of me at times too.

        I suspect my anxiety disorder has a lot to do with the latter part... and while I have always felt that disconnect between myself and my internal narrator, I wonder if my Zazen meditation habits has furthered that feeling, since it's essentially a physically grounding, but mentally dissociative exercise, which I often use it to quell my internal dialogue.

        If you ask me how to get to the corner gas station, I can picture the entire drive from beginning to end in my head like a movie* (and hopefully describe it to you accurately)

        I can do that too. My memory is almost entirely visual. I can't remember what people sound like, as in my head/memory everyone (weirdly) kinda just sounds like me doing a mimicking voice. However I can picture people, and things, with almost perfect clarity, even in motion... Which probably explains why I can draw reasonably well, design and animate 3D models even better, and why I also enjoy lucid dreaming so much. ;)

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          Omnicrola
          Link Parent
          I could probably draw well if I ever actually practiced at it. I can sketch pretty well, and have enjoyed doing some whiteboard art from time to time. I actually went to (a very sketchy) school...

          Which probably explains why I can draw reasonably well, design 3D models even better, and why I also enjoy lucid dreaming so much. ;)

          I could probably draw well if I ever actually practiced at it. I can sketch pretty well, and have enjoyed doing some whiteboard art from time to time. I actually went to (a very sketchy) school for 3D+animation, and so can do that pretty well (very rusty now). Lucid dreaming is a thing that has always intrigued me, haven't ever really focused on it though.

          My internal narrator uses my voice, but it feels somewhat disconnected from my "self", almost as if it's an entirely separate entity inside my own head during some moments.

          Something that I didn't realize for a very long time is that I do actually have a voice that criticizes me all the time, except I "hear" it as someone else. This most commonly takes the form of my wife, because I am around her often (duh) and also because her opinion of me matters a lot. I don't actually "hear" it, but if I'm doing any random thing I'm imagining how someone else will perceive it and think about me. I constantly adjust what I'm doing to change that person's perception to what I think I want. Even when I'm alone, though I do that a lot less than I used to.

          What this resulted in for many many years was me projecting onto people. It wasn't that I would think they had said or done something they hadn't, it was that I was assigning feelings and perceptions to them that where actually my own feelings about myself. This really plays havoc with relationships, let me tell you.

          5 votes
          1. cfabbro
            Link Parent
            I am definitely guilty of that too. In conversations it takes genuine effort sometimes for me to separate the mental image I have developed over time of someone (which often taints my...

            What this resulted in for many many years was me projecting onto people. It wasn't that I would think they had said or done something they hadn't, it was that I was assigning feelings and perceptions to them that where actually my own feelings about myself.

            I am definitely guilty of that too. In conversations it takes genuine effort sometimes for me to separate the mental image I have developed over time of someone (which often taints my interpretation of their meaning/intent) from the reality of them, and what they are actually saying to me. And when I have been unable to do that it has bitten me on the ass on more than one occasion.

            5 votes
  2. [3]
    bhrgunatha
    Link
    No-one's mentioned dialogues yet. I'll often have imaginary dialogues - usually (but not always) with with people I know. I think it's when I subconsciously need to think about or work through...

    No-one's mentioned dialogues yet.
    I'll often have imaginary dialogues - usually (but not always) with with people I know. I think it's when I subconsciously need to think about or work through something and need a new perspective or as a sounding board to try and make nebulous ideas or concepts gel.
    It's not a choice I make, it happens by itself and I don't select the topics either which is the weird part to me.

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      JakeTheDog
      Link Parent
      I do this too. I find it particularly useful when I’m trying to develop some ideas or think about something I just learned. It serves the same role as "devils advocate" except for a variety of...

      I do this too. I find it particularly useful when I’m trying to develop some ideas or think about something I just learned. It serves the same role as "devils advocate" except for a variety of different perspectives depending on the friend. Of course, it’s more of a model of what I know that person to be like (their values, opinions, style of critique) rather than what they would actually be like. But I figure it’s pretty close.

      It’s also pretty useful before what you imagine will be a real argument or conflict. Simulating the other person can better prepare me for the discussion. Though I think this is also similar to steelmanning.

      5 votes
      1. Staross
        Link Parent
        I think it's a very good way of memorize something, just explain it to someone in your head, I do it all the time.

        I think it's a very good way of memorize something, just explain it to someone in your head, I do it all the time.

        2 votes
  3. Good_Apollo
    Link
    I can’t comprehend the idea that someone doesn’t have their thoughts internalized as a monologue of their own voice in their head. Like it’s actually shocking to me because it seems so inherent....

    I can’t comprehend the idea that someone doesn’t have their thoughts internalized as a monologue of their own voice in their head.

    Like it’s actually shocking to me because it seems so inherent. It would be like finding out other people can taste colors. Like just so unlike my own experience of existence.

    To the point almost where I believe it’s impossible and we do all think the same way but just fail to articulate it as a similar concept.

    8 votes
  4. j3n
    Link
    Probably not very well, but I'll give it a shot. I definitely have a near-constant internal monologue. I would go so far as to say that I associate my internal monologue with conscious thought....

    can you explain how you think, preferably both in moments where you are not actively thinking about thinking and those where you are?

    Probably not very well, but I'll give it a shot.

    I definitely have a near-constant internal monologue. I would go so far as to say that I associate my internal monologue with conscious thought. If, for example, it's too cold in my house and I need to turn the thermostat up, I might feel cold without internally vocalizing "I am cold", but that's sort of just a state of being. To actually get up and change the thermostat, I am virtually guaranteed to internally vocalize the thought "I need to change the thermostat". Even for purely internal actions like solving a difficult math problem, I talk through the problem in my head in essentially the same way as I would if I was talking through the problem at a whiteboard in front of a group.

    There's a lot going on that isn't vocalized. I'm certainly not narrating every press of every key (or event every letter) as I type this, but I'm also not really thinking about that consciously at all. I am vocalizing/thinking each word as I type it.

    6 votes
  5. Cycloneblaze
    (edited )
    Link
    I knew this would turn into its own thread sooner or later :P (@tindall, @cfabbro) I never vocalise thoughts, I do not (as I said there) have an internal monologue. Sometimes I think in words,...

    I knew this would turn into its own thread sooner or later :P (@tindall, @cfabbro)

    I never vocalise thoughts, I do not (as I said there) have an internal monologue. Sometimes I think in words, which is usually when I'm writing something - like right now. I'm bringing each word to mind as I decide on which word I want to type; my brain is faster than my fingers, so if I can think of a few words at once I will, and then I have to catch up. Or I'll pause to decide on a word, or if it won't come to mind.

    The point though is that I'm not "hearing" any of these words, they aren't spoken and there's no voice involved. I could kind of believe it if others said that their thoughts are formed in complete or semi-complete sentences, made of words, but it's honestly still shocking to me that people are actually "hearing" a voice in their head, narrating their thoughts. I know it's not quite the same as hearing someone speaking beside you, because it comes from within your own head, but narration? It's utterly alien to me. It's easy to conceptualise, but I have so many questions about it.

    For me, my thoughts are very concept-based. I tend to think of it as operating in the stage "before" words. Like, I know the meaning and concept of a thing, and I don't have to put it into words if I don't need to say it. That's an additional step that isn't necessary. I can just keep on a train of thought like that, going from concept to concept - thought to thought - in my head. It's very fast (when it works, lol). This is one way that having to narrate all one's thoughts confuses me so; not that I consider myself smarter that anyone who does that, at all, but does it not feel very limiting? What if you can't express something that you're thinking about in words, though you do know what you mean? Does that slow your thoughts down? Or am I being too literal in likening it to when I get stuck in speech?

    Others here have talked about aphantasia (I do think it's pretty much on topic, @post_below). I don't have aphantasia, but I know people who do, and it never seemed that weird to me. It's much more relatable to me than an internal monologue is, haha. The way I think, I say it's based on "concepts", because my thoughts are not really fully-formed things. They're just ideas or concepts. As well as putting them into words takes work, visualising them takes some work. I would say that they are closer to being images than anything else, but they're too... fuzzy, imprecise, to actually be images. It isn't anywhere close to being a movie playing in my head (and it would be a very idiosyncratic one), or anything that I "see". But the thing is that that is also true for images in my head when I'm trying to visualise things, so I don't know how normal that is. I can visualise things, but it's mostly based on my memory of a thing, if I'm actually trying to see it. And my memory is pretty terrible, so I'm quite bad at remembering well how things look! It's most striking when I try to visualise a person's face in my mind, because there the small details matter to how well you can think of them. I can only do it with close friends because I have a good memory of their face to call up.

    I'd say it's kind of like when you plan a drawing in your head and can "see" it very clearly, versus actually getting it onto the page being difficult, because you weren't actually seeing all those parts and details that you need to put on paper. You just had an idea. That's how I visualise things, and also mainly how I think.

    I also read the way I think - not paying so much attention to each word I read, but more so imagining the story that is conveyed by the words. This means I read very fast, so much that others are constantly surprised by it. At least, this is the best explanation I have for why I read so fast. It definitely varies based on what I'm reading; fiction is generally easier than non-fiction, but anything that tells a story or flows well is easier to read. Something like a scientific paper is hard to read. I remember the Silmarillion being written in a way that was distinctly harder to read than, say, LotR. It's certainly not all advantageous.

    Man, I hope this external monologue is interesting!

    eta: Something I forgot to put in, since @gpl mentioned "speed of thoughts". I agree that I think a lot faster than I speak - not necessarily a good thing. When my brain is doing its job well I can get through a train of thought really fast. A couple times I've had the experience of thinking of something, not anything important, but then from that having a chain of consequential realisations, so fast that some other part of my brain trying to process them can't keep up. I have to kind of go back in my head and follow the train of thought from start to finish to actually process what it is I realised, and think about it a bit more. It's very weird and a little unsettling! Fortunately I'm not smart enough for this to have happened more than twice or three times that I can remember 😅

    6 votes
  6. Wulfsta
    (edited )
    Link
    It depends on if it's useful for what I'm doing; I can generally control how I'm thinking about something and will choose different tools depending on the action. For instance, when typing...

    It depends on if it's useful for what I'm doing; I can generally control how I'm thinking about something and will choose different tools depending on the action. For instance, when typing comments like this I will narrate the comment as typing, because it makes it read more like speech than it otherwise would. I also will narrate it back when reading it once, and then read it again without narrating it in my head. When programming I usually don't narrate what I'm typing, I just think about the structure of the code - if I need to force myself to slow down and find a bug I will start narrating. One caveat to all this is that I seem to constantly have music playing in my head - I have no idea how that intersects with this discussion. More interestingly, I am usually unable to visualize individual objects (I can visualize an image of something I've seen before, like a very inaccurate photograph), but I can sort of feel them as if I am touching them instead. Calling it touch is a bit wrong - it's really closer to proprioception, but with an object rather than my body. I have been able to think about some higher dimensional objects like this in the past, but it requires a lot of hard concentration.

    Edit: Occasionally when I need to remember to do something and I'm busy I'll repeat it in my head a few times, then it will just sort of jump to the surface later when I'm done higher priority things.

    Edit 2: To actually contribute to the discussion a bit, I'm thoroughly convinced that anything that can vaguely be considered a language heavily changes how thought works. Mathematics, programming, and music all come to mind as possible examples.

    5 votes
  7. post_below
    Link
    Is it right or wrong to post something off topic in a thread that arose from an off topic discussion? Not related to monologues but to different ways of thinking, my mind was blown when I first...

    Is it right or wrong to post something off topic in a thread that arose from an off topic discussion?

    Not related to monologues but to different ways of thinking, my mind was blown when I first met someone who couldn't visualize and then discovered it's something that's been studied and isn't terribly uncommon:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphantasia

    The idea of essentially being unable to imagine is... hard to imagine. It makes you wonder just how different people's internal experiences really are. Much more than we imagine I think. Unless you're aphantasiac.

    5 votes
  8. [2]
    Pistos
    Link
    What a fascinating topic. I never knew there is this dichotomy among people. I myself do not have an inner narrative or monologue the way some of the commenters here have described. Let me pose a...

    What a fascinating topic. I never knew there is this dichotomy among people.

    I myself do not have an inner narrative or monologue the way some of the commenters here have described. Let me pose a question to those that say they do have it:

    Is the voice still speaking (in words) when you engage in activities for which there are, in some sense, no words? Some examples:

    • performing or listening to music without lyrics
    • dancing
    • admiring art (does your inner voice start critiquing or describing the art, in words?)
    • love making
    5 votes
    1. Kuromantis
      Link Parent
      Sometimes I will if that song has usable lyrics and I'm listening to an instrumental version. More often, I'll just sing or hum to myself. It's up to me, really. Too sedentary for that. And if I...

      Performing or listening to music without lyrics

      Sometimes I will if that song has usable lyrics and I'm listening to an instrumental version. More often, I'll just sing or hum to myself. It's up to me, really.

      Dancing

      Too sedentary for that. And if I wasn't, dancing isn't one of my interests anyway.

      Admiring art (does your inner voice start critiquing or describing the art, in words?)

      I don't admire a lot of art, but when I do, I'll either be alone and prefer talking to myself about the art, or I'll be with my mother in an art expo and we'll talk about it together.

      Love making

      Too kissless-hugless-handholdless virgin for that. I will often use my inner/imaginary voice while fapping/masturbating, usually to just repeat to myself that an aspect of a character or person's body is hot, or that the person as a whole is hot however, if you're fine with hearing about that instead.

      2 votes
  9. [5]
    Icarus
    Link
    Mine's first-person narration and it doesn't stop unless I meditate. Even then, I catch it having internal debates and deliberations, and have to tell it to stop again. But that's just part of the...

    Mine's first-person narration and it doesn't stop unless I meditate. Even then, I catch it having internal debates and deliberations, and have to tell it to stop again. But that's just part of the meditation process. My mind likes to sometimes play judge, jury, prosecutor, and defense, all in one go about different events or actions. If I am particularly anxious, then the court is always in session, so to speak. If I catch that occurring, then I work on practicing loving-kindness on whatever my mind is worked up about so I can move on with my day and accept it for whatever it is.

    Like /u/cfabbro, even typing this out, my brain is "speaking" the words. It is my own voice. But typing makes it have to slow down so much that I often lose the train of thought. My mind speaks a lot faster than I can talk or type, and it often is thinking about a random assortment of things within a small period of time. I'm sure my ADHD plays a role in this as my mind jumps around my neural relationship net at breakneck speed, linking together seemingly unrelated thoughts.

    Couldn't imagine it being any different though.

    4 votes
    1. [4]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I also have anxiety too (GAD and Panic Disorder), which makes me wonder if there is a correlation between those conditions and having an internal narrator. I wonder if anyone has done a study...

      I also have anxiety too (GAD and Panic Disorder), which makes me wonder if there is a correlation between those conditions and having an internal narrator. I wonder if anyone has done a study related to that?
      ("note to self: look that up on google scholar later" says the narrator ;)

      p.s. I also meditate daily too... although I don't even attempt to tell my brain to "stop" with the internal dialogue/debate anymore, since that just makes it worse for me. Instead I practice Zazen meditation, so I just acknowledge my stray thoughts instead of fighting them, but then immediately go back to counting my breaths until the stray thoughts start to die down and eventually go away. 25+ years ago, achieving internal silence used to take me hours, but I have been regularly meditating long enough now that I can basically just take a few deep breaths while counting and it almost instantly quiets my mind.... at least for a little while, anyways. The longer I meditate the longer I can keep the internal silence going afterwards though.

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        Omnicrola
        Link Parent
        I have some level of anxiety (undiagnosed), and I wondered this as well. I am constantly imagining what other people think or say, not just in the current moment but in different possible versions...

        which makes me wonder if there is a correlations between those conditions and having an internal narrator

        I have some level of anxiety (undiagnosed), and I wondered this as well. I am constantly imagining what other people think or say, not just in the current moment but in different possible versions of past or future conversations. My therapists advice and methods for becoming more "present" in the current moment help a lot with this when it gets out of control.

        2 votes
        1. cardigan
          Link Parent
          Just chipping in with this: I'm anxious, prone to panic attacks, and have next to no internal monologue or narration. When I'm worried about something, I tend to picture it actually happening with...

          Just chipping in with this: I'm anxious, prone to panic attacks, and have next to no internal monologue or narration. When I'm worried about something, I tend to picture it actually happening with a lot of detail, and get overwhelmed by that.

          3 votes
        2. Good_Apollo
          Link Parent
          Myself to a T. Constant imagining and reenacting future and past situations. Going over permutations of my ideal or, often, worst case scenarios. I’ll try to recreate the personalities and...

          Myself to a T. Constant imagining and reenacting future and past situations. Going over permutations of my ideal or, often, worst case scenarios.

          I’ll try to recreate the personalities and possible thoughts or conversations with people I don’t even know at all.

          ADD with mild anxiety.

          I’d always assumed most people do this. Hence phrases like “they’re living rent free in your mind”. I probably just do it more and let my imaginings get to me more because of my personality. News to me that some people really just don’t think about other people like this...or at all. It’s hard to believe.

          3 votes
  10. [2]
    Tygrak
    Link
    I think there are levels of how much vocalized my thinking is. The "first level" is basically saying stuff without saying anything, very hard to describe with words, I think most of my thinking is...

    I think there are levels of how much vocalized my thinking is. The "first level" is basically saying stuff without saying anything, very hard to describe with words, I think most of my thinking is of this type. The "second level" is like actually saying something, but not actually making sounds - like whispering so quietly that it doesn't actually make any sound. I guess the "third level" could be actually vocalizing the thoughts - so mumbling/talking to yourself, but I don't do this pretty much ever, the only time I really do this kind of is when I am by myself and break something and let out some swears, or some non-words - something like the equivalent of mashing the keyboard but with speech (an attempt to write out how this sounds: "brkfrhnbrfgrfdl"). I don't think there's actually much difference between the second and third level.

    So I guess it's hard to say if I have internal narrative. I would say I mostly don't have internal narrative/monologue, because most of my thinking is done in the first level I described. When I am doing something I don't often talk to myself (second level) about the current task or the upcoming task. Sometimes, when I am by myself I can start dialogue in the second level with myself. In the dialogue both parts are me and aren't really different from each other. I do this quite rarely though. When reading text, I think I use the first level? When writing text, I think I use the second level. I can read text while singing a song (second level/third level), but I can't really write text while singing a song (can anyone write anything other than what they are saying while they are saying something?). I guess I kind of can but it's more like thinking one thing for one moment and thinking the second thing for another moment, using a computing analogy: like having a single processor core work on multiple threads.

    Even after writing all this out, and seeing some pretty big differences from how others have described their thinking here, I am not convinced our thinking is actually different. I feel it is really hard to describe my thinking process with words, so how can we be sure we aren't all describing the same things using different words? The same thing as aphantasia, I definitely don't see anything when I imagine something. When describing a picture, or an object I don't see it. The closest I can do to actually seeing something like this, is when I close my eyes in a dark place. When I do this, mostly just black remains, but there are kind of lighter (purplish? dark blueish?) spots that I can control. I can make simple shapes, make the spots swirl a bit and stuff like that. To be honest I am not sure this isn't just moving my eyes with my eyelids closed. I definitely can't actually see something like Mona Lisa this way. But I can imagine things, and I can draw them. Is this actually different from when people say they can see something when imagining it? Do I have aphantasia? Is aphantasia actually a thing?

    4 votes
    1. wedgel
      Link Parent
      I can picture things in my head and draw them too. But I have a narrator that's always on, I choose to picture things. That's not my minds default. I don't think about what someone said as images....

      I can picture things in my head and draw them too. But I have a narrator that's always on, I choose to picture things. That's not my minds default. I don't think about what someone said as images. I don't see images in my head, random shapes type stuff, when I'm reading. My wife does. She has Aphantasia. She doesn't have a narrator at all and it trips her out that most people do. She says it would be fucking annoying.

      3 votes
  11. Amarok
    Link
    I have two, and they seem oddly specific. The first is the 'voice of reason' that just appears out of the blue sometimes when I'm doing something a bit stupid - or about to. It's like having an...

    I have two, and they seem oddly specific.

    The first is the 'voice of reason' that just appears out of the blue sometimes when I'm doing something a bit stupid - or about to. It's like having an angry dad standing behind you to your left saying 'dumbass'. This one feels involuntary.

    The second is head-space conversation. I think most people have this to some degree - you're imagining yourself having a conversation with another person, and the dialogue for you and for them is both present. It could be a parent, friend, celebrity, boss, whatever. This can even get annoying, for me at least it starts unbidden at times if I have a bit of inspiration.

    I started wondering why I do this, and that lead to the idea that perhaps it could be useful for something beyond wasting time or preparing for a meeting or upcoming conversation. Before long I found out it's hellishly useful for characters and character development, I can put those characters in a head-place and go over the conversation almost effortlessly, as if I'm just listening to it rather than generating it. Peeking in mentally on some other place. The more I use it the better it gets at this, too. Right down to vocal timbre, strange speech mannerisms, differing goals driving the characters, etc. I don't have to think about it, it just happens. Sometimes it's harder to turn on than others, being well-rested helps.

    Beyond those two and some patchy monologue when writing a post like this one putting thoughts in order, I hear no other monologues.

    4 votes
  12. xstresedg
    Link
    I'm not sure how to accurately describe it. I have an internal audio-visual situation. So my brain is constantly running through audio and video depending on the situation. Sometimes I have...

    I'm not sure how to accurately describe it. I have an internal audio-visual situation. So my brain is constantly running through audio and video depending on the situation. Sometimes I have internal dialogue with the myself, who is the mind version of me. In a sense we're distinct individuals but we both are part of the conscious me.

    Some thoughts are words, some thoughts are pictures, and some thoughts are an indescribable thing, like how if you raise your arm, you neither think the action nor picture it, you just do it.

    3 votes
  13. [2]
    wycy
    Link
    Like many here, I do have an internal monologue. Lately I've been having a lot of trouble getting it to shut up so I can sleep. How do you turn off/quiet yours to sleep?

    Like many here, I do have an internal monologue. Lately I've been having a lot of trouble getting it to shut up so I can sleep. How do you turn off/quiet yours to sleep?

    3 votes
    1. cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Zazen meditation! You should give it a try some time. It's effective, deceptively simple, and remarkably easy to learn how to do, but it does take genuine daily (or weekly at the least) commitment...

      Zazen meditation! You should give it a try some time. It's effective, deceptively simple, and remarkably easy to learn how to do, but it does take genuine daily (or weekly at the least) commitment to see any tangible results from.

      And if you find Zazen "just sitting" style meditation isn't your thing, you can always give transcendental, loving-kindness, mindfulness, etc. meditation a try instead. See: 7 types of meditation for more info.

      1 vote
  14. wedgel
    (edited )
    Link
    I have a voice in my head that is going pretty much all the time. it uses singulars when I'm depressed or angry and plurals when I'm not. An "I" vs "we" sort of thing. When I read that voice is...

    I have a voice in my head that is going pretty much all the time. it uses singulars when I'm depressed or angry and plurals when I'm not. An "I" vs "we" sort of thing. When I read that voice is reading the material out loud, like a book on tape. And it pretty much only stops when I'm being really loud or when I'm talking to myself. I guess when I talk to myself my voice is replacing the narration.

    3 votes
  15. knocklessmonster
    (edited )
    Link
    I thought everybody did. I talk myself through things, but don't talk back to it, and refer to myself in the third person. It's sort of my sober companion that tries to keep me on the straight and...

    I thought everybody did. I talk myself through things, but don't talk back to it, and refer to myself in the third person. It's sort of my sober companion that tries to keep me on the straight and narrow if I'm too high, too drunk, too pissed off, whatever. The issue is, if I'm in one of these extreme states, I'm incapable of expressing this monologue outwardly.

    3 votes
  16. [2]
    bilbodwyer
    Link
    I've had similar discussions with my friends before. I don't have an internal monologue running through my head, I tend to think in concepts and situations. In conversation I'm not thinking about...

    I've had similar discussions with my friends before. I don't have an internal monologue running through my head, I tend to think in concepts and situations. In conversation I'm not thinking about the words I want to use, and only sometimes when I'm writing do I "hear" words in my head. There are times when I will think about words, but not necessarily in words. I find this to be a significant disadvantage when I'm trying to relay the details of a conversation I've had to another person: I can't remember the specific things that were said unless I'm really concentrating both at the time of the conversation and at the time of reporting back. I can usually offer up a broad-strokes summary of a talk, based on my emotional response to it, but getting into the nitty-gritty of what words people used (unless they're particularly unusual or evocative) is nigh impossible.

    I suffer from aphantasia, which I only realised a couple of years ago after a conversation with my brother, followed by one with my friends. The idea that you can vividly hold an image in your mind is absolutely wild to me. I don't even know what that would feel like. Part of me wonders if the subjective experience is actually quite similar across the board, but our expectations and ways of describing the concept do not match up quite as well as we'd like. So for instance, I am able to conceptually think about apples, but not "visualise" one. Perhaps those who can picture apples in their mind's eye are doing the same as I am, but with a different perspective on what that actually means?

    A fun little test I tried was being asked to picture a ball on a table, and that someone pushes the ball off the table. Then I was asked for a few details about the mental picture, such as the colour of the ball, material of the table, or the gender of the person doing the pushing. At no point in my initial imagining did it occur to me that the ball, table, or person could have any of those properties - it was all very abstract.

    Now what I do have (perhaps through my long-term status as a musician) is a constant bit of music going around in my head. It might be a tune I already know, or something that I'm writing myself, might be some lyrics, or a drum beat. But I'm able to listen to music in my head without there being anything audible in the world around me. I find it quite easy to compose in my head, and I can hear multiple parts of the same song at once if I try.

    3 votes
    1. Cycloneblaze
      Link Parent
      That's funny. I regard that I can visualise things, but I had the same experience as you when I just tried this - I didn't know what colour the ball had until I was asked, and I think actually...

      A fun little test I tried was being asked to picture a ball on a table, and that someone pushes the ball off the table. Then I was asked for a few details about the mental picture, such as the colour of the ball, material of the table, or the gender of the person doing the pushing. At no point in my initial imagining did it occur to me that the ball, table, or person could have any of those properties - it was all very abstract.

      That's funny. I regard that I can visualise things, but I had the same experience as you when I just tried this - I didn't know what colour the ball had until I was asked, and I think actually that it didn't have one. In fact I didn't imagine that a person was doing the pushing until that was mentioned, I just saw it roll off the table. But I feel like I did see it... Hmm.

      1 vote
  17. [4]
    TeMPOraL
    Link
    I've had this conversation just last week on HN, covering internal monologue and aphantasia. Other people chimed in there; you may find these valuable datapoints. To make it short: I have an...

    I've had this conversation just last week on HN, covering internal monologue and aphantasia. Other people chimed in there; you may find these valuable datapoints.

    To make it short:

    • I have an internal monologue narrating stuff, though it's not always present. All my thinking happens through internal monologue - but surprisingly, typing often does not. In particular, as I type in this comment, I type at the speed of thought.
    • The above is probably why I gravitated towards thinking deeply by talking to myself through a text file. I don't have "double narration" experience then, and it's easier to keep the thoughts cohesive over time if I don't try to "remember" what I said to myself in my head.
    • Regarding aphantasia, on this test image, I score 1-2, maybe 3 on a good day. My wife scores an easy 6. We only discovered that a month or two ago.
    • As mentioned in the HN thread, I have good trivia/history memory, bad situational/people's name memory, and weak ability to recognize people's faces.
    3 votes
    1. [3]
      Amarok
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      That's interesting. I'm a dead 1 on that test and always have been, but somehow that doesn't interfere with my ability to remember and recognize things. I work more on 'impressions' than images,...

      That's interesting. I'm a dead 1 on that test and always have been, but somehow that doesn't interfere with my ability to remember and recognize things. I work more on 'impressions' than images, and those impressions seem more detailed to me than an image could be. I can translate that impression into images on paper easily enough and have them be quite accurate... but I never see anything in my head. There's nothing visual about it, ever. Makes me wonder what my visual cortex is really up to sometimes. :P

      It's curious seeing that image, it's dead on target. My impressions feel like grey-washed barely-perceivable photo-negatives, not at all unlike numbers 2/3 on that chart. Edges, ridges, no colors, and I can only sense the physical form of it for like a half second before it's gone again.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        TeMPOraL
        Link Parent
        Thanks for sharing, you just put another axis on my mental model of this phenomenon! I though people who could translate vision to drawings would score very high on this chart. Your case suggests...

        Thanks for sharing, you just put another axis on my mental model of this phenomenon! I though people who could translate vision to drawings would score very high on this chart. Your case suggests that these two things are independent.

        (I wonder who came up with the test image, too. When I saw it the first time, I immediately noticed the background color noise was a great representation of what I "see" as a backdrop when I close my eyes in a dark room.)

        1 vote
        1. Amarok
          Link Parent
          Yeah, it's strange. I can project it onto the paper and just kinda... trace it. I'm not a very good artist but then I haven't had any training/tips or a lot of practice, either. The practice is...

          Yeah, it's strange. I can project it onto the paper and just kinda... trace it. I'm not a very good artist but then I haven't had any training/tips or a lot of practice, either. The practice is what makes one good. My drawings are just maps for tabletop RPGs and occasional doodles. I'm rather good at the maps but crap at most else.

          2 votes
  18. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    I have. It is quite structured (others might call it rigid...), but not because my mind is organized by nature. The disarray of my thoughts led me to the study of philosophy, philosophical logic,...

    I have. It is quite structured (others might call it rigid...), but not because my mind is organized by nature. The disarray of my thoughts led me to the study of philosophy, philosophical logic, and reasoning in general. My inner world became organized as a consequence of a profound need for order. So I’m always anticipating conversations and creating answers to the possible derivations that might occur. My thoughts are frequently like mini plays in which the characters interact with me in a political debate. It can get pretty heated.

    A lot of the time it’s just me, though. I keep honing my skills talking to a hypothetical mirror.

    Either way, my mind is never silent.

    Sometimes this make me sound smarter than I really am, but also extremely arrogant on occasion.

    3 votes