Inner voice a big part of getting through the day

Inner voice gets us through the day - Newsreel
Our inner voice is an important part of getting through the day remembering things. | Photo: GaudiLab (iStock)

People often talk about the “voice in their head” that advises, warns and sometimes confounds them.

It turns out that most humans have this, and it plays a really important part in living our lives well and efficiently.

Researchers have also found that about five to 10 percent of the population do not have this inner voice, and this impacts their memory and speed of reaction.

University of Copenhagen linguist Johanne Nedergård said people described the condition of living without an inner voice as “time-consuming and difficult” because of the amount of time they spent translating thoughts into words.

She said previously it was commonly assumed that all people had an inner voice and only recently had researchers become aware that not everyone shared this experience.

“Some say that they think in pictures and then translate the pictures into words when they need to say something,” she said.

“Others describe their brain as a well-functioning computer that just does not process thoughts verbally, and that the connection to loudspeaker and microphone is different from other people’s.

“And those who say that there is something verbal going on inside their heads will typically describe it as words without sound.”

The researchers compared the experience of people who reported a high degrees of inner voice or very little inner voice to test their ability to remember a string of rhyming words.

“It is a task that will be difficult for everyone, but our hypothesis was that it might be even more difficult if you did not have an inner voice because you have to repeat the words to yourself inside your head in order to remember them,” Dr Nedergård said.

“And this hypothesis turned out to be true: The participants without an inner voice were significantly worse at remembering the words.”

The findings were published in the latest Psychological Science journal. The full report is on the University of Copenhagen website.