Do you talk to yourself when you think? Anendophasia or how to live without an inner voice

Everyone does it differently, but almost all of us talk to ourselves when we think.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 April 2024 Tuesday 10:24
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Do you talk to yourself when you think? Anendophasia or how to live without an inner voice

Everyone does it differently, but almost all of us talk to ourselves when we think. We have an inner voice that helps us fix our thoughts and that can appear in different ways. Maybe it is an internal monologue before going to sleep, perhaps a conversation between opposing positions when we have to make a decision, phrases to motivate ourselves while we exercise or a simple mental review of the next day's plans or what we have to pack in our suitcase. to go on vacation.

"The inner voice offers an organization of reality, it is a way of organizing thoughts, emotions and all the information we receive during the day," explains in RAC1 the neuropsychologist Marta Balagué, president of the Neuropsychology Section of the Official College of Psychology of Catalonia.

"Humans are an eminently linguistic species, that is what differentiates us from the rest," continues the expert, "and when we think about a reality we also use language." Balagué details that "the inner voice can acquire all the nuances that language offers" and, therefore, "it can express itself with an internal monologue, a discussion with two roles, as the development of a thought, to make a reasoning, to fix memories , etc.".

Now, there is a small percentage of people who do not have any inner voice. This phenomenon is known as anendophasia (absence of endophasia, which is that internal formulation of thought, with representation of one's own voice). The latest scientific research indicates that only 2% of the population lives with anendophasia.

Marta Balagué accepts this percentage as good and highlights the great variability that the inner voice has in each person. She also makes it clear that anendophasia "does not imply any disabling disease or disorder" and that people who do not have an inner voice develop other resources to think (images, emotions, abstract concepts) and be fully functional.

A first cousin of anendophasia is aphanasia, which is the inability to project images. Although studies on these mental characteristics have proliferated in recent years, such as those of the French researcher Hélène Loevenbruck, it is a very complicated field to study. "It is very difficult to see what the brain does when you think and do not verbalize it," admits the neuropsychologist at the Hospital de Sant Joan Despí Moisès Broggi.

The inner voice generally acts with "very unconscious and automatic processes," says Balagué. That is to say, normally "we are not aware that we have it, that we use it and that it is organizing our reality." So what does it depend on to make it work one way or another?

According to the widely accepted theory of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, we must look for the origin of the inner voice in how parents speak to babies. When a child begins to speak, it does so by repeating and imitating what the mother, father or people in the closest environment say. However, little by little he internalizes the words and phrases and ends up turning them into his inner voice.

Despite corroborating this theory, Marta Balagué believes that "the language of parents can create a certain tendency, but it does not determine what our inner voice will be like." "The inner voice does not depend only on parents, but is built throughout our life, with education, experiences, emotions, values, etc."

In this sense, the expert explains, psychologists can work with patients to consciously use this inner voice and get it to help them have different points of view or speak better to themselves.

This article was originally published on RAC1.