Not Everyone Has an Inner Voice: This Can Be a Problem, Research Shows

Written by Camilla Jessen

May.30 - 2024 8:00 AM CET

Not everyone has an inner voice.

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You might have already heard it today: that inner voice reminding you of your appointment or grumbling about the headwind on your bike ride.

While it’s easy to assume everyone has this guiding voice, research indicates otherwise.

Linguists estimate that between 5 and 10 percent of people do not have an inner voice, which can present unique challenges.

The Inner Voice and Linguistic Tasks

Johanne Nedergård, a linguist at Copenhagen University, alongside a colleague from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explored the role of the inner voice in solving linguistic tasks.

Their study revealed that while the inner voice is helpful, those without it have developed alternative strategies to manage.

In the study, published in the scientific journal Psychological Science, participants were divided based on their experience of having an inner voice. They were tasked with deciding if words for a series of pictured objects rhymed.

"It's crucial to repeat the words internally to compare their sounds and determine if they rhyme," explained Nedergård in a press release.

The results were striking.

"Participants without an inner voice were significantly worse at remembering the words," noted Nedergård. This was evident in two out of the four tests conducted, confirming the importance of the inner voice in such tasks.

Alternative Strategies

Despite these challenges, those without an inner voice have found other ways to cope.

Some participants reported using physical gestures, such as tapping with different fingers, to help differentiate tasks.

The impact of lacking an inner voice on language and general behavior remains uncertain.

"It is only in recent years that we’ve realized not everyone has an inner voice," said Nedergård. As this understanding deepens, further research will explore how this affects individuals in various aspects of life.

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