My book, The Voices Within, is about a phenomenon that many people report: that they are producing, participating, and listening to an internal conversation, or an internal monologue, a verbal stream of consciousness. Not everybody reports this, some people’s thinking seems to be very highly visual, or it doesn’t have any sensory elements. But many people identify with this idea that we are talking to ourselves a lot of the time. We are either talking to ourselves completely silently in our heads, or sometimes we talk to ourselves out loud. There are good reasons for thinking that these are all part of the same phenomenon.
This is a really hard thing to study scientifically. You are talking about somebody’s internal private conversations. What changed in the last 20 years or so is that we have better techniques and better methods both psychological and neuroscientific for getting at it.
Often when you talk about this topic, people start talking back to you about the ‘inner voice,’ and this is a term I avoid because it is vague and metaphorical, as I say quite early in the book. The term ‘inner voice,’ is used to refer to everything from gut instincts to artistic inspiration. Scientists don’t use the term. I find it more helpful to focus on something that you can be more specific about, using terms like ‘inner speech,’ or ‘internal monologue,’ or ‘internal dialogue.’