When did we start to develop an internal monologue?

Did our minds start talking to us at the advent of language or before?
And… those of you with stupidly long memories, do you remember how your thoughts went before you could speak?

This is a question I have been wondering about also. So can I add a few more sub-questions.

Do all people think in the form of an inner monologue?

Do multi-lingual dopers think in a monologue in one language at a time, or do you think using all your languages together, do you favour the tongues you learnt as a young child?

Is there any relationship between the inner monologue, and the experience of hearing voices that is associated with schitzophrenia and other mental disturbances.

But most important to me is brainfizz’s first question
Did our minds start talking to us at the advent of language or before?

and its collorary, is thinking in language as an inner-monologue more efficient than thinking without the descernable inner-monologue? Would this then be an evolutionary advantage of the creation of language that isn’t much considered.


*Do all people think in the form of an inner monologue?

Do multi-lingual dopers think in a monologue in one language at a time, or do you think using all your languages together, do you favour the tongues you learnt as a young child?*

A1: I do. I would suppose most people do, as well.

A2: A language at a time, but rapid-switching is involved. If I’m thinking about comprehension that occured in English, then I think in English (e.g. reading a book or listening to an English speaker). If I’m thinking about home or my parents or friends from back home, then I think in Gujarati

I don’t have a full answer to the question, but here’s some information on the inner monologues of the deaf (I pulled this off of UseNet):

Does the ability to express something with words make that thing easier to think about?

I susspect it is quite common for people to experience that the mobility of their knee cap under moving it by hand, differs depending on the state of relaxation of muscles arround the knee. This experience as far as I know has no name in English.

Compare that to the feeling of clicking your fingers.

Is it easier to think about the second idea to the first? And is this due to the second having an easy term in English language?

You might be interested in reading this book:

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Interesting theory, but probably not well accepted.

My internal monologue stopped pretty soon after I started talking to myself. I continue to have internal dialogues, though. Those monologues get so, well, monotonous, and Tonight Show-like, ya know?

You must get this book, if for no other reason than it boasts what is arguably the greatest book title, ever!

Nah, the greatest book title ever is The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

Does this internal monologue degerate with age-and-laziness? This would be similar to an old married couple, he says, “Honey can you get me that thing?” and she knows what to get. As time goes by he doesn’t have to remember the name, and so he says to the waitress, “Let me have one of those, uh, uh, --”

What I’m trying to bring out here, is that notorious “uh, uh” of old age: does it relate to missing brain cells, or does it relate to abandoning specifics in the silent verbal discourse?

There is an awful lot of variety in the way people think, both as to what they think, and the means by which they think it. Whenever one hears somebody say that “everyboy knows” something or everybody feels or acts a certain way, be on guard that you are probably about to hear nothing more than the prejudices of a person ho does not apprehend that he, like everyone else, has a limited understanding of the variety of human experience.

Some thirty years ago when I was a high school senior I attended an open house at the School of Speech Pathology at St. Louis University. A professor asked the assembled students–I suppose there were a couple of hundreds of us–how many of us thought in pictures. Some hands went up. She asked how many people thought with vague moods or impressions which were hard to describe precisely. Some hands went up. She even asked how many people thought with smells. Then she asked how many people thought in words. From what I recall, every person in the audience raised his or her hand.

Nevertheless, not everyone uses an “internal monologue” when thinking, and people who do “think in words” do so to varying degrees.

Temple Grandin designs facilities for manuevering animals, including slaughterhouses. It was estimated a few years ago that about one third of the beef cattle in the U. S. are dispatched in facilities she designed. She is able to construct humane systems for guiding cattle without force or coercion because, she says, she is able to think like an animal.

That is to say, she does not think in words. Grandin is autistic, and was the subject of a famous essay by Olivers Sachs entitled An Anthropoligst on Mars. The title refers to her difficulty in comprehending other people. In an interview on the NPR show All Things Considered she tried to describe how she is she is able to speak (in a strange, slow, machine-like tone), yet has all of her thoughts represented by pictures. She gave as an example that when she thinks of the concept of infinity, she “hears” no word, but only sees an image of stars flying past her, like on the bridge of The Enterprise on Star Trek.

Helen Keller, blind and deaf, was able to recall her thoughts and feelings before and during the process of acquiring language.

I have always wondered about a variation of this question: At what age do people start to develop an internal monologue?

Suppose this could go in IMHO.

Some of us think in pictures. Its where, I believe, the idea of a “photographic memory” comes from. Its not so much we remember everything, its more that a picture is, well, worth a thousand words :slight_smile:
As far as the internal dialog, I believe, I read long long ago that memory requires multiple reference. One needs to have words to go with the sound, smell, sight, feel to actually remember it. I’m sorry, I can’t remember where I read/heard it. I don’t think I made it up :slight_smile:

I don’t think this is IMHO yet. Does anyone have a source for information on ways of thinking, with and without words?

This may be a rarity because it is very difficult to discribe non-verbal ways of thinking with words.

I am used to thinking about certain things non verbally, I can process and consider multiple flows of information, and find places where they interact without being able to discribe the flows. I am thinking about multidimentional surfaces that I cannot discribe verbally as I can only discribe things in up to three dimensions. This ability can be evidenced in the way I can find interconnections between different processes on a database for instance, and see processes that are related in a way that coleagues of greater programming skill and greater inteligence can’t see.

See my reference to Helen Keller above.

Walloon that may well be true now, but what then about Hominids that had not yet developed language? Did they have ‘word - nouns’ for things in order to remember them and did those ‘nouns’ develop a relationship to particular sounds and then develop into language. Or did they have an inferior way of remembering things until language developed?

Great for impressing your friends. “Oh, have you read The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind yet?”

Actually, all you have to do is remember your civics class in H.S. (Bicameral = Two Chambered) to get the title and the thesis. The claim is that the internal monologue was going on for some time and it was only when the two hemispheres had developed sufficient interconnections that the internal monologue was recognized as the Self, and not just a “voice from outside”.

Helen Keller did not have developed language before she was tutored by Annie Sullivan, yet she had vivid memories of her childhood pre-language. She later described thought processes she went through, emotions she felt, tactile sensations she experienced, as a pre-language child. It should be obvious that it does not take language to make a memory hold in one’s mind.