Charles Fernyhough's new book is The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. His other books include A Box of Birds and Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts.
From Fernyhough's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: In The Voices Within, you write, “Talking to ourselves is a part of human experience that, although by no means universal, seems to play many different roles in our mental lives.” What are some of the roles it plays?--Marshal Zeringue
A: We talk to ourselves for all sorts of reasons. When we do it out loud, it’s called private speech; the silent, internal version is called inner speech.
Both versions seem to have a range of different functions. We talk to ourselves to plan what we are about to do, such as when we anticipate a difficult meeting. We use inner speech to motivate ourselves, perhaps to psych ourselves up for a tennis match or scary interview.
We can also use language to tell ourselves off and talk through how we’ll do better next time. Inner speech features in remembering, imagination, creativity, and daydreaming, and in preparing for...[read on]