eli5: How/why can we “hear” our thoughts?


Unsure if the flair is correct. The title pretty much says it all, in the best way I could think to word it.

In: 17

So the simplest answer is that we don’t really know. We know that the process of subvocalization (when you read and your “hear” the words) involves some cool and interesting stuff happening like nearly imperceptible movements in your larynx (as though your brain is making you silently talk)

But not everybody has that. People born deaf dont hear words when they read or when they think, but they’re still able to do so. And you can actually learn not to subvocalize when you read. Though I dont know if you can learn to eliminate your auditory internal monologue

Equally interesting is that some people, despite having fully functional sight, have no internal “mind’s eye”. They cant see imagery in their head (a condition called aphantasia)

We know a bit about what parts of the brain are activating when we subvocalize and we have theories about its purpose (for instance it might be related to the process of memory storage)

But the simplest and most accurate explanation that can be given about how or why it works is that we dont really know yet

I’d say it’s kind of like reading, when we’re taught to read they point at the word and say it aloud, as we first start reading we do the same thing, then we learn that pointing at the word is unnecessary and stop doing it, then we start to learn that we shouldn’t always say everything out loud so people start whispering or mouthing the words and then (most people) move on to just reading without doing anything with the mouth, but still playing imaginary audio of the word being read aloud in the mind because the sound of the word was so ingrained in the reading process up to that point.

but some people go an extra step, at some point they realize (consciously or not) that the audio of the word is totally unnecessary to understand the word and don’t need to play it or wait for it to finish before moving on to the next word, allowing them to read silently much faster than reading aloud.


when we’re young we’re encouraged to communicate as much as possible, then as we get a little older we become kids with no filter whatsoever just saying literally everything we think, then we start to learn that we shouldn’t do that, but the mind is still anticipating having to communicate our thoughts to others and is translating them into words even if we may never end up actually saying them.

and like with the reading people can work out that it’s unnecessary and stop doing it, allowing them to process things a bit faster, out of the people I know that I’ve asked whether or not they have an ‘inner monologue’ all the people that said they didn’t have one (myself included) were introverts who don’t talk much, but we all remembered having it when we were younger.

Personally I only have audible thoughts when I’m actively writing or typing something or planning out how to say something to someone, otherwise it’s just instant thought

I’m not a psychologist or anything, this is just what I assume is going on from personal experience and reading stuff online and talking about it with other people

Am I the only one who doesn’t perceive themselves to “hear” or “see” things in their head, merely think them?

Fun fact: Not everyone has an internal monologue.

[People With No Internal Monologue Explain what It’s Like In Their Head](https://www.iflscience.com/brain/people-with-no-internal-monologue-explain-what-its-like-in-their-head/amp.html)

Haha very funny question. In couse of see my situation over the years i should understand that as a manipulation. Haha but maybe i dont this time. That question is not clear and has many answers. In My opiniom and i consider taht u can imagine some situation or think but never hear that. Yes i ve tried and this is very difficult and never pass for my mind 😉