William James had a complete disdain for the study of inner speech, because, to him, it was a ghost: impossible to observe. The French developmental psychologist Jean Piaget insisted that private speech signified simple inability — it was the babble of a child without capacity for social communication with no relation to cognitive functioning at all. Through much of the 20th century, Piaget seized the reigns of child development, insisting that children had to reach a developmental stage before learning could occur.
Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Vygotsky said that learning occurred, then the brain developed. Piaget said the brain developed, then learning occurred. Over years of meticulous experiment behind the Iron Curtain, Vygotsky continued to make his case.
One thing he did was study children in the zone of proximal development as they worked with adults to accomplish tasks.
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In the experiments, the child would be presented with a challenge and a tool for overcoming it. This intermediate stage, he held, was connected on one end to a prior period when we had no thread of memory and no inner voice and on the other end to true inner speech so crucial to self-reflection, narrative memory, and development of cognitive skills. Despite the roadblocks, in the year of his death Vygotsky finally published his opus on inner speech and childhood development, Thought and Language.
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It was a potent challenge to Piaget but, shrouded by the Stalinist censor, his ideas remained under wraps. Meanwhile, in the West, newer work in developmental psychology began to chip away at the acceptance of Piaget. The book provided a rational, alternative way to conceive the development of the mind. A leader of that era was the American psychologist Laura Berk, professor emeritus at Illinois State University, an expert on childhood play.
She and many other child psychologists demonstrated the importance of the inner voice, beyond a doubt, elevating Vygotsky and burying Piaget for good.
W ith inner speech clearly established as a chisel for the young mind, many more questions remained. Do people in adulthood experience inner speech in the same way as children — or even as each other? Do most of us even have an inner voice — an internal commentator narrating our lives and experiences from one moment to the next? These were deeply controversial and introspective questions in the s, and they captured the imagination of Russell Hurlburt, an aeronautical engineer-turned-clinical-psychology graduate student at the University of South Dakota.
Hurlburt calls his methodology Descriptive Experience Sampling DES , and it works by sampling the inner thoughts of a given interviewee during those moments when a beeper randomly goes off. After extracting the contents of inner experience from countless interviews, Hurlburt has defined an array of phenomena typically shared by humans — auditory and visual imagery, emotion, awareness of real stimuli and a category of thoughts that occur without words, images or symbols of any kind. The main contribution here, though, is actually DES itself. Before its inception, introspective methods had been shunned for decades, if not centuries, as being too highly influenced by bias to be taken seriously.
Now, with DES, Hurlburt believes in the possibility of obtaining unbiased, accurate snapshots of inner experience that includes inner speech. A participant wears the beeper, which can go off at any moment throughout the day. They go about their daily activities and are likely to forget its presence.
The inner voice
When the beeper does go off, the participant makes a careful note of exactly what their inner experience was immediately beforehand. Subsequently, they are questioned by Hurlburt about that experience in a thorough but open-ended interview. The interview process itself requires an exacting, friendly yet trial-like probe of what occurred. For the next six minutes Hurlburt probed her about this experience. In a sample of bulimic participants, Hurlburt found the propensity for multiple inner voices at the same time. He takes care not to bias the participant in any way. Thanks to the accuracy of DES, Hurlburt has found thought patterns associated with various clinical populations, including those with schizophrenia, bulimia nervosa, and autism.
Importantly, such experiences are not often perceived by the experiencers themselves, let alone revealed to anyone else. Hurlburt has found that we typically self-talk in voices we regard as our own and, though silent, we attribute to these voices sonic characteristics such as tone, pitch and pacing.
We invest them with emotional qualities similar to external speech. Finally, inner speech mostly occurs in complete sentences and is nearly always actively produced rather than passively experienced. Recently, Hurlburt teamed up with Charles Fernyhough, a leading researcher of inner speech and auditory hallucination at Durham University in the United Kingdom.
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To conduct their collaboration , they put DES participants into brain scanners using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging fMRI , which detects metabolic changes in the brain. Like other participants, these subjects were asked to record inner speech and experience occurring just prior to a beep — but this time, brains would be scanned. These scans were compared with others that were captured when participants inwardly repeated words that they read on a screen — a method for investigating inner speech that had been used in many previous studies. P icking up where Vygotsky and researchers like Berk left off, Fernyhough has been investigating the role that inner speech plays in developing, evolving minds.
After the private speech of childhood has finally been internalised, suggests Fernyhough, inner speech emerges in a multiplicity of ways — each comparable to speech spoken out loud. He believes this kind of inner speech is most likely engaged when we are under stress or cognitive pressure.
Imagine, for example, while travelling, that you are making an important phone call regarding a lost passport. To date, Fernyhough and colleagues have devised clever ways of exploring expanded speech through its tight connection with out-loud speech. Speaking aloud effectively annihilates the role that expanded inner speech would otherwise play. Of this there can be no doubt.
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In the spiritual world the divine bestowals are infinite, for in that realm there is neither separation nor disintegration, which characterize the world of material existence. Spiritual existence is absolute immortality, completeness and unchangeable being. Therefore, we must thank God that He has created for us both material blessings and spiritual bestowals. He has given us material gifts and spiritual graces, outer sight to view the lights of the sun and inner vision by which we may perceive the glory of God. He has designed the outer ear to enjoy the melodies of sound and the inner hearing wherewith we may hear the voice of our Creator.
The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith. The official website of the Baha'i Faith is: Bahai.
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It is through this recognition and application of virtue that we can appreciate how we are connected to the Divine authorship of that inner voice which Thus we are made in the "image of God". Read more Elizabeth Pakravan. I read somewhere but can not find it anymore, where it says that all the decisions we make come from our soul telling us what to do, and even when might appear as a wrong decision is the right one because makes as grow or learn something. We respect your trust in us. Your email address will solely be used for delivering the latest articles to you and absolutely nothing else.
Why you should listen to your inner voice (and how to hear it better)
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