Language is the hallmark of humanity—it allows us to form deep relationships and complex societies. Fernyhough, a professor at Durham University in the U. This idea was pioneered by Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist who studied children in the s and noted that when they learned to talk to other humans, they also learned how to talk to themselves, first out loud, and eventually, in their heads. One researcher the book cites clocks inner speech at an average pace of 4, words per minute—10 times faster than verbal speech. But it does maintain many of the characteristics of dialogue. We may imagine an exchange with someone else, or we may just talk to ourselves. Our minds contain many different perspectives, and they can argue or confer or talk over each other. I spoke with Fernyhough about how the fragments of ourselves communicate through inner speech, the difficulty in studying the phenomenon, and what it might teach us. A lightly edited and condensed transcript of our conversation is below.
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