I’ve spoken with Charles Fernyhough before. The developmental psychologist was interviewed for the very first episode of the very first series of the BBC Radio 4 programme The Digital Human. Then, he was talking about capturing the experience of being a child.
Tomorrow (on Saturday 17th August) on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, he and I and author Aamer Hussein talk with chair Bridget Kendall about capturing our inner voices - those snippets of logic and chaos that we say to ourselves inside our heads.
More from the blurb:
This week on the Forum: do you ever consciously talk to yourself? Maybe muttering in private what you won’t say out loud, or giving yourself a private pep talk to improve your performance, or perhaps arguing with yourself about whether to do something or not. We explore these inner monologues or dialogues, what shapes the process, and ask if they are a good thing, or can they trap us inside ourselves? British psychologist Charles Fernyhough explains why he believes the inner voice is vital in helping guide us through life and is rarely a sign of mental illness. Pakistani fiction writer Aamer Hussein writes in both Urdu and English, and explores the tension between thinking in one language and being forced to interact in another. And the American social psychologist Aleks Krotoski has been looking at how the internet affects the way we talk to ourselves.
Charles has a few interesting things to say about social media and inner voices - specifically the microblogging site Twitter. Here was his enlightenment, back in 2011 in Psychology Today:
I suspect that I also use Twitter to think out loud. I’ve written previously on this blog about children’s private speech, and how it seems to be their medium of thinking before verbal thought becomes internalized. I wonder whether I use Twitter for some of the same purposes. Talking to yourself seems to have many different functions, for adults as well as children. For one thing, it can express feelings. Many of children’s private utterances seem to have a function in emotion expression and regulation.
I wrote about the research that describes the functions of such apparently unnecessary gibberish in Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You: specifically, Oxford researcher Danica Radanovich and her colleague Massimo Ragnedda have a delightful paper comparing it to what anthropologists in the 1930s called phatic speech.
But Charles goes further. He says Twitter serves an even more crucial function - it helps us work through problems. It empties our minds of unnecessary nonsense so we can use more of our brain function to process things. We draw on both our inner speech and the dialogues that we engage in with our network.
You can hear more on The Forum on Saturday 17th August 2013.
And you’ll also get a dollop of fantasy from me in the programme’s 60 Second Idea To Save The World.
Buy Untangling the Web at the Guardian bookshop (get 50% off with code UTW07FG), on the Faber & Faber website, on UK Amazon or on US Amazon. Other territories are available too!