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Do You Hear An “Inner Voice” While Reading?

As you are reading this article, do you hear an inner voice speaking the words to you?

If so, you are part of a group of 80% of people who have reported hearing a unique “inner voice” as they read quietly to themselves.

A study – one of the first of its kind – by Professor Ruvanee Vilhauer, from New York University’s Department of Psychology, examined 160 answers from a survey about reading and found an overwhelming number of participants had an “inner reading voice.” Of those who said they heard an inner voice, 13% said they did so only sometimes, with various factors tending to increase the likelihood of this happening, such as their interest in the text, while 11% of people surveyed claimed they had never heard an inner voice while reading.

The voice ranged from their own voice to that of family, friends or even characters.

Everyone assumes everyone else is the same. However, we have found not everyone has an inner voice

Some people in the study even reported hearing a voice that was “uncontrollable” to them, which sounds slightly scary. Vilhauer said that the insights from her analysis provided some support for theories that say auditory hallucinations are inner voices that are incorrectly identified as not belonging to the self.

The reason so little research as been done thus far, according to Vilhauer, is because people assume hearing a “voice” while reading is entirely normal while researchers argue that this is not the case; it appears to be specific to the individual.

Another study indicated that poor literacy levels were linked to hearing a voice. “Everyone assumes everyone else is the same. However, we have found not everyone has an inner voice and in those who don’t, literacy levels are often poor,” according to Professor Rod Nicolson, head of work psychology at the University of Sheffield.

So the next time you hear a Bridget Jones-type narrator in your head while thumbing through your favourite book, you can at least take comfort in the fact that 80% of others hear the same thing too.

Read the full study here

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