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Do you have an inner monologue? Hear from the UNLV professor who says most don't

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Posted at 8:44 AM, Feb 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-18 12:08:20-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — If you ask, most people may tell you they think in words or that they talk to themselves. We’ve seen it portrayed in movies and on TV, like the popular show “You” currently on Netflix.

A student named Ryan Langdon recently found out that not everyone has "inner speech." He posted a blog about it, garnering more than 9 million views and sparking an internet frenzy.

UNLV Psychology Professor Russ Hurlburt, Ph.D., has dedicated his career to what he calls "the inner experience." He has dozens of publications and six books on the matter.

The sudden spark in interest comes as a pleasant surprise, he says.

“I’m delighted to see the interest because I think inner experience is important," said Professor Hurlburt.

"The interest is fairly misguided in my point of view," he added, "because everybody is sure about what their own inner experience is like, and probably most of those people are mistaken about it."

Hurlburt would argue that only about 25 percent of people have an inner monologue. We’re just not great at articulating our own mental landscape, he says.

Instead, Hurlburt thinks many people visualize their thoughts or experience what he calls "sensory awareness."

The key behind the UNLV professor’s findings is a device that hooks on to a participant’s clothing and beeps in their ear. Hurlburt developed what he calls the "beeper" in the 1970s.

Here’s how it works: A participant with the device receives half a dozen random beeps throughout their regular day and they’re tasked with writing down what was happening in their head at that time. The participant will meet with Professor Hurlburt to talk about those experiences. Over the course of five to 20 days, a research team would have a good idea of how the participant thinks.

Whether or not you have that little voice in your head, Hurlburt says, there is a lesson to take away from the conversation.

"I would like people to recognize that not everybody is like them," he said. "And that's an important deal."

"And I would like people to develop a taste for the truth as opposed to what they think might be the truth,” Hurlburt added.

Professor Hurlburt’s research on the inner experience isn’t too popular in the psychology world.

He says some psychologists think there’s quite a bit of inner speech happening, while other psychologists believe inner experience is private and you can’t investigate it, so they factor it out of theories altogether.

To read Langdon's blog post visit

To learn more about Professor Hurlburt and his writings visit