Listening to the inner voice

John Hewitt in MedicalXpress:

ListeningtotPerhaps the most controversial book ever written in the field of psychology, was Julian Janes' mid-seventies classic, “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.” In it, Jaynes reaches the stunning conclusion that the seemingly all-pervasive and demanding gods of the ancients, were not just whimsical personifications of inanimate objects like the sun or moon, nor anthropomorphizations of the various beasts, real and mythical, but rather the culturally-barren inner voices of bilaterally-symmetric brains not yet fully connected, nor conscious, in the way we are today. In his view, all people of the day would have “heard voices”, similar to the schizophrenic. They would have been experienced as a hallucinations of sorts, coming from outside themselves as the unignorable voices of gods, rather than as commands originating from the other side of the . After a long hiatus, the study the inner voice, and the larger mental baggage that comes along with having one, has returned to the fore. Vaughan Bell, a researcher from King's College in London, recently published an insightful call to arms in PlOS Biology for psychologists and neurobiologists to create a new understanding of these phenomena.

A coherent inner narrative in synch with our actions, is something most of us take for granted. Yet not everyone can take such possession. The congenitally deaf, for example, may later acquire auditory and communicative function through the use of cochlear implants. However, their inner experiences of sound-powered word, which they acquire through the reattribution of percepts of a previous gestural or visual nature, is something not typically shared or appreciated at the level of the larger public. A similar lack of comprehension at the research community level exists regarding those with physically intact senses, but with some other mental process gone awry. We may note with familiarity the shuffling and muttering of a homeless schizophrenic, yet have no systematic way to comprehend their intuitions, no matter how deluded they may appear. Bell notes that current neurocognitive theories tend to ignore how those who hear voices first acquire what he describes as “internalized social actors.”

More here.