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Thinking aloud about mental voices

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Developmental studies of self-directed speech, including private speech and inner speech, point to it having important cognitive functions. Improved methodologies for studying these phenomena in children and adults support Vygotskian/Lurian conceptions of inner speech as constituting a functional system, whereby initially independent neural systems are ‘wired together’ in new ways by social experience. I present some recent findings relevant to this account, and consider prospects for a cognitive neuroscience of inner speech that is sensitive to its development and phenomenology.

My background is in developmental psychology. I took Part II Psychology at Cambridge and stayed on to do doctoral research under the supervision of Jim Russell. My research has mainly been in the areas of private/inner speech and social influences on mentalising development. In recent years I have been applying developmental ideas about inner speech to the study of auditory verbal hallucinations. I have produced two popular science books on psychology: The Baby in the Mirror: A child’s world from birth to three (Granta, 2008) and Pieces of Light: Memory and its stories (Profile, 2012). I am a part-time (0.5) Reader in Psychology at Durham University.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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