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Inner speech: Development, cognitive functions, phenomenology, and neurobiology

Alderson-Day, B.; Fernyhough, C.

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Inner speech—also known as covert speech or verbal thinking—has been implicated in theories of cognitive development, speech monitoring, executive function, and psychopathology. Despite a growing body of knowledge on its phenomenology, development, and function, approaches to the scientific study of inner speech have remained diffuse and largely unintegrated. This review examines prominent theoretical approaches to inner speech and methodological challenges in its study, before reviewing current evidence on inner speech in children and adults from both typical and atypical populations. We conclude by considering prospects for an integrated cognitive science of inner speech, and present a multicomponent model of the phenomenon informed by developmental, cognitive, and psycholinguistic considerations. Despite its variability among individuals and across the life span, inner speech appears to perform significant functions in human cognition, which in some cases reflect its developmental origins and its sharing of resources with other cognitive processes.


Alderson-Day, B., & Fernyhough, C. (2015). Inner speech: Development, cognitive functions, phenomenology, and neurobiology. Psychological Bulletin, 141(5), 931-965.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 4, 2015
Online Publication Date May 25, 2015
Publication Date Sep 1, 2015
Deposit Date Apr 26, 2015
Publicly Available Date Aug 20, 2015
Journal Psychological Bulletin
Print ISSN 0033-2909
Electronic ISSN 1939-1455
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 141
Issue 5
Pages 931-965
Keywords Auditory verbal hallucinations, Covert speech, Developmental disorders, Private speech, Working memory.


Published Journal Article (875 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original author and source are credited. Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s). Author(s) grant(s) the American Psychological Association the exclusive right to publish the article and identify itself as the original publisher.

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