Language and self-awareness | Science & Consciousness Review
- …we most often need to talk to ourselves in order to understand who we are. That is, inner speech is frequently required to access self-information and to gradually build a self-concept. To illustrate, let’s imagine that you want to reflect on an abdominal pain you are currently experiencing. It is very likely that you will engage in an internal monologue, thinking “Why is it that my belly hurts? I feel cramps… Ha! I get it-I skipped breakfast…” You could go on and also notice: “I’ve been missing breakfast often lately… I tend to sleep in, I don’t eat breakfast, and by noon I’m starving… And I don’t go to the gym as often as I should… This is bad-I’m getting lazy…” Here the adjective “lazy” constitutes the conclusion that you have drawn from your inner monologue; it may then become a more or less permanent part of your self-concept. So inner speech, and thus language, would play an important role in self-referential activities. Said differently: inner speech would represent an important cognitive process underlying self-awareness. Note that this view does not implicate that there is no self-awareness without language. We can be aware of a pain without having to talk to ourselves about it. However, I argue that the sensation will be fully brought to consciousness only if we verbally label it.