Week 4: Beginning the Experiment

Welcome back!

First, if you want to help us out even more, make sure you check out our sign up page and everything we’ve got posted over there.

This week, we’ve got a lot to talk about. Here’s a quick guide to what you can expect; click on the link you’re interested in to zoom right to that part of the post!

Whew! That’s a lot of work, but we believe in you, Citizen Scientists. This is all important stuff to get started on our experiment, and pretty soon we’ll have a good idea of where we’re headed and be able to build our study.


Check out the results of the vote!

Our winner: When we “talk” to ourselves inside our own heads — our internal dialogue — are we really using our language?

Inner speech, also known as internal dialogue, self-talk, or verbal thinking, is the running voice inside someone’s head. This mental process is what is commonly referred to when people say ‘thinking,’ but scientific terms such as inner speech differentiate it from other types of thinking such as thinking creatively or remembering events. It plays a role in a variety of skills, but is especially vital to critical thinking, problem solving, language, and emotional regulation (the ability to control your emotions). Because of its role in emotional regulation, internal dialogue is especially important to understand in relation to depression and anxiety disorders.

To start to get a better idea of what inner speech is and how it works, check out this news report.

Memory rehearsal is the memorization technique of repeating the to-be-memorized list. To address our question of how inner speech differs from normal language use, we can examine memory performance (how much of the list the participant remembers) after participants rehearse the list either internally or out loud. Start reading up by using the Wikipedia pages for internal dialogue and memory rehearsal so you can research any questions you have.

If you want more information, check out the literature review page!

Click here to head back to the top of the page and pick another section for the week!



Now, it’s time to think about our project design!

We already talked a little bit about memory rehearsal, but let’s get into the specific of how we’ll use memory rehearsal to test the difference between internal dialogue and spoken language. Participants will be shown several pictures (one at a time) and will be asked to name the object in the picture. Participants will name the object either out loud (verbal speech condition) or in their head (inner speech condition). Once they’re done, they will have to list every picture they remember. Based on the possible results, we have formulated three hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: There will be no difference in the number of remembered objects between the verbal and inner speech conditions.

Hypothesis 2: Participants in the verbal speech condition will remember a higher number of objects than participants in the inner speech condition.

Hypothesis 3: Participants in the inner speech condition will remember a higher number of objects than participants in the verbal speech condition.


The first hypothesis would represent a null result, meaning there was no difference between the two groups and suggesting that there is a rough equivalence between verbal and inner speech in terms of memory retention. If hypotheses 2 or 3 are correct, it would suggest that either verbal or inner speech is better for memory retention.

Next week we’ll vote on some specifics like what the pictures will be and how many there will be, but first, we have some big decisions about the structure of the experiment! As you’ll see, there are pros and cons for each of our options. Some of these are theoretical concerns, but others have more to do with the logistics of collecting the data. You’ll have to decide for yourself which pros and cons are most important.

Click here to head to our pros-and-cons page, where you can vote for your design choices! These decisions will shape our experiment, but there is no right or wrong answer. Leave a comment below about the choices you think are best!

Click here to head back to the top of the page and pick another section for the week!


Explanations for the other questions!

We’re sorry that we can’t build an experiment for these, too, but we do have some ideas on what we might have seen…

Question: Does the way a word sounds suggest emotions or meanings beyond what the word actually means?

Words have an arbitrary connection to their meaning, but at times it seems like there is meaning in the sound that makes up the word. Onomatopoeia is a good example, where words like buzz, roar, or bang sound like the noise they are meant to represent. But what about other words? A famous experiment asked participants to draw a “kiki” or a “bobo.” Despite never having heard the made-up words before, participants drew sharp, spiked images for the “kiki” and round, circular images for the “bobo.” The researchers argued this showed a clear connection between the sounds and a specific meaning.

Check out this and this to learn more!


Question: How does texting influence the words we type?

One of the most important features of language is that it continually evolves, and texting, emailing, and the internet has certainly created changes. While there is always someone saying “kids these days,” languages spoken today are different (but not better or worse) than they were 100 years ago, and in 100 years from now they’ll be different than today’s languages. The flexibility of language allows it to adapt to the needs of its speakers.

Check out this, this, and this to learn more!

Click here to head back to the top of the page and pick another section for the week!


That’s it for this week!

These choices you vote for will shape our experiment and there is no right or wrong answer. Make your argument below! Next week, we’ll vote on the specifics of the experiment.

**Although we moderate every comment before it gets posted, please remember to be kind to others and mindful of your personal information before you post here!**