An Experimental Phenomenological Approach to the Study of Inner Speech in Empathy: Bodily Sensations, Emotions, and Felt Knowledge as the Experiential Context of Inner Spoken Voices

In Ignacio Cea, Mayte Vergara, Jorge Calderón, Alejandro Troncoso & David Martínez-Pernía (eds.), New Perspectives on Inner Speech. pp. 65–80 (2022)
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The relevance of inner speech for human psychology, especially for higher-order cognitive functions, is widely recognized. However, the study of the phenomenology of inner speech, that is, what it is like for a subject to experience internally speaking his/her voice, has received much less attention. This study explores the subjective experience of inner speech through empathy for pain paradigm. To this end, an experimental phenomenological method was implemented. Sixteen healthy subjects were exposed to videos of sportswomen/sportsmen having physical accidents practicing extreme sports. Immediately after the exposure to the stimuli, a phenomenological interview was conducted to gather data about bodily sensations, emotions, motivations, and inner speech of watching other people’s accidents. Participant’s inner speech expresses concern about the consequences the accident could generate to the sportswomen/sportsmen or about the participants themselves. Simultaneously, participants’ inner speech happened with negative emotional feelings, many sensations distributed throughout their bodies, and a felt knowledge coming from a meaningful but pre-reflective and pre-verbal bodily dimension. Our findings show that inner speech in empathy is not merely a psycholinguistic process or high-order cognitive function, but rather it is a complex experience that occurs deeply related to meaningful emotions, bodily sensations, and an implicit, somatically felt knowledge.



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Author Profiles

David Martínez
Universitat de Barcelona
Ignacio Cea
Temuco Catholic University

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