The Voices Within

 

The Voices Within is a book about the voices in our heads. It is published by Basic Books in the US and by Profile Books/Wellcome Collection in the UK.

The Voices Within was picked as a top neuroscience book of 2016 by Forbes and a science book of the year by the Observer and ABC. It was chosen as a top spring science book by Nature and selected as a summer reading pick in the Guardian and Times Higher Education. It was the subject of an essay-review in the New Yorker.

I spoke about the themes of the book on the Diane Rehm Show, and discussed them in this Q&A with The Atlantic. These pieces for TIME Ideas and the LA Times explore the benefits of talking to yourself. I spoke about these ideas on BBC Radio 4's Start the Week; you can listen again here. You can also see me speaking about the themes of the book in this talk for 5x15 and in this Royal Institution lecture. The book featured in a Guardian Books podcast. An abridged extract from the book was published by BBC Future.

Translation agreements have been concluded for Spanish, French, Italian, Korean and simplified Chinese.

Order from the Guardian Bookshop, Hive.co.uk or Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

'A lucid, authoritative survey of our current knowledge… The author’s investigations, at once scientific and humane, represent the discipline of psychology at its rare best.' Raymond Tallis, Wall Street Journal

'An intriguing and deeply humane book… particularly good when addressing the role of inner voices in creativity… In ‘The Voices Within’, [Fernyhough] has again rendered complicated mental experience without losing its human texture.' Casey Schwartz, New York Times Book Review

'Fernyhough’s book … provides enough science to ground the argument, but the real achievement here is the writing. The author is a psychologist and a novelist, and his prose has a narrative feel that separates it from most books on the psych shelf. The subject is one of the tough brain conundrums that’s far from settled; we’ll be trying to figure out the role of the inner voice long from now, but Fernyhough’s book is a readable take on what we know and where the questions may go next.' David DiSalvo, Forbes Brain Books of 2016.

'From explaining the hurdles of studying our internal dialogue to setting the record straight on schizophrenia and “hearing voices,” this book is a must-read for those seeking to understand the voices in their heads.' Discover Magazine

'Fernyhough has built up an interesting picture of inner speech and its functions… making a case for the role of inner speech in memory, sports performance, religious revelation, psychotherapy, and literary fiction.' The New Yorker

'This sophisticated and appealing work scrutinizes a tangled topic with aplomb and will leave readers permanently observing their own thought processes differently. Perfect for readers of Oliver Sacks and Malcolm Gladwell.' Booklist (starred review)

'After reading the book, I couldn’t help noticing my thoughts more closely—asking myself, Is this dialogic thinking? or What perspective was that voice taking? At one point, there’s mention of “the idea that, when we internalise dialogue, we internalise other people. Our brains, like our minds, are full of voices.” For me, at least for now, one of those voices is Fernyhough’s.' New York Magazine, The Science of Us

   

'Though the book is not about creativity per se, one of its highlights is its fascinating insight into the process of artistic creation, particularly writing. In another high point, the narrative gently prods readers into a wider and more empathetic view of pathologies such as aural hallucinations. Fernyhough's book is a valuable addition to the literature surrounding the unending human quest to understand the location—and the creation—of the self.' Publishers Weekly

'Fernyhough examines the phenomenon of "inner voices," which manifests in two broad components: the more or less ordinary business of talking to oneself and the more fraught existence of voices inside one's head... with much to say about how the brain works at the interface of thought and language.' Kirkus Reviews

'This expansive review offers a stimulating blend of theory, research, and insight on inner speech and voice hearing that will complement more prevalent behaviorist and biomedical perspectives.' Library Journal

'A book that will challenge some of our preconceptions about how we think and how "the voices within" may be plentiful, or infrequent, helpful or problematic and variable from person-to-person. This is a valuable book for those who want to understand one important aspect of our human mind.' New York Journal of Books

'Intriguingly challenges conventional assumptions about the self as unified and coherent, while also posing the question: how might that which we deem pathological be shaped by the mores of our times?' Christine Gross-Loh, Guardian summer reading picks.

'As enlightening as it is surprising… By entwining inner voice theories, research, and data into easy-to-digest literary, pop culture, and personal anecdotes, Fernyhough has (quite intentionally) crafted a book that reads like a novel but never strays from its carefully examined scientific foundation.' Kirkus Reviews author interview

'Charles Fernyhough isn't just a scholar and a scientist, he is also a novelist, and this book reflects his unusual combination of gifts. It is an engaging and humane exploration of the experience of voices in our heads, delving into the origin of these voices in children, their contribution to problem-solving, creativity, and religious experience, their role in madness, and much else. This is a beautifully written and fascinating work.' Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology at Yale University, and author of Just Babies

'Perceptive, illuminating and humane.' Gavin Francis, author of Adventures in Human Being

'Fascinating and elegantly humane... [Fernyhough’s] book is refreshingly interdisciplinary in its insistence that philosophy and literature are going to be just as important investigative tools for this subject as clinical psychology and brain scan.' Steven Poole, Guardian

Fascinating… the book traces in detail (the footnotes are just as interesting as the text) the various attempts to pin down inner voices… an expert blend of the scientific and artistic.' Erica Wagner, New Statesman

'Persuasively unravels connections between the voices we hear inside and the words we say out loud... an elegantly written survey.' Nick Rennison, Sunday Times

'If Fernyhough is to be believed, there is a sense in which we are visited all the time by good or bad angels and it is the ability to question and discriminate that distinguishes creative thoughtfulness from madness... His book, The Voices Within, is the intriguing result of his research.' Salley Vickers, Observer

'Fascinating… thought provoking… intriguing… clear presentation of the slippery nature of both our inner and spoken worlds.' Suzanne O’Sullivan, Lancet

'Stimulating and fruitful... A fascinating tour d'horizon.' Mike Jay, Literary Review

'Profound and eloquent... an intriguing array of fresh findings and perspectives.' Douwe Draaisma, Nature

'Compelling… reassures those of us who worry that we have a chorus of voices jabbering in our heads.' Mail on Sunday

'This is a truly exceptional book for its scope, richness of detail and originality… a book that informs as well as provoking thought and reflection… It is quite simply a remarkable book.' British Journal of Psychiatry

'With its extensive illustrations of the creative effects of inner speech and voice-hearing, sane and mad, [The Voices Within] is a thought-provoking and engaging read.' Times Higher Education

'Fernyhough presents his work as a wide-ranging investigation, spanning psychological research – including the brain-plundering marvels of fMRI – as well as philosophy, spirituality, literature and the arts. If there’s a drawback to The Voices Within, it’s that it may make you spend even more of your waking hours listening to yourself think.' The Saturday Paper (Australia)

'Utterly fascinating... the main joy of Fernyhough’s book comes from watching him chase down the faintest conceptual ripples extending outward from the ideas he discusses.' The National (UAE)

'A surprisingly humanitarian approach to a necessarily human topic… a vital, illuminating, engaging exploration of the things that make us who we are.' Ilkley Gazette

'Most of us talk to ourselves. In fact, many people describe their thoughts as being like a conversation between the different voices of their consciousness. In his eye-opening new book, Charles Fernyhough explores this inner speech, revealing what purpose it serves, what it says about us, and what it can tell us about those who experience hallucinated voices.' BBC Science Focus