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Season 11 | Episode 7

Inner Voices

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From the silent words of a child forming her first thought, to the inner heckler that taunts you when the pressure's on, a look at how the voices in our heads shape us -- for better and for worse.

The Voices Inside You

Where would we be without the voices in our heads? To get at this question, Charles Fernyhough raises another: can children think before they have words? According to Fernyhough, a Russian psychologist named Lev Vygotsky developed a theory about how the words and voices we hear as kids turn from ...

Comments [9]

The Man of 1,000 Voices

Mel Blanc was known as "the man of 1,000 voices," but the actual number may have been closer to 1,500. Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Tweety, Barney Rubble -- all Mel. His characters made him one of the most beloved men in America, and they may have also saved his life. 


Comments [4]

A Head Full of Symphonies

A neurologist issues a wild musical dare to a conductor and a ragtime piano player. One gives up almost instantly. But the other pulls off something that shouldn't be possible.

Comments [13]

Comments [29]

Dan from Pittsburgh,pa

I am wondering about the comment that was made after the story about the famous voice actor. Jad referred to an "inside joke" about Roberts "boy friend" followed by laughter. I don't think that this is funny at all. Being gay is not a joke, nor is it funny in anyway. I thought this show was aware of lgtb issues. I once enjoyed this show, I will no longer be listening or supporting this program. I urge everyone to do the same. I will be contacting local a national advocate groups so people can be aware of the programs they support. Nothing is funny about homosexuality, we don't even have protected basic human rights. This kind of candor should not be tolerated. It perpetuates the idea that something is wrong with a gay or lesbian person. I will actively be working on diminishing the support this program receives until an on air and sincere apology is broadcast.

Nov. 08 2016 08:19 AM
lynnette from New York City

Listening to the story of Mel Blanc and thinking about one of my last conversations with my father, hospitalized and barely conscious after a heart operation gone wrong. He had always told me that he spoke fluent German (which I learned as an adult) but could never speak it to me or my German friends. As I sat alone with him one night, he told me in fluent German that he knew what was happening to him, he repeated important stories and ideas, asked me to get him a blanket - everything from the sublime to the ridiculous but in a language - a voice? - that had been sequestered inside of him for his entire adult life. He was raised in a German and Yiddish speaking household in the 1930s. By the late 30s, Americans just didn't speak German anymore.

Nov. 05 2016 06:40 PM
Samuel from Connecticut

I was frustrated about the topic of the first segment. Do people think with words. I assumed everyone had a thoughts or ideas and then struggle to put them into words. Thoughts and ideas that takes less than a millisecond to invent then has to be composed and stretched out into bulky words to share. The thoughts and ideas are what is universal, then can be translated into verbal and nonverbal languages.

Nov. 05 2016 05:10 PM
Natalie from Nyc

Fascinating. But how infuriating was his final experience in the hospital in 1989: it was total incompetence by hospital staff which caused his death.

Nov. 05 2016 12:43 PM
Katniss K Bond from USA

Dude. I never thought of this. It seems kind of reasonable. I remember when I was 4 (yes, I can remember that far back) and when I couldn't think of what something was, I was forced to use the words that I knew in order to formulate a description/thought process in my head about that unknown object.

Oct. 27 2014 10:46 PM
Alicia from North Georgia, USA

If this episode was aired previously, I'm so glad it was aired again! Stumbled upon it while scanning the radio- will definitely be going back to listen to it again and other Radiolab episodes! Well done!

Oct. 27 2014 04:23 PM
Jim Abbott from Tucson, AZ

I have been hearing music in my head constantly since college (I think). I've only mentioned this to a very few people, who believed me, who felt sorry for me. Mostly it's the last tune I have heard. Sometimes it's a selection of preselected tunes from my memory. I've been a choir singer for over 50 years but had to quit lately. Vocal cords seem to have given out. But in all that time I could only memorize maybe 5 or 6 bars at any one time. When a director would ask us to memorize a difficult section so we could watch him, I couldn't do it.
I can't imagine hearing 4 tunes at once.

Jim Abbott

Oct. 26 2014 05:04 PM
Janet Barocco from northern california

This episode 7 "Inner Voices" was incredible. Sounds like it was aired before, but I had never heard it and so glad Radio Lab decided to air it again.

It made me ponder why regular meditation can help a person focus and live more fully in the moment. (I don't meditate but have heard this from those who do). I have been told that the biggest hurdle can be getting stuck and sucked into the constant inner voice we all have. I guess meditation can train people to not get as distracted by those voices. And perhaps it is a way of becoming more childlike, pre-language and in the right brain area of image, sound and sensation; that place the first story was speaking of.

Oct. 25 2014 08:51 PM

well, I guess "Help me Obi Wan Ken Obi You're my only hope" is ultimate loop of our lives.
same as "sometimes behave so strangely" I left it in the same way first time I hear it.

Nov. 05 2013 11:36 PM
Viridis from USA

Wow. The last segment was fascinating. It doesn't surprise me though that a big part of his memory is built on images/feelings/sounds all connected in a hugely detailed mental 3D model. I think there have been quite a few studies built on memory and how associating things with images/spatial relations/sounds and other senses vastly increases your recall abilities. The classic example is Sherlock Holmes and his "memory palace", where all the facts and observations he knows gets stored in a mental palace, so each room and object in the rooms are individual facts or ideas. It sounds a bit fanciful, but apparently it really does work.

Sep. 23 2013 11:45 AM
Mike Niccoli

This podcast blew my mind.

Aug. 31 2013 10:55 AM
callie from Madison, WI

Thank you for finally doing a segment on stereotype threat! Such an important issue that EVERYONE should hear about.

Aug. 27 2013 11:44 AM

"Adam from AZ
Woah woah, what is that music between the 2nd and 3rd segments?"

Adam, the music is a piece from the Charlotte's Web movie soundtrack:

The Plan Begins by Danny Elfman

(I also wanted to know - glad I found it!)

Aug. 21 2013 10:26 PM

I wish you guys had gone into greater depth of what consciousness actually is, and less on the affects of it.

Aug. 13 2013 05:02 PM

I've been listening to radiolab on Stitcher - when I finally came to the website and registered I discovered all these episodes that I don't think came through Stitcher... Am I missing something?

Aug. 01 2013 10:56 AM
na from Chicago, IL

why is this not on iTunes???

Jul. 24 2013 09:33 AM

Never mind, found it. The piece is called "Are You My Brain Double"? I remembered enough, one character was from Vancouver, to find it via the search tool.

Jul. 23 2013 06:03 AM

Need a little help, I was listening to a Radio Lab show on Sunday July 21st on Sirius radio while I was driving and making phone calls so I was just catching snippets but it was a really interesting show and I wanted to come back to it but I can't seem to find it in the podcast list. I thought it would be the most recent but that's not working out, anyhoo at either the beginning or the beginning of a segment a fable type story was told about how at the begging of time we were all paired up boys and girls, boys and boys, girls and girls or even in multiples. Then something about pissing off the gods the dual/multiple groups were broken up ect. Down the road at a later point in the show a young woman who I think was a medical student maybe or some sort of researcher was doing studies on compatibility I think.
That's about all I have, I thought it would be easier to find the show but I can't seem to dig it up. Any help from fellow listener would be appreciated.

Jul. 23 2013 05:24 AM
Bry from Ashland, Or

I liked this radio lab A LOT, and, at the same time, words cannot be the only means of thinking. I observed my cat grab a morsel of cheese and run down the basement stairs with it. Intrigued, I followed her; to observe her lay it in front of a mouse hole. And then she hid behind a box to wait!
No surprise; she got the mouse.
Deduction, logic, planning, and long term gratification taking precedence over short term gratification, and all in a cat. (I admit she is smart cat, but she surprised even me by using the cheese as bait.)
She could not have used words to deduce she could catch the mouse with cheese. Imagery must also be a basis upon which complex thinking can be built. There is much research about babies which shows they use imagery for reasoning way before they are verbal. I recommend "The Philosophical Baby" by Alice Gopnik for example after example of psychological studies which show babies think in imagery before they learn words.
It now makes me wonder about blind babies. They must be thinking without words AND without images, because they don't show any kind of lack of intelligence relative to sighted babies. Maybe touch and sound can make an "image" in the mind. The voice of mom and the touch and smell of mom become associated with each other, so when her voice is heard across a big room, the blind baby mentally includes adds her touch and scent to an imageless image of her in its mind, before she gets close enough for the baby to perceive these aspects of her presence. . . .

Jul. 20 2013 10:22 AM
Adam from AZ

Woah woah, what is that music between the 2nd and 3rd segments?

Jul. 03 2013 08:37 PM
Dave from paleolithic era

The latter two stories were certainly podcasted before. I assume that all of the pcasts are created with the intention of being on episodes, but dont fit in for one reason or another. It stands to reason for economic and sanity issues they would find a way to fasion an episode around stray stories. I say we give the radiolab crew a pass on this one.

Jul. 01 2013 12:25 PM
Afra from TX

I had to listen to the show few times, and forward it to few people. Then I went to work on Monday and the whole show is just stuck in my mind. I listened to it again on Monday but this time I started to take notes. It gave me few ideas of how I can help eliminate few “negative voices” in my head by recording “positive voices” using my own voice and listen to my recording to help me get a certain job I like, lose weight, and maybe help my self-esteem issues (that’s what my therapies say my biggest block) .

But that is not all, while I am taking notes; I started to see how I can connect the dots between the three “voices” or stories.
It seems that certain words/voices/sounds will have a certain emotional impact on us, that will be attached to our brain/memory, and it connects to us with colors or sense of space that gives it a three dimensional effect that makes it “feel” real which eventually either distract us from the current moment or enhance the current moment.

Does it make sense what I said?

Jul. 01 2013 12:02 PM
jmprovo from Utah

Regarding the story about when young children learn to think---
My mother has told the story of a friend in the 1940s who walked through downtown Salt Lake City frequently and her little boy in the "buggy" would cry at a certain block every time. They moved to a different area, but a couple of years later when they walked that same route, he asked her stop at a jewelry store. He said, "I always asked to you stop and you never did."

Jul. 01 2013 01:50 AM

I think many are looking for the podcast: "Bob Milne- Head full of Symphonies" which I heard on 6/29/13

Jun. 29 2013 08:46 PM
JT Barbarese from Somerset NJ

In re "The Man of a Thousand Voices": Mel Blanc was the first to give voice to Woody Woodpecker (voice and distinctive laugh) but lasted briefly. Grace Stafford, Walter Lantz's wife, was Woody through the 60s and 70s and is generally credited as the voice of Woody W.

Jun. 29 2013 12:44 PM
diana stone from charlotte

i really am looking for that awesome program about the guy and his musical ability. great radio

Jun. 28 2013 09:49 PM

I agree with Jonathan. All these topics sound rather familiar...

Jun. 27 2013 10:12 PM

Aren't these all stories that have been on the podcast before?

Jun. 27 2013 07:42 PM
Dumisani from Soweto, South Africa

Heard about this, looking forward to eating it all up

Jun. 27 2013 10:43 AM

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