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Intrapersonal communication is language use or thought internal to the communicator. Intrapersonal communication is the active internal involvement of the individual in symbolic processing of messages. Intrapersonal communication is the thought process or communication with one person or one's self. The individual becomes his or her own sender and receiver, providing feedback to him or herself in an ongoing internal process. It can be useful to envision intrapersonal communication occurring in the mind of the individual in a model which contains a sender, receiver, and feedback loop.

Although successful communication is generally defined as being between two or more individuals, issues concerning the useful nature of communicating with oneself and problems concerning communication with non-sentient entities such as computers have made some argue that this definition is too narrow.

In Communication: The Social Matrix of Psychiatry, Jurgen Ruesch and Gregory Bateson argue that intrapersonal communication is indeed a special case of interpersonal communication, as "dialogue is the foundation for all discourse."

Intrapersonal communication can encompass:

  • Day-dreaming
  • Nocturnal dreaming, including and especially lucid dreaming
  • Speaking aloud (talking to oneself), reading aloud, repeating what one hears; the additional activities of speaking and hearing (in the third case of hearing again) what one thinks, reads or hears may increase concentration and retention. This is considered normal, and the extent to which it occurs varies from person to person. The time when there should be concern is when talking to oneself occurs outside of socially acceptable situations.[1]
  • Internal monologue, the semi-constant internal monologue one has with oneself at a conscious or semi-conscious level.
  • Writing (by hand, or with a wordprocessor, etc.) one's thoughts or observations: the additional activities, on top of thinking, of writing and reading back may again increase self-understanding ("How do I know what I mean until I see what I say?") and concentration. It aids ordering one's thoughts; in addition it produces a record that can be used later again. Copying text to aid memorizing also falls in this category.
  • Making gestures while thinking: the additional activity, on top of thinking, of body motions, may again increase concentration, assist in problem solving, and assist memory.
  • Sense-making (see Karl Weick) e.g. interpreting maps, texts, signs, and symbols
  • Interpreting non-verbal communication (see Albert Mehrabian) e.g. gestures, eye contact
  • Communication between body parts; e.g. "My stomach is telling me it's time for lunch."

However, in 1992, a chapter in Communication Yearbook #15, argued that "intrapersonal communication" is a flawed concept. The chapter first itemized the various definitions. Intrapersonal communication, it appears, arises from a series of logical and linguistic improprieties. The descriptor itself, 'intrapersonal communicaton'is ambiguous: many definitions appear to be circular since they borrow, apply and thereby distort conceptusal features (e.g., sender, receiver, message, dialogue) drawn from normal inter-person communication; unknown eitities or person-parts allegedly conduct the 'intrapersonal' exchange; in many cases, a very private language is posited which, upon analysis, turns out to be totally inaccessible and ultimately indefensible. In general, intrapersonal communicton appears to arise from the tendency to interpret the inner mental processes that precede and accompany our communicative behaviors as if they too were yet another kind of communication process. The overall point is that this reconstruction of our inner mental processes in the language and idioms of everyday public conversation is highly questionable, tenuous at best.

Reference: Stanley B. Cunningham, "Intrapersonal Communication: A Review and Critique," Communication Yearbook #15 (1992), (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications), pp. 597-620.

Intrapersonal communication in dreams

A particularly interesting example is that of a recently designed technique of 'interviewing' one's dream characters, particularly during lucid dreaming. In the lucid state, the dreamer is aware that he or she is dreaming, and can proceed to question, in-depth, each dream character, who is necessarily understood to be part of the 'self' in either a psychological sense or in the more scientific sense of each aspect of one's dream arising from one's own brain processes.


  1. ^ "Self-talk", Christine Cauchon, Psychology Today, 2004

See also



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