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Spaceplayer
Deinonychus
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29 Oct 2007, 10:49 am

For discussion:

Temple Grandin writes that she "thinks in pictures," going so far as to title her book..."Thinking in Pictures."
I THINK IN PICTURES.

"Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures. Language-based thinkers often find this phenomenon difficult to understand, but in my job as an equipment designer for the livestock industry, visual thinking is a tremendous advantage."

Is this accurate, meaning, is this truly "thinking?"

I bring this up based on Ayn Rand's answer to the question during a Q and A at the Ford Hall Forum. She was asked:

"Is it possible to think in images, rather than with words? I have in mind the mental process in which an architect projects in his imagination a view of a particular space, and works on that image in his mind. Isn't an image like a word-a perceptual concrete that can stand for an idea?"

Her response was:

"No. The only image that can stand for an idea is a written or printed word. That's a visual symbol. But the image of a concrete has nothing to do with thinking. An image can be the OBJECT of thinking, but you can't think BY MEANS of images. What an architect or any visual artist does is much more complex, and connato, except as a metaphor, be called 'thinking in images.' It isn't thinking; it's imagination. Imagination can make use of a mix of images, sounds, and words; it's an entirely different process. But imagination, creativitly, or anything rational cannot take place unless the creator uses words....An architect isn't good if he can't translate his spatial imagination into actual words, and in effect say, "I'll build a building of such-and-such size, and put the stress on height,' and so on. He must translate his plan not only into language, but into engineering language, which is mathematical and extremely precise."

She adds that "In using concepts, words are merely arbitrary symbols. The word 'table' is not the concept
'table'; it helps one to hold that concept in mind. The word gives identify to the concept, but it isn't the concept. The concept is our understanding of what that word stands for. A concrete image cannot do that."

When I read this, it seems that Grandin isn't saying anything necessarily striking, more that she's reversing the process of turning concepts into language. It usually goes from sensation to perception to conception. A sensory experience occurs, the brain percieves it after recieving the signal, and the mind via language creates the concept. An interesting thought experiment would be to substitute thinking in images with sounds or smells.


Any thoughts? I would especially like to hear from someone with experience with cognitive science.



devster21
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29 Oct 2007, 10:59 am

I thought everyone thought in my pictures, but I guess not. My sister once asked me that because she heard that its a common aspie thing.



starling
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29 Oct 2007, 11:08 am

Daniel Tammet (link) does math in landscapes. I guess thinking in pictures ís possible. It's just too hard to understand for those who don't. Like a word ('table') is a symbol for the concept of something, a picture can be a symbol for a concept too. Like a word can make you associate on its meanings, a picture can make you associate about all related pictures.

PS: I'm not a pure picture-thinker. Images can stumble in my mind, but diffuse networks and webs too. Besides that I'm a word-person. I like words and to read them calms me down when I become overwhelmed by emotions (fear, sadness). Words float in my mind, together with pictures, images, and webs and networks. An empty mind feels like depression.



Triangular_Trees
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29 Oct 2007, 11:30 am

Quote:
An image can be the OBJECT of thinking, but you can't think BY MEANS of images.


I must never think then :? and here I'm getting ready to graduate college with a 4.0 gpa/qpa for the second time.

Heck even when it comes to thinking about words that can't be pictured ie "the" I see the word(s) in my mind, either in bubble letters or if its a lot of text scrolling across in typed letters



ProwlingParadox
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29 Oct 2007, 11:32 am

Personal rant that this made me think of, sorry I cant add anything achley constructive

I have always maintained that I think in thought (or concept if u like)
Then I translate that into pictures if I want to think hard about it
And then if I want to commutate it I then transfer in into words that’s the hard part

It is always hard to explain thinking in pictures but at least people believe u do it
There has only been 1 person who understood (to sum degree ) what I meant by thinking in thought, and they diced that I was aware of my sub consnece, which wile a possible explanation I jess I cant under stand why they got all wound up about it

do u word thinkers not have this level of just pure concepts?


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cagerattler
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29 Oct 2007, 11:37 am

Ann Rand, for all her emphasis on logic and science, makes dogmatic statements in her books for which there is absolutely no objective basis. A good example is her assertion that what arouses a person sexually is inseparable from what they admire and identify with otherwise. And what you bring up here is another example. Ann Rand has no more an idea of how different people might think than you or anyone else, and given the dogmatic nature of her mind, may have less of an idea. It seems to me that it is likely that persons with a particalar kind of imagination might indeed think in pictures, might in fact 'see' an evolving series of angles and lines in space, such as to start with one depiction and end up with another, without thinking with words.



Spaceplayer
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29 Oct 2007, 11:40 am

I have BORN ON A BLUE MONDAY, interesting read. He's an interesting case, as one person put it: " "Savants can't usually tell us how they do what they do. It just comes to them. Daniel can. He describes what he sees in his head. That's why he's exciting. He could be the 'Rosetta Stone'."[5] (From Wiki).

I'd counter that what he does initially isn't thinking, but that what the commentator says is that he's able to THINK about his ability, or to translate his ability into thoughts/words. I say this based on cases of savants who can do those things but can't tell you how or why, so that it's two separate processes. Examples are musical savants who can play anything they hear, but don't know what they are actually doing.

Robert Jourdain writes about this in MUSIC, THE BRAIN AND ECSTASY. "Savants display musicianship skills that would be the envy of any professional...but while normal musicians acquire such skills through increased intellectual flexibility [read, through thinking], savants operate by rigid mimicry. They are sometimes ECHOLALIC, repeating everything said to them word for word, and they appear to do the same for music."

Interesting that he notes echolai, suggesting a link between autism and savants.

The key, though, that Jourdain points out, is COMPREHENSION. He says that savants "could reproduce a fifteen minute speech perfectly after one hearing, yet with little grasp of its content." Comprehension requires more than mimicking, it requires thinking, translating into concepts.

Jourdain offers an argument that supports Rand's: "recent work with brain scans has confirmed what had long been suspected: imagery "occurs" in parts of the brain concerened with perception. Visual cortex fires up during visual imagery, auditory cortex during auditory imagery." If this is the case, thinking occurs in the parts of the brain that control language and abstractions?



Spaceplayer
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29 Oct 2007, 11:44 am

Cage Rattler, if you're trying to rattle my cage, try harder. First of all, you didn't even get her name right, second of all, you're ignoring her argument and engaging in dogmatic statements of your own. If you can't address the argument of her ideas, you're engaging in ad hominem. Can you offer a reasoned answer to why her argument is wrong?



Last edited by Spaceplayer on 29 Oct 2007, 11:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

cagerattler
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29 Oct 2007, 11:44 am

I meant to add to my previous post that to assume thinking in pictures does not happen, leaves the problem of how dogs, cats , and other animals 'think'. Obviously they have no words to think with, so how do they formulate their plans? How do they plot ahead to, for example, to know what to do when they want to go from point A to point B, especially if the route is complex? If animals can do this without words, why not humans?



cagerattler
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29 Oct 2007, 11:58 am

I'm not trying to rattle your cage, and if fact had no idea you would be so defensive about Ms. Rand's ideas. I was just trying to have a discussion. Sorry about misspelling Ayn's first name, but I can't see how that is material. As for ad hominem arguments, I can't see where I have called Ms. Rand any names or resorted to calling attention to aspects of her life or character that are irrelevant to making my point. My describing her as dogmatic might have been ad hominem if I had failed to back that opinion up, or had it been irrelevant to the point I was arguing. I have read a lot of Ms. Rand's work and agree with some of her ideas, but I don't agree with all of them. Since you posted about one of her ideas, I thought you might be open to a discussion. Sorry if I offended.



Spaceplayer
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29 Oct 2007, 12:48 pm

Cage Rattler, I'm defensive, yes. I make no apologies for that. I consider Ayn Rand an important part of my life, it's like you came out swinging at my mother. But it's not that you hurt my feelings; I'm made of sterner stuff that that. It's that your comments don't add to the discussion; it shuts down discussion by dismissing an idea because you don't like the author, or whatever your motive was.

The mispelling of her name is nothing on its own, but if you're going to claim to understand her work, yet misidentify her twice, it calls your understanding into question.

You claim that she doesn't know what she's talking about, yet she wrote a book on epistemology. She's given me her premises and arguements for her ideas, you haven't. You've given me your opinion. Your rants and biases mean nothing to me, give me ideas and facts.

"My describing her as dogmatic might have been ad hominem if I had failed to back that opinion up, or had it been irrelevant to the point I was arguing." You did not back up that opinion, you stated an idea of hers and said she was wrong (another opinion.) You didn't say why she was wrong.

Honestly, I was hoping not to have to have THIS discussion. This is not about Ayn Rand. It's about a particular idea that relates to what Temple Grandin said. I could have simply said what Ayn Rand said, but I had to give credit to her, since it was her argument. I was hoping to read arguments and ideas from people who are able to discuss the issues, not personal rants and biases. If you can counter Rand's ideas with ideas, I am willing to listen. If you said my mom's cooking was bad because her use of spices masked the subtletly of the sauce, fine. It's a technical issue. If you call my mom a b***h who doesn't know cooking, I'm not taking you seriously.

This is the LAST I will say on the matter, I'd like to focus on the idea of thinking in pictures.



cagerattler
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29 Oct 2007, 1:26 pm

OK, you win. I will leave this thread to others, if anyone else dare make a post after reading what's here.



Sand
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29 Oct 2007, 2:06 pm

As an industrial designer that manipulates mental models in a manner to achieve workable final results, words are totally inefficient for the process. Picture thinking is infinitely more effective. Dogmatic statements by Rand are typical of her idiotic mental rigity. I suggest you look around for a more open minded mother.



Frosty
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29 Oct 2007, 2:29 pm

TG actually stores her cattle shuts in a pic memory just like a cd vid file, this is what she says and I find it incredible.

I tend to see numbers hanging in air or in 3 d but not color, abstract concepts don't seem too foreign to me, but really the stuff TG speaks about is incredible.

Thank goodness she had good family support.


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ProwlingParadox
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30 Oct 2007, 12:25 am

Quote:
"No. The only image that can stand for an idea is a written or printed word. That's a visual symbol. But the image of a concrete has nothing to do with thinking. An image can be the OBJECT of thinking, but you can't think BY MEANS of images.


Ok this is wrong people can think in pictures,
never herd or her personally so thats not my motive.
How do I know this cos I can


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Othila
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30 Oct 2007, 4:02 am

Quote:
If this is the case, thinking occurs in the parts of the brain that control language and abstractions?
[/quote]

Interesting post. But not all humans think verbally on the left side of their brain. 26% of left handed people (perhaps more but that is the % that is sticking in my brain like a post it note) think verbally on the right side of their brain. Since neuro-science is such a new and growing field I am not going to fault the great Ayn Rand (died in 82 my birth year) for not taking this into account. Also what about Freud's primary versus secondary process thining? Daydreams which are mostly visual are not considered conscious thinking because your brain is bascially just using it's sensory parts to entertain you. However if you focus on these daydreams and think on ways to fufill the id's needs then it's considered conscious thinking because your actively enaged in trying to satisfy a need or want.

Therefore what I am getting at is if your are a visual thinker for what ever reason it doesn't mean that you are not actively engaging your mind to function. I also don't see why an image can't be both a symbol and a picture at the same exact time. Maybe Rand's problem is she is too left brain :lol: