Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thinking about how I think.

Source of image

I have been reading about how people think that they think. Some think that they think in words, some in images, some in movement, some in a combination of those ways. I used to think I thought almost entirely in words, but that can not be true. (I have great difficulty visualizing something in my "mind's eye". When I was a kid I could listen to music in my "mind's ear" when going to sleep in a quiet room, but that is a long gone ability.)

I do sometimes think how I would move. For example, I might think where something is by imagining how I would glance in its direction or point toward it.

I think a lot writing, now for example as I type this; in the past I thought as I wrote by hand on paper. The written record facilitates short term recall, and now as I type my fingers seem to move of their own volition reflecting the words passing by my "mind's ear". Modifying the written word allows me to revise my thought.

I once thought a fair amount writing equations on paper. Seeing equations on paper help me to recognize the next equation to write. Similarly, although I am not good at it, I sometimes find drawing diagrams on paper help in understanding things. I remember taking geometry in middle school finding the logic of proofs relatively easy, and finding it very difficult to make geometric drawings that might help thinking. I got somewhat better doing so, I guess I learned.

I sometimes think in concepts. Something will feel wrong about something I read or hear, and I will feel "a direction" in which a better idea or argument might be created.

Daniel Kahneman has written distinguishing "thinking fast" from "thinking slow".  I think most of the ways of thinking I have mentioned above are examples of "thinking slow". But I also think that I "think fast" a lot of the time. I come to a stairway and climb without ever "stopping to think" much less verbalizing the word "climb" or visualizing myself climbing those stairs. I do some fairly complicated habitual things similarly by rote.

It occurs to me that a lot of my thinking seems passive, but must really be active. My brain must be processing sensory input, drawing conclusions and making forecasts which do not rise to the level of consciousness. I take a walk, and would be able to describe things I saw or heard without having consciously having saved the memory. Or after watching a movie with a friend we might discuss inferences drawn from the moving images and dialog that were must have been understood implicitly, but were not previously articulated.

Thinking is complicated.

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