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Do you think in words?

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This is a discussion on Do you think in words? within the General Psychology forums, part of the Topics of Interest category; I think it depends on the visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner thing...

  1. #61

    I think it depends on the visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner thing

  2. #62

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother View Post
    If tl;dr, skip to the last paragraph.

    What we do is think in structured concepts. Each of these concepts happen to have one or more utterances, words, inflections, phrases, even whole quotes or people's names intricately connected with them - for bilingual or trilingual people, it gets even more messed up. But at the same time, automatic, unconscious thinking also allows for processing concepts and schemas that don't actually have words for them. A word connotes very specific things, and is a concept in and of itself. However, the concept it is
    meant to symbolise, may have connections and meanings, memories, feelings, far beyond what we would mean by using the 'appropriate' word for it.

    That's what happens when something sounded better as you thought it, than it does when you speak it out loud. Any concept expressed in language has a measure of ambiguity, and what meaning it takes on is contingent on the context, circumstance and linguistic environment. So the stupid thing you say is the attempt at communicating the entire content of your thought including its disambiguating, schematic context; that is, you're thinking of a lot of stuff that altogether facilitates one meaning of the exact physical communication.

    As it happens, in the informational space of your stream-of-thought differs from the shared, common space between individuals. Your utterance, with its element of ambiguity, takes on another meaning as it's placed in that common space. To take the metaphor to a whole new level, imagine if the inside of your head was a stand-up comedy club, and the current conversation a morose, bleak funeral. The exact same utterance would be disambiguated in entirely different ways.

    So, uh, that is to say, noone really thinks in language. But language is the easiest way to make conscious sense of the concepts we're processing at the time. People who grow up without language process in almost exactly the same way we do, except they don't affix verbal language to thoughts, but instead perhaps episodic memories and experiences. Hard to say.

    Wow that's fascinating! Do you have sources for the last part "People who grow up without language process in almost exactly the same way we do, except they don't affix verbal language to thoughts, but instead perhaps episodic memories and experiences." ?

  3. #63

    Quote Originally Posted by spylass View Post
    Wow that's fascinating! Do you have sources for the last part "People who grow up without language process in almost exactly the same way we do, except they don't affix verbal language to thoughts, but instead perhaps episodic memories and experiences." ?
    This is the best article on language-less thought and language-less people that I know of. I've been meaning to pick up the case literature by Schaller that he writes so much about, but I know I don't have the time. The gist of it, after reading it through to the end, is that symbolism facilitates complicated cognition. Language contains a vast array of these symbols, and arranged with grammar they allow ideas to be communicated to others. But thought itself, internally, personally, is subject to a matrix of symbols, and even though many, probably most, of the symbols we use in thought are words from language, there are many concepts that have more complicated symbols, such as metaphors, that are too complicated for words.

    I want you to imagine an African hunter-gatherer society, and how much of their lives revolve around the practises of other animals, and both hunting and understanding animals in order to survive. The crocodile hides in fresh water, that everyone approaches for sustenance sooner or later, and explosively assault their prey - jackals are matriarchal pack animals, opportunists, who also feed on carrion - which is also the 'prey' of a wide variety of buzzards and vultures, each with minutely differing techniques. To someone intimately familiar with the technique, mechanism and motivation of each of these predators, the underlying intuitive schemas would be readily recognisable. Furthermore, interpersonal conflict, competition, trade, communication, can show similarity to these varying hunting techniques.

    I can tell you "He came upon his cousin like a crocodile does a gazelle," if we have common culturally cued knowledge, but you and I don't have single, symbolic words for it. But imagine the metaphor of the crocodile, hiding in the drinking water, indistinguishable from the water itself. In a socially supportive tribal society, your kin and family's support are paramount. They are something that everyone needs, and everyone depends on - it is to people what fresh water is to all living creatures. What if a family member took advantage of this? Appears to be part of this support until you come close, because you need it, and quickly takes advantage of your need to further his own goals? The way the crocodile hunts now becomes an available metaphor, it's a symbol for a very complicated social exchange. Of course, living in a hunter-gatherer society must mean language, but I think you get my point: The symbolism we just imagined wasn't linguistic at all, only my communicating it was linguistic.

    Extrapolating from that, from the idea of wordless symbolism, we can understand - even if we can't imagine - the wealth of imagery, metaphors, symbols, connections, correlations, signs and portents that a language-less person would have. They would probably, like Ildefonso in the article, have great difficulty understanding the concept of borders, jurisdiction and law. But so do many people out there who do have language. To the Tuaregs of the northern Sahara, insisting that there is an invisible line separating Mali and Algeria somewhere in the middle of the desert, would probably generate some head-shaking and chuckles. They have a well-developed and ancient language, but that doesn't make all arbitrary concepts available through symbolism.

    So when you're immersed in what Greg Downey, author of the article, identifies as a similar un-narrated stream-of-thought, you're thinking in symbols, metaphors, imagery, memory, abstraction, feelings, that are complex, intricate, and interconnected, without consciously attuning to the linguistic content of the concept, at the very least without adhering to the limitations of the grammar you'd use to elaborate any of the ideas you're contemplating, in communication with others.

    Even when I find that I have not been engaged in an inner dialogue, it is like waking from a sleep, unable to recall a dream that fast slips away. Perhaps like Ildefonso, I cannot talk about a languageless 'dark' once in the linguistic 'light,' even though tehre is a rich potential for action and perception in the dark.
    Ah. This was nice, after a lazy summer, to dig into some proper tough matter again.
    spylass and pygmylion thanked this post.

  4. #64

    I remember thinking before I had words to think in....then I got an upgrade in word thinking, that was fun. I think in words now.

    I wonder in all the ways one could think.....

  5. #65

    Definitely primarily non-verbal for me. Actually, I didn't start to consciously recognize sentences in my thoughts until I was about 22ish? I think social media and posting my thoughts online is what led me to formulate them verbally in my mind, as if finding the phrasing before writing it out. Normally though, I have done so *as* I'm writing! My thoughts are "conceptual" mostly; kind of like "a general feel of things", and often visuals and words come out to refine and sharpen those concepts. Also, when I mediate, and the words become even more sparse, the visuals and concepts become more prominent.

    Great topic!
    Brother thanked this post.

  6. #66

    I think with pictures and also words in my head. The pictures I form in my head are pretty clear. Like movie clear. But thinking about the same things too much would make the images fade away. So I have to constantly think about different things to keep the 'movie' in my head going. Pretty confusing and annoying, but that's how it is.
    Aqualung thanked this post.

  7. #67

    I'm having an inner monologue practically all the time.

  8. #68

    Words, pictures and abstract thoughts that do not fit into any kind of form.

  9. #69

    I'm always thinking with words, even when imagining images, sounds. I so think with words, that sometimes I even end up moving my hands around in the air when imagining how a conversation will go with someone/what to say. I usually don't even notice when this is happening because I'm so deep in thought.

  10. #70

    Quote Originally Posted by Spades View Post
    Definitely primarily non-verbal for me. Actually, I didn't start to consciously recognize sentences in my thoughts until I was about 22ish? I think social media and posting my thoughts online is what led me to formulate them verbally in my mind, as if finding the phrasing before writing it out. Normally though, I have done so *as* I'm writing! My thoughts are "conceptual" mostly; kind of like "a general feel of things", and often visuals and words come out to refine and sharpen those concepts. Also, when I mediate, and the words become even more sparse, the visuals and concepts become more prominent.

    Great topic!
    Now this is actually really curious to me.

    So as a rule, until fairly recently, you didn't conceptualise verbally in words or phrases?
    Spades thanked this post.


     
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