Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Different Thinkers

Several months ago, I watched the HBO film Temple Grandin about a woman with Autism who has opened many doors for herself and for others with ASD. John included a photo of Ms. Grandin and Claire Danes, the actress who played her, in his report on ASD.

The movie is airing on HBO again this month. Charlie and I watched it together the other day and it sparked some interesting conversations. Now Rachel and Krys have seen it, the conversations have continued.

At the beginning of the movie, Ms. Grandin states she "thinks in pictures". Until discussing the movie with others, it never occurred to me, except in passing, that there are people who don't think in pictures. Holy cow, really?

I mean, I think in pictures. I make connections in pictures and concepts. It's why I have such a tendency to write or speak in analogies. It's how I think.

Apparently Charlie, Rachel and John also think in pictures.

When Krys said "I don't", Rachel and I were both taken aback.
"How do you think?"
"In words."
"Like how?"

It went on for a little bit, with Krys trying to explain her thought process to a confused Rachel and me, while we all sort of tried to imagine what it was like for others.

Krys mentioned how the difference in the way she and Steve think creates the occasional conflict. He's a picture thinker too.

Then Charlie and Daniel got home and we asked them the question, "How do you think? Do you see pictures, words, concepts, what?"

Charlie thinks in pictures, Daniel in words. We already know John thinks in pictures... We texted Becka to ask but didn't get an answer (yet) and so the conversation continued.

My brain hurts.

To be honest, it might not even be a good idea to try to tackle writing about it... but I haven't written in a few days and so I'm at the keyboard dribbling on about the first thing that comes to mind.

Did I mention my brain hurts?

On a side note... I just had to fix the can crusher. We have a solid steel can crusher mounted to a piece of 2x4. I made the mistake of tossing some Altoid Mini tins into the recycling bin and John got the brilliant idea to try crushing them. While he does think in pictures and, often, mathematically, the addition of Attention Deficit means he is too impulsive to think ahead... which means he and his siblings can break darn near anything under the guise of experimenting. *face palm* On the other hand, I'm Monster Mom and can fix darn near anything. So they're out of my hair for a few more minutes and maybe I'll finish a post without 75,000 interruptions.

So yeah, back to thinking in pictures...

Seriously? There's another way?

No matter how Krys and Daniel try to describe it, I can get it on an intellectual level but... thinking about is like trying to snow ski on a hill of gravel. (SEE? Pictures.)

At first, we discussed the idea that perhaps thinking in pictures is an Autistic Spectrum thing. But that doesn't work because of six people in the family on the Spectrum, at least two think in words.

But then... if they see the words in their heads, isn't that the same as thinking in pictures?

I know from the different skills and strengths of my kids that thinking in one way doesn't mean they'll have the same area of gifts. Some who think in pictures are brilliant at Maths... and then there's Krys who thinks in words but talks Calculus for fun.

Daniel thinks in words and he's a musician. I think in pictures and learn more toward being an artist.

Also, some of us are more intuitive and others more logical in their thinking... but it doesn't match up with the pictures/concepts/words thing.

Is there any kind of connection to be made between the way a person thinks and their areas of particular strength or talent?

*head desk* I need Ibuprofen.

So, before I think myself into a migraine, I'll ask... how do you think? Pictures, concepts or words? Or even something different? Can you describe it?

Becka finally responded. Her answer? "Not generally in pictures. It goes in this order: words, concepts, pictures."

I figured she'd say words... but then, she's another artist... and so is Rachel.

This does not help me organize this puzzle into something I can assemble... dang it!


  1. I think in pictures and numbers, and I'm really good at math and music. But I also tend to think I'm decent with words too. I'm very logical but can also be intuitive when I dig deep and pull out those tools. Hmm. Interesting concepts to ponder...

  2. I didn't know one could think in pictures! That's so cool. I think that I think in a combination of words and concepts. I didn't realize the latter was possible until reading this blog post. But it makes no sense and I think it actually helps me understand why I can't always verbalize my thoughts.

  3. Er, don't we all think in electric pulses conducted through the neurochemical soup swirling between the synapses in our respective cauliflowers?

  4. Kapil, I'm sure we do, but the question is how does that translate to your cognizant thoughts? words, concepts or pictures? or do you think only in spreadsheets?

  5. Well..I really am not sure what thinking is exactly. Remembering? Learning? Processing? Decision making? Because they're all kind of different for me..

    All of my memories are in pictures. I'm a visual learner (but not spatial!). I process things conceptually - I constantly categorize and connect things to each other & instantly get a "feel" for how things relate - there are no words or pictures with this, it's instant. But, I make decisions analytically with internal dialogue. I have constant internal dialogue that I have never been able to shut off - right now it is going insanely and I can't focus any of it so I'm trying to think "above" it.

    I found this quote on a forum that pretty much sums it up for me:

    "I have a very constant internal dialogue, but at times it does become wordless. It isn't pictures, sounds, anything. It is simply a wordless feeling construct that has meaning that I get but am unable to explain.

    I would very like to shut up my internal dialouge sometimes, it never corks it."

    When I do math in my head or need to spell something, I visualize it and then read it. (I use my finger to write them in the air, haha.) I think some people work out the answers in step by step ways with words and then remember what they just did? I see the problem being written down and then I literally solve it as though it's written down on a piece of paper.

    I'm 50/50 left/right brained, so maybe I'm a mix? It kinda sounds like I have a visual memory with conceptual thinking. Do people who think in pictures have internal dialogue?

    So, um, you tell me?

  6. BTW, I can't picture things unless I've seen them before. Like, if someone says "picture an apple", I can build up the traits of an apple (i.e. round, shiny, red) and think of the general concept of an apple, but the only way I can picture an apple is if it's in the context of a memory, so an apple I've seen before. I've always been like this. You know those quizzes where they say "picture yourself walking down a path, what do you see?" I can't do that at all.

    The process goes something like this:

    1. Picture yourself walking down a path, what do you see?
    2. Blankness.
    3. Internal dialogue: "Ok, Lauren, you can do this. Ok, you know there is a path and you might be in the woods and you might see trees, and maybe animals if you're in the woods."
    4. I can sort of begin to see an abstract, fuzzy idea of this but nothing concrete, very "floaty" and bits and pieces, and I kind of want to reach out and put things where they should be. Then the picture of a trail I've been on before randomly pops into my head.

    That's the best I can do.

    I was telling Sam earlier that I've tried to do the whole counting sheep thing before bed in order to fall asleep, so I try to picture sheep jumping over a fence, and I said "I can't do it, no matter how hard I try. The sheep-blobs always run away and I want to reach out and try to grab them and put them in the picture correctly!" I'll try to draw the scene with my fingers, lol, and it stays for a moment but then goes fuzzy and twisted.

    Anyone else experience this? Or am I completey insane?

  7. Well.

    Except for the spatial one, this is me exactly:

    and HAHAHHAHAHA answer number 2!! YES.

  8. I don't know about your sanity, Lauren... but your description sounds just like what Krys was trying to describe to us yesterday.

  9. I heart my questionable sanity. :)

    After being completely uncertain yesterday, I am now 100 percent sure that I think in words and concepts (concepts is usually instant stuff, sometimes not). My confusion about this mainly came up because I don't "hear" other voices, only my own, and when I looked it up, most people who think in words, hear other people, they'll hear what those people said to them, for instance. I generally hear my own voice telling me what what was said to me. Like I said, there's no sensory, except the internal dialogue.

    The reason I'm a visual learner (though I'm not bad with auditory) is compensation for the fact that I can't picture things! It's because if I can't pick up right away on what a person is talking about, if I can't sort it out with concepts initially, I can't picture it, so I need them to show me. (Or else, I have to "discuss" it in my head for hours on end until it's sorted out.)

    So, aren't you glad I got that all sorted out and can come back and tell all of you lovely people! :)

    I'm pretty sure years of Blooping was writing out internal dialogue pretty much only, haha.

    So, really, do you have any internal dialogue at all?

  10. This is interesting, gosh aren't you SO glad you got me started on this:

    (I really find this fascinating!)

    btw, I pretty much am not capable at the perceptual, only the conceptual.

  11. holy crap lauren...we may have the same brain...i can only see pictures if they are in the form of a memory...steve and i were trying to figure out a color for the baby's room and he was listing colors and asking what i thought of them...i would say i like or dislike a color and he would ask what about on the wall...I could never picture the color on the wall...I could see the walls and the color but only separate, never the color ON the walls
    the only difference with how you think and me is my head voice is not constant...
    TO MOM: i think with patterns first (numbers) then words then concepts and pictures...I think and process easiest using concrete ideas...anything that requires imagination to answer or picture i'm screwed

  12. Krys, this explains so much. We can pretty well attribute most of our communication problems during your teens to the very different ways we think.
    Krys and Lauren, y'all confuse the heck out of me. ;-)

  13. @Krys - haha, yes! I know exactly what you mean. Do you ever have to put things together to see what they look like so you can decide if you like it? Like, if I'm rearranging the living room, I can't picture it how I want it, I have to move everything and then decide if I like it or not. "Well, let's see what it looks like, then I'll tell you if I like it" is pretty much what I say all the time. :P


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