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Thread: Are you a verbal or visual thinker ?

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    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Are you a verbal or visual thinker ?

    Everybody thinks differently. People can't be lumped in just two categories such as 'verbal' or visual'. Like for everything else there is a gradation on a scale and each individual will fit somewhere in between the two extremities.

    Verbal thinkers, on one side, think in words. Spatio-visual thinkers think in pictures and animations in their head. Obviously everybody can do both. People in the middle of the scale use both equally. Those lying towards the either extremity of the scale tend to favour one over the other most of the time.

    Apparently, from the data I could find, the majority of the population tends towards verbal thinking. I, on the other hand, am much more of a visual thinker. Even writing these few lines I first visualise the statistical graph representing the population on the scale 'from mostly verbal to mostly visual'. Images come first, then I have to think of words to express what I am seeing. The more I visualise an idea the harder it is to put it into words, and the longer I have to reflect about how to express it.

    Times and again I am not satisfied with the words available to me in the language, as if some ideas just cannot be expressed clearly with words. That's a feeling I experience on a daily basis, despite my efforts to augment my lexical range to avoid such situations. I found that English is superior to any other language to express my ideas because it possess more words, nuances and grammatical flexibility than any of the several languages I have learnt, including my mother tongue (French). But it is far from being enough, and probably never will be. Pictures and words just don't belong to the same world.

    It can be hard to translate some terms from one language to another, especially when they belong to different language families and civilisations (e.g. English, Arabic and Japanese). There are indeed untranslatable cultural expressions. Many words, in particular conceptual ones, never have exactly the same meaning or connotation from one language to another. That is partly why English often kept both the Germanic and Romance words for the same thing, as the nuance, usage or connotation of the two words varied enough to be used in different situations.

    The saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words' applies to everybody, but resonates particularly strongly for visual thinkers. I suppose this is why I like to make maps, as anybody who has been on Eupedia for a while will know.

    At university, I didn't write much of what the professors was explaining. Other students were all scribbling furiously every word they heard (often without processing the information first). I, on the other hand, just listenned, visualised in my head everything I heard, then wrote down a few schemes with isolated words or phrases linked by arrows or arranged in a way that would conjure up the images right back in my head when I saw my notes, but that wouldn't mean anything to anybody else. When another student had written 5 full pages, I had barely half a page. Yet I got better results and hardly had to study at home. I just needed to review my schematic representations once before the exam and that was it. When friends asked me for my notes, I had to explain that it wouldn't be of any use to them, and they were aghast when I showed them my notes to prove I wasn't lying.

    A drawback of visual thinking is that I was slightly dyslexic as a child. Another is that I am not a spontaneous talker. I always have more difficulties than most people finding my words to express "what I see in my head". I feel like verbal communication is an acquired second language, while my true mother tongue is the mental visualation of ideas. I think it is one of the reasons why I am not much attached to my native (verbal) language and happily traded it for English, a language better suited to visual thinkers.

    Those of you who have read me on Eupedia might have noticed that I don't use metaphors. I actually dislike them. It may seem counter-intuitive that a visual thinker do not like using metaphors, but there is a good reason for it. I like to picture my ideas in a clear and realistic way. I don't need images that represent something else. Metaphors are a way for verbal thinkers of using words to help them visualise ideas that they wouldn't normally think of as images. For me not only are they useless (as my thought are already images) but confusing, as they mix new images with the clear ones I already have in mind. I would therefore believe that the more a person uses or likes hearing metaphors the more a verbal thinker he or she is.
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    Almost everything what you describe applies to me as well. I'm addicted to maps (the main reason why I like eupedia ) and dislike metaphors. While I talk to people I sometimes even point somewhere into the space around me, because I'm describing a spacial picture from my head. In this case I forget that these pictures are not visible for others and people wonder what I'm pointing to.
    Yet there are two things which are different:

    - I'm not able to make notes at all while listening to somebody, because spoken words are not visual and require my full attention.
    - Grammar and written language was always one of my basic strengths, because both is graphics for me. Grammar in particular is like a mechanical engine.

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    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElHorsto View Post
    While I talk to people I sometimes even point somewhere into the space around me, because I'm describing a spacial picture from my head. In this case I forget that these pictures are not visible for others and people wonder what I'm pointing to.
    Same for me.

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    i think that most of real thinking is visual thinking + causal logic...
    because real thinking is about making a model of reality and figuring out how it works and why

    one cannot set a skeleton of a model from words, words one can only use to express/communicate key concepts, causal connections, quantities and qualities of the model...

    one thing is to have in mind a picture and than to transform it into words, or to hear a stream of words and transform it into a visualization.... something completely different is to actually think in words....

    i do that as well, but it is more wondering around, it is rarely clear thinking ..... its not that i am bad in thinking in words.......i did some tests as teenager and my verbal skils were equally good as visualization skills...its more that visual thinking is superior - when applicable

    why is this the case?

    visual thinking is parallel in nature, brain is parallel in nature
    any language is sequential - word after word, and thinking in words makes thinking process sequential and governed by patterns (e.g. phrases, grammar rules, words that go together...) learned through using language and contact with words, which is quite a limitation.....

    some people remember words, some remember meaning by having an inner visual representation of the words....I always had a problem when it was needed to repeat the exact words (e.g. learning by heart poem) as it was not how my brain works...I could easily tell a story about something I have read and imagined..... in fact, school is much easier when imagining things and applying logic....

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    Visual thinking reminds me of a documentary I saw about a World Memory Champion and how he used images and stories in his technique

    "What is the key skill in developing a top class memory?
    Application of the basic principles of memory training which involves the use of familiar places, association, and picturing imagined scenes. In short what is required is dedication, persistance, and an unrestricted imagination.." source

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominic_O'Brien

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mnemonic_dominic_system

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    I'm a verbal thinker absolutely. The things I can't express with words simply don't exist to me.

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    i cannot explain myself all the time when explaination is need.

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    I'm a visual thinker as well, so much of what you wrote above resonates with me. I'm wondering if you've come across any resources that help visual thinkers communicate verbally. My profession requires me to communicate verbally, and I haven't found much online that helps people with a visual preference develop verbal skill. Any information would help. Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by churchill95 View Post
    I'm a visual thinker as well, so much of what you wrote above resonates with me. I'm wondering if you've come across any resources that help visual thinkers communicate verbally. My profession requires me to communicate verbally, and I haven't found much online that helps people with a visual preference develop verbal skill. Any information would help. Thanks!
    Welcome to the club. I'm practicing verbal/written communication every day on Eupedia, to overcome my visual/technical brain setup. It is a slow process, but I think I'm making some progress.
    Be wary of people who tend to glorify the past, underestimate the present, and demonize the future.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Everybody thinks differently....
    Apparently, from the data I could find, the majority of the population tends towards verbal thinking. I, on the other hand, am much more of a visual thinker. Even writing these few lines I first visualise the statistical graph representing the population on the scale 'from mostly verbal to mostly visual'. Images come first, then I have to think of words to express what I am seeing. The more I visualise an idea the harder it is to put it into words, and the longer I have to reflect about how to express it.

    Times and again I am not satisfied with the words available to me in the language, as if some ideas just cannot be expressed clearly with words....
    Those of you who have read me on Eupedia might have noticed that I don't use metaphors. I actually dislike them. It may seem counter-intuitive that a visual thinker do not like using metaphors, but there is a good reason for it. I like to picture my ideas in a clear and realistic way. I don't need images that represent something else. Metaphors are a way for verbal thinkers of using words to help them visualise ideas that they wouldn't normally think of as images. For me not only are they useless (as my thought are already images) but confusing, as they mix new images with the clear ones I already have in mind. I would therefore believe that the more a person uses or likes hearing metaphors the more a verbal thinker he or she is.
    I've found that I'm more or less the opposite. The first major thing that I do when thinking about a new concept is to try to come up with a formal dictionary-type definition of it, taking special care to carefully consider how to define the border between the concept and other related concepts. I also use metaphors extensively to understand the world by relating one thing to another. This thing is sort of like that thing, except for the following difference, which is related to the difference between these two other things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RobertColumbia View Post
    I've found that I'm more or less the opposite. The first major thing that I do when thinking about a new concept is to try to come up with a formal dictionary-type definition of it, taking special care to carefully consider how to define the border between the concept and other related concepts. I also use metaphors extensively to understand the world by relating one thing to another. This thing is sort of like that thing, except for the following difference, which is related to the difference between these two other things.
    It is quite a human condition to try to compartmentalize the world in sorts and types with strict definitions, trying to understand it. However the life always throws a curve-ball, if only to confuse us. Can we define what is a planet, or human sexuality, what constitutes a nation, or genetically a human being? We can always find a smaller celestial body which we hesitate to call a planet. Homosexuals or asexuals defy Victorian concepts of sexuality. Catalans, Scots or Quebecers could be called nations inside nations, or are they nations? Can we call Neanderthals human beings?
    Perhaps life is more like a spectrum from black to white with mostly grey in between, than fully defined concepts and elegant definitions?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    It is quite a human condition to try to compartmentalize the world in sorts and types with strict definitions, trying to understand it. However the life always throws a curve-ball, if only to confuse us. Can we define what is a planet, or human sexuality, what constitutes a nation, or genetically a human being? We can always find a smaller celestial body which we hesitate to call a planet. Homosexuals or asexuals defy Victorian concepts of sexuality. Catalans, Scots or Quebecers could be called nations inside nations, or are they nations? Can we call Neanderthals human beings?
    Perhaps life is more like a spectrum from black to white with mostly grey in between, than fully defined concepts and elegant definitions?
    No, I can't come up with perfect definitions for everything. I do, however, have an instinct toward trying to refine my definitions as time goes on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RobertColumbia View Post
    No, I can't come up with perfect definitions for everything. I do, however, have an instinct toward trying to refine my definitions as time goes on.
    Yes, we all do. My point is that it is very hard and sometimes impossible to define something with all the cases and outsiders. The fewer the exceptions the better the definition. I think, only laws of physics have perfect definitions. The more complex thing the harder to define.

    The simplest definition of life would be a thing that eats, survives and multiplies. This is from bacteria to human being. Till we invented microscope and find viruses, something not really dead or alive. And self replicating machines in the future invented by people could be other exception.

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    I do not think.

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    I like talking but, it depends on the person. There are people that is conversationalist i.e., you can talk to that person anything under the sun. Anything you said, he/she have useful insights.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    ...I found that English is superior to any other language to express my ideas because it possess more words, nuances and grammatical flexibility than any of the several languages I have learnt, including my mother tongue (French). But it is far from being enough, and probably never will be. Pictures and words just don't belong to the same world....
    One of the very interesting features of English is the fact that it has borrowed the same word multiple times, often from multiple languages over many centuries, in addition to often times having the same word in a native form. For example, English has the following words, all of which derive from a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root for head and now refer metaphorically to some kind of leader:

    * Head (native Germanic form, modified as expected by Grimm's Law). It has a down-to-earth relevancy, and can also be used to mean a literal head (that is, the thing that sits on top of shoulders and usually contains a brain, etc.)
    * Chef (from Parisian French). It now primarily means a head cook at a restaurant, but can be used metaphorically to refer to the leader of a project that could be metaphorically described as involving some sort of recipe.
    * Chief (from Norman French). This word is frequently used to refer to tribal or traditional leaders, and is also often used to refer to certain positions of leadership in civil government and the military.
    * Captain (from Latin). This is another Romance-related word for leader, but it often refers to (or at least implies) a kind of leader that is above a "chief". For example, in the US Navy, Captains outrank Chiefs, but both Captains and Chiefs are considered to be leadership roles.
    * Kapitan (from German, which obtained it from Latin). This word, a relatively recent loanword, especially in the form "herr kapitan", can be used to inject a vaguely Fascistic implication to the position being described. So if you refer to the boss as "herr kapitan", you may be implying that he is acting like a Nazi.

    You also have a vague difference between the concept of a fraternity and a brotherhood. IME, the second one (native Germanic) sounds slightly more intimate and informal, while the first (Latin) implies (but does not explicitly require) formality, structure, and policy. Describing an organization as a fraternity implies a kind of organization that is likely to have fancy titles, a formal meeting location, ceremonial robes, esoteric lore, arcane rituals, and initiation ceremonies, while describing it as a brotherhood implies a more down-to-earth, casual set of friends who might just like playing chess together or something.

    These are just two of the many many examples of this phenomenon in English. Can anyone think of another one that is particularly interesting or evocative?

    Maciamo, have you studied Dutch/Flemish or German (also in the West Germanic language family with English)? If so, how does it/do they compare with English?

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