How our choice of words betrays our thinking pattern


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Language is a reflection of the mind. The way we speak or write can say more than we think about who we are and how we think.

It is possible for instance to know if someone if more visual or auditive just by paying attention to the way words are organised in an enumeration. If people were asked to list the countries making up ex-Yugoslavia, the patterns of replies could be like this :

A) Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia


B) Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia

What does this tell us about person A and B ?

A is the typical answer given by visual thinkers, i.e. those who visualise the map as they list the countries mentally. The countries are organised from North-West to South-East. It also tells us that the person is probably a speaker of a language written from left to right and top to bottom (so not Arabic or Hebrew), as a reflection of the order in which the brain is trained to visualise (West to East, and if at the same longitude, North then South).

B is an alphabetical listing, meaning that the person is much more probably an auditive (and also literary) type of person.

The way of listing countries can also tell us other things, such as the image of status or power associated by the speaker with each country. We could imagine someone listing countries in list of economic importance like this :

- USA, Germany, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Malta.

In this case they are also in order of geographic and population size, but it is merely a coincidence. It could have been a less obvious :

- USA, Japan, India, Poland, Sudan.

Countries are a good example as so many criteria could be associated with them. So if we often have discussions involving numerous countries, it is possible to guess how organise the mind of your interlocutor is.

I often noticed in news channels, especially in debates, that some presenters appeared confused about their geography, by citing countries in a totally random order that could not be classify by geography, population, land area, economic power, or any other criteria I could think of.

Obviously, this can also tell how good one's geography or geopolitics is, or how organised one's mind is.

It is likely that people who are organised in daily life (schedule, home tidiness...) speak and write in an organised way as well.

On a forum, it is easy to know if someone has a confused mind from the lack of paragraphs, punctuation, capitals, and the general organisation of the sentences. This is probably why a number of companies request a sample of writing, or simply a motivation letter, with job applications.

Remember the old saying : "an Englishman cannot open his mouth without betraying his origins". This is because English pronunciation (in Britain at least) widely varies by region and social class (so the "origins" here are both geographic and social). The same could be said about one's mindset, applying to all humanity. Contrarily to one's accent, mindset is also revealed in writing, often even better than in speaking.
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