49 Comments

  1. I wouldnt worry too much about that, we are all different also when it comes to how our minds work (and brains too for that matter); you writing is meandering which is in the best of literary traditions, – you take your reader by the hand onto untrodden paths, and bring insight upon insight along your way, it’s all very worthwhile!

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  2. “what i really think in is sort of amorphous blobby things which sometimes seem almost solid enough that i could reach out and touch them, but most of the time they are just blobby things in my mind’s eye.”

    When you speak do you sometimes ever make hand gestures as though you were manipulating those objects? People have caught me doing something like that.

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  3. Yes, I knew you were a member of our genetic club. Never assumed you DIDN’T know.

    Once you understand yourself better you’ll grasp that the geek-o-sphere is pretty much the local pub for the autism spectrum disorders. But, in exchange for your disability, we generally get an extraordinary ability to process large volumes of information, and to detect patterns in it that others might not. Or at least, the better of us do.

    In fact, obsession with a particular domain of inquiry is pretty much a guarantee. And you certainly demonstrate an interesting obsession. (And you’ve taught me quite a bit really because of your obsession. Although now I tend to work right from Emmanuel Todd’s work directly, I would never have found it without you.)

    I’ve gotten past the writing problem just by practicing with dedication every single day. And I find that it reduces the problem of thinking in spatial logic rather than words.

    I have the same Tinnitus (painful at times), moderate face blindness (although most people don’t notice), and not thinking in ‘words’ but sort of ‘spaces’. I tell people that I don’t get trapped in the same verbal logical errors that most philosophers do, because I don’t rely on language as a lens through which to grasp reality.

    I try to advise others (the vast majority of which are male) to treat it as a gift – that we’re an attempt by evolution to create something fully human – detached from the animal impulses. But that’s just a bit of psychology. The fact is that if you treat it as a gift and stop trying to ‘be normal’ life is awesome.

    It is for me anyway. ;)

    Cheers and welcome to self awareness. :)

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  4. @curt – “Yes, I knew you were a member of our genetic club. Never assumed you DIDN’T know.”

    oh, i’ve known i (presumably) have asperger’s for yeeeears! and i’ve always been aware of all of my goofy ways of thinking — although it wasn’t until i was an adult that i discovered that other people didn’t think in blobs/pictures.

    what’s new to me is that seeing visible words when other people speak is a form of synesthesia. i had no idea. i always thought synesthesia was just that color thing. (^_^)

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  5. @puzzle pirate – “When you speak do you sometimes ever make hand gestures as though you were manipulating those objects? People have caught me doing something like that.”

    no, i don’t do that. but sometimes the feeling that those blobby things are really out there can be overwhelming. they really feel like they’re there (d*mnit!). (^_^)

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  6. I’m another member of the club, but I’m not so sure that you/we process things so much differently as that we are more alert to what is going on between our ears.

    For an instance, my work sometimes involves transcribing written or typed data to a spreadsheet by hand. I have three modes of operation. The fastest is to just look at numbers, 1234.5, for instance, as an image and type them without thinking; slower is to see and think a series of numbers, one, two, three, four, point, five; and slowest is to think one thousand two hundred thirty four point five. I’ve gotten to the point that I never use the slowest mode, but I really have to be on my game to use the fastest.

    Being aware of what is going on may slow you down at times because you want to stop and look at the stream as it goes by, but most people just don’t even know the stream is there, so they don’t look and certainly can’t analyze it.

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  7. OK. Previous comment was unclear.

    My point is that most people go thru the whole transmogrification without being aware of it. When you, on the other hand, are dealing with the image rather than the word you are shortcutting the process as I do when I see the numbers as an image, which is faster and more efficient.

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  8. http://www.randomhouse.ca/hazlitt/blog/why-people-synaesthesia-are-grumpy

    Synesthesia must be weird. Well, I’m in the same boat as you. I also have many biological, cognitive and psychological traits of autism, but not the pathological symptoms of the condition, such as hypersensitivity (despite being above average in this regard, especially in relation to clarity) or comorbidities such as adhd, tourette’s and asperger . Should be quite stodgy. But the rest, I just need to be a graduate of asperger or border-aspie.
    About thinking in pictures. A while ago I saw the video of Grandin and it gave me a slap in the head. So I decided to do a test and see if I could think of words. I was unable, mixed with a penumbra and mental incapacity to join letters to form the word. It seems that I get half cockeyed when I try to think in words, hihihihi.
    Just now I thought of DOG. I could not put the letters in order, in return I could enumerate a short list of types of dog I have ever seen, including my (in memoriam) friend.
    It seems that synesthesia is more common in women and lefties, but it seems that research has not found a overrepresentation in the second group.
    Another feature that you may have. You can only learn something when you view. Does it hit?
    When a person is talking to me tete-a-tete, I have a tendency to not pay what they’re talking about. I think it resembles, because when someone is talking to you he is not seeing what you are saying, so it’s not interesting. Our thinking is much more interesting because it is made especially for images.
    I have an extremely rich world inside me, I have a country that I even invented (as a child I do it), have capital, history, average iq, hihihihihi, conflicts, everything you can imagine.

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  9. It’s more common than you think. I have tons of acquaintances who think in pictures, and I recall reading figures about 30%+ of the population doing that. I think in words but I can relate to the ill-define spot sometimes.

    Of course most people don’t give it further thought the way that fish don’t know what water is.

    So anyway stop whining and keep on writing no matter how bad you think it is. We like it as it is.

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  10. @spandrell – “So anyway stop whining and keep on writing no matter how bad you think it is. We like it as it is.”

    k. no more whining! (~_^)

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  11. i like the way you write:)
    tho i’m an empirical-psychometric-biologist-psych guy, i work with spatially gifted dyslexic engineer types. to determine this takes an hour or 2 of testing OR (i hate to admit) i can just ask them: “when i say ‘rainbow’ – do you SEE a rainbow in your head, or do you see the word ‘rainbow’?’ many spatial > verbal types SEE it (some tell me the order of the colors in it from SEEING it!) whereas verbal > spatial dufuses like me have to memorize “Roy G Biv” or whatever.
    so, when i say ‘rainbow’…? :)

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  12. Shouldn’t visual thinking make abstraction harder? How do you visualise the abstract relations between things that a lot of communication seems to consist of? Also, does it make learning foreign languages easier or harder?

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  13. @hbdchick: you are a visual genius:) but, it can come as a trade-off (as much in biology does), & may make some aspects of language or writing less appealing (more brain “space” has been delegated out for cool visual 3D thinking).

    @ Steve Massey: many people can think visually & verbally, & abstraction might be more a matter of “g” – but some fields are more verbal-conceptual (think psychology, humanities, etc.) & tend to have more Verbal > Spatial folks (see David Lubinski’s excellent research on all that, just google his name & vanderbilt). The folks i see tend to have gifted spatial at the expense of some problems with basic language processing (deficits in auditory memory & language retrieval speed) & it’s difficulties with those 2 things in parentheses that make reading & writing in one’s own language harder & make learning a foreign language (as traditionally classroom-taught) harder.

    i am jealous of you people who can think visually. i have to put everything into words in order to store it. & yes, that can be very inefficient.

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  14. I think mainly in ‘sound’. It seems like I am hearing myself think. That is when I am deliberately thinking. When I am doing less directed thinking, much of it is in pictures. I only deliberately think in pictures when designing something, building something, or trying to visualize how something is put together. Or when trying to remember exactly what something looked like. Faces are hard.
    Can you see things in 3D? Simplest is a flat pic, like a photo. Harder for me is visualizing something from several angles at the same time.
    Took that test, scored 17 which is no aspy.

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  15. Much food for thought about how I think. As I’ve never really thought about it. You know, like right now. Like that physics guy, the famous one, now dead, the one whom I’ve read a half dozen of his books. I can picture his face clear as day on a bookcover, but no name. Though this may be just early onset dementia. The reason I was trying to think of him is that I would love to have him responding to your comment, hbd. As he looked at the quantum bits of the universe, whereas I see you as looking at the quantum bits of humanity. And a damn fine job you do, no matter what quirkiness you may have in getting there.

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  16. Good on you. The more you know yourself the more confidence you can have. The more we all understand that there are different ways of brain wiring the easier it will be to understand our brains. It’s not whinging when you talk about how you think. It’s interesting.

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  17. Very interesting. I have often described my thought process very similarly. I don’t see pictures or words when I think, typically I describe it as thinking with feelings/emotions. Often I don’t know what words or pictures should go with the ideas bouncing around in my brain until I actually try to write or talk about them. If someone says Dog I don’t see a dog or the word dog, I just hold the idea ‘dog’ in my head.. it’s not concrete yet because I don’t know what kind of dog it is, there’s no specificity and I’m not inclined to fill in the details until I absolutely have to. When it comes to remembering people’s faces, I tend to do this by feeling as well. Only now that I’ve begun drawing more portraits do I find myself noticing how wide people’s eyes are or even what the color is, I’ve always just held a general impression of them somewhere in my brain and never bothered to think about the details. Names though, I NEVER remember people’s names until I’ve met them enough times to have an emotional response to them. I wondered if I had synethesia for a but decided that I probably don’t, because even though I do have a color and a feeling associated with, like the number three for instance (it is red in my mind and sort of aggressive), I don’t see threes as red when I look at them visually, I just see one and get the impression of that associated feeling.

    ~S

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  18. I have a pretty serious case of SSS. I used to memorize national demographics because they would produce “waves” in my head that altered shape depending on the informational locii.

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  19. @mario – “you writing is meandering which is in the best of literary traditions…”

    yeah, that’ll be my excuse from now on — i’m writing in a “literary” fashion. (~_^) stream of consciousness, maybe. (~_^)

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  20. @fred – “I’m not so sure that you/we process things so much differently as that we are more alert to what is going on between our ears.”

    yes, i have wondered that. that’s why i said in the post: “i mentioned before in a comment that i don’t think in words — at least i don’t *experience* my thinking as happening in words.” maybe my (our) experience is just different — maybe i (we) do think in words, but just notice the “picture” phase more than other people.

    i have the general impression that my thought processes do run more slowly than other people’s — individuals with around the same iq as me, i mean. i always have to deal with this “pictures”–>words process, which i feel at a conscious level — much more so when i’m tired — whereas other people that i’ve talked to about this don’t experience that. they seem, in general, to be able to speak a lot faster than me, too — you know, respond more quickly in a conversation. the convo is over like ten minutes ago, and i’m always left thinking, still trying to figure out how to say what it is that i want to say. (~_^) writing (blogging, for instance) is much better, ’cause i get some time.

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  21. @gottlieb – “Another feature that you may have. You can only learn something when you view. Does it hit?”

    oh, yes. i learn much better when i see something. doing is even better — hands on learning. (^_^)

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  22. @spandrell – “It’s more common than you think. I have tons of acquaintances who think in pictures, and I recall reading figures about 30%+ of the population doing that.”

    aside from one of my cousin’s daughters who’s an artist, i don’t know a single person who thinks in pictures. most everybody i’ve ever brought this up to thinks that i am nuts (which, to be fair, is not a wholly inaccurate assessment… (~_^) ). if it’s really 30%+, that’s amazing!

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  23. @linton – “I really like your prose and I am vastly impressed with your ability to do research and with the amount of fascinating materiel you write.”

    awww, shucks. thanks! (*^_^*)

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  24. @steve – “How do you visualise the abstract relations between things that a lot of communication seems to consist of?”

    dunno how to explain it — it’s just a bunch of blobby things (“ill-defined spots”) that interconnect with one another. it makes sense to me.

    how do you connect abstract relations between things with words?

    @steve – “Also, does it make learning foreign languages easier or harder?”

    i don’t know how other visual thinkers experience it, but i think that thinking in “pictures” makes learning a foreign language HARD. at least i’m no good at learning foreign languages.

    i do know one foreign language at a level which i’d describe as “ok” — i couldn’t discuss politics or biology in the language, but i am able chit-chat to somebody about the weather and their family, etc. — but the funny (stupid) thing is, i somehow managed to learn to read that language not in that language, but in english. what i mean is, when i see a word written out in that language, i automatically read it as though it were written in english. for example, if we were talking about spanish (which i’m not), if i saw the word “mañana,” i would just read the word in my head as “tomorrow.”

    i don’t know how i wound up doing this — it wasn’t on purpose — and i’m sure it didn’t help me to learn the language.

    i keep thinking i should try to learn to read chinese or japanese, but not bother to learn to speak it. i might be good at it! pictures! (^_^)

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  25. @tom – “Can you see things in 3D?”

    yes, i can. that takes a little bit of effort, but not much. normally the pictures that i think in are 2d. but the blobs are a bit more 3d.

    i can whiz through rotating those raven’s matrices, btw. especially for a girl, i think. luv those. (^_^)

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  26. @anonymous – “And a damn fine job you do, no matter what quirkiness you may have in getting there.”

    thanks for saying so! (^_^) i appreciate it.

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  27. @sisyphean – “If someone says Dog I don’t see a dog or the word dog, I just hold the idea ‘dog’ in my head.. it’s not concrete yet because I don’t know what kind of dog it is, there’s no specificity and I’m not inclined to fill in the details until I absolutely have to.”

    well that’s interesting, and your brain actually makes some sense. (^_^)

    my brain is goofy in that, if someone says dog, i DO see a dog (when i’m a bit tired — earlier in the day it’s more an ill-defined blob/space), but it could just be any old random dog. then if the person clarifies that they are, in fact, talking about a german shepherd, then i’ll see a german shepherd.

    like above, for instance, when panjoomby asked if i saw a rainbow when he said rainbow: i did, indeed, see a rainbow, but the FIRST rainbow i saw was a cheesy lucky charms sorta cartoon rainbow — then, a split second afterwards, i saw a real rainbow (one from memory — a rainbow i had actually seen once). i never know what kind of image my brain will serve up. (^_^)

    @sisyphean – “I wondered if I had synethesia for a but decided that I probably don’t, because even though I do have a color and a feeling associated with, like the number three for instance (it is red in my mind and sort of aggressive), I don’t see threes as red when I look at them visually, I just see one and get the impression of that associated feeling.”

    you sure that’s not a form of synesthesia? it sounds like it ought to be one, even if it’s just an associated feeling.

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    1. @hbd chick It could be considered synesthesia I suppose, but I am not an expert on the subject, I wasn’t aware there were different flavors of it. To me a brain, like any other thing, is what it does and mine is a fun combination that often pushes me to create visual art, when I’m not annoying people by commenting on their blogs of course.

      ~S

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  28. I’m delighted at the different ways you people can think.
    I’m “words-only” –
    say a whole paragraph to me & i can repeat it back
    sadly, no one will pay me to do that:)

    me trying to visualize anything is like butthead (of beavis & butthead) briefly getting that light bulb idea going for a second & it immediately fizzling out. even that overestimates my visual capabilities.

    verbal > spatial means you do well in school (b/c you can read & write & talk), but means brick walls in physics, algebra, calculus (fortunately stats are verbal-conceptual-logic, so those are cool:)

    spatial > verbal means school isn’t always capable of using your strengths, but the real world is – & STEM fields are happy to use those strengths. & you can even fix things around the house!

    as for thinking in colors & sounds, that’s out of my league (even tho this is pretty much my field:) it’s amazing the different ways we think – & often startling to find out others don’t think in the ways we do.
    (full disclosure: i used to think my way was the “right” way! i was wrong, sure, but sadly many teachers think that way)

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  29. @helian – “You bear the stigmata!”

    (~_^)

    @helian – “My beloved Trakl was affected by (color) synesthesia, and one of his best poems was (drum roll) ‘Helian’!”

    oh! i didn’t know! gonna have to read that one….

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  30. @spike – “I used to memorize national demographics because they would produce ‘waves’ in my head that altered shape depending on the informational locii.”

    heh! cool. (^_^)

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  31. if we were talking about spanish (which i’m not), if i saw the word “mañana,” i would just read the word in my head as “tomorrow.”

    That’s quite common. Actually is the default way Japanese people read English, they’re actually taught to do so, instead of actually learning the language and understand it per se. It’s ok if all you do is read; very hard to actually produce any content in that language though. How’s your spoken Spanish?

    I don’t think you can actually decode Chinese characters just by their visual data; you need to break up the sound, compare the sound to your lexicon and then get the meaning. I’m not that sure though I’ll check it out.

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  32. You write better than most lawyers.

    From the contextual framing, I’m confused by what you mean when you say you “pass” Simon Baron-Cohen’s tests. Does “passing” mean you’re on the spectrum (I win the Aspie award!) or (as I’m inclined to read it) that you measure high on the empathy side?

    If you haven’t, you might consider trying LSD (if the genuine article can even be found these days). It might crystallize the synesthetic experience in interesting ways, so you come out the other side with new insight. I’m not joking.

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  33. When I see or hear the word dog, in my mind’s eye I see it spelled out, all the letters. Lower case, serif font, and it’s a yellowish colour, the colour of the letter “d”. It’s been like that as long as I can remember, but it can’t predate first grade!

    All the letters have colours, which never change. The alphabet is horizontal in my mind’s eye, while the numbers are vertical. The numbers have colours too.

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  34. @chip – “From the contextual framing, I’m confused by what you mean when you say you ‘pass’ Simon Baron-Cohen’s tests. Does ‘passing’ mean you’re on the spectrum (I win the Aspie award!) or (as I’m inclined to read it) that you measure high on the empathy side?”

    oh, sorry. yeah — my own inside joke (that i have only with myself, so it’s not strange that no one ever gets it (~_^) ) — i mean that i am ON the spectrum. i’ve never had an official diagnosis, but if i don’t have asperger’s, then there’s something really wrong with me! (^_^)

    @chip – “If you haven’t, you might consider trying LSD (if the genuine article can even be found these days). It might crystallize the synesthetic experience in interesting ways, so you come out the other side with new insight. I’m not joking.”

    i’m such a coward when it comes to mind-altering substances! i really am. (*^_^*) always been afraid of a “bad trip” when it comes to lsd, too. i already have plenty of nightmares — don’t really want anymore.

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  35. @frau katze – “When I see or hear the word dog, in my mind’s eye I see it spelled out, all the letters. Lower case, serif font, and it’s a yellowish colour, the colour of the letter ‘d’. It’s been like that as long as I can remember, but it can’t predate first grade!

    All the letters have colours, which never change. The alphabet is horizontal in my mind’s eye, while the numbers are vertical. The numbers have colours too.”

    ah ha! you’re definitely a synesthete! (^_^)

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  36. If you’ll excuse an anecdote, psychopaths need to think before passing a ‘mind in the eyes’ test. And one study found delay in face reading by psychopaths though conclusions highly accurate.

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  37. ”oh, yes. i learn much better when i see something. doing is even better — hands on learning. (^_^)”

    Some features that you can try to see in itself, also about autism. You’re left handed, you are allergic, you have the left side of thebrain larger than the right?
    This latter trait is more a joke of mine, because I have made ​​a big difference. That should explain all my micro trends for adhd, cyclothymia, autism and psychosis controlled.
    Well, now I am gone,
    Goodbye, I’ll keep reading your blog, good luck! (but not commenting, to avoid the letter soup, i will try to learn better english)

    That the universe stay with you!!!
    obladi obladah

    Reply

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