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Thinking without language?

John Turnbull john at turnbull.org
Sun Nov 21 20:25:24 EST 1999

In article <7fogco83qq.fsf at faith.csis.hku.hk>,
Lee Sau Dan 李守敦 <sdlee at faith.csis.hku.hk> wrote:
>>>>>> "John" == John Turnbull <john at turnbull.org> writes:

>    John> I guess it depends what you call thinking.  I wouldn't
>    John> consider reacting to be thinking.  

>Driving may  be a  complicated set of  reflex reactions.  But  I won't
>agree that Tetris is also simple reactions.

I don't see how it can be anything but, especially as the pace picks up.
Feels more like acting without thinking.  What do you consider thinking?

>    John> When you first start
>    John> playing Tetris, or driving, one isn't very good, and in my
>    John> case there is a lot of verbal thinking going on.  "That
>    John> piece will fit and fill the row" etc.  

>No, I  didn't.  Did you  really say those  words to yourself  when you
>first tried  Tetris?  I  didn't at all!!!   Yes, the idea  "that piece
>will fit there" does come to  my mind, but NOT VERBALLY.  It's only an
>abstract idea that I have in my mind, without any words or sentences.

When I was conciously thinking, yes.  That phase didn't last long, and
transferred to a planning level, where I would be thinking what to do
with various shapes.  I would be thinking the long shape would fit here
really well, and then if it appeared it would require no thought to follow
that plan.  Unless the thought is verbalized to the concious part of my
brain, I don't know I'm having it.

>So, you're that kind of  person who think predominantly in words.  But
>there are still times that you  don't: Hum a familiar melody.  Did you
>do it verbally?

No, but I don't consider humming a familiar melody to be thinking.  I am
likely to think verbally of the name of the tune though.

>    John> I would argue that any thinking that takes a long time, and
>    John> can be interrupted requires at least some verbal thinking to
>    John> keep on track, and communicate between the different parts
>    John> of the brain.
>No, I don't think so.

Are there no problems you could not solve without a pen and paper to
take notes, and help you think?


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