Thinking without words

Discussion in 'Intelligence & Machines' started by superluminal, Aug 22, 2005.

  1. superluminal . Registered Senior Member

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    Without formal language, can one "think" the way we do? Without some symbolic way to frame complex relationships is anything but rudimentary mental behavior possible? Was the development of rudimentary language what bootstrapped our brains to get bigger, to handle more complex "thoughts" and so on?

    Fun!
     
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  3. §outh§tar is feeling caustic Registered Senior Member

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    Glad you brought this up sl.

    I'm sure someone is going to bring up the Piraha later on, if not, I will. For now I'd just like to point out that there are savantes out there who are retarded as far as verbal skills go but can memorize entire volumes and do complex arithmetic.

    Although they can count calendar days and figure out prime numbers, they are unnable to do more complex forms of math such as calculus.
    What distinguishes these savantes from the Piraha is that we know, for sure, that there is a biological element to their autism. The Piraha remind me of the "use it or loose it" principle. Feral children also languish as far as our means of measuring intelligence go, but this strengthens my suspicion that (initial) social conditions and not language per se determine mental dexterity.
     
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  5. superluminal . Registered Senior Member

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    The Piraha. I recognized the name but that's it. A little research and, wow. Wild. Wierd.
     
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  7. superluminal . Registered Senior Member

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    I've tried to imagine "thinking" without words. I can imagine visualizing how things go together, how to rub sticks to make a fire, how to hunt. All visual images. But the second I try to imagine communicating an intention to someone, or a question, the visual thing falls apart on me. And without the concept of numbers, well, forget it. How many, how much, how far... all so fundamental that I can't even imagine thinking without them.
     
  8. apendrapew Oral defecator Registered Senior Member

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    I can think about playing an instrument. It doesn't feel like I'm thinking visually. It feels more like movement (my hands on a piano or bass guitar making doing their motions). I guess you could call it spatiotemporal/kinesthetic thinking.
     
  9. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

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    One can most certainly think without language, but language takes what is previously a very garbled, difficult to abstract, type of "thought" and infinitely streamlines and expands on it. Language is thus necessary for thought to develop to our level, but not to exist at all.
     
  10. superluminal . Registered Senior Member

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    Yes. I agree. It's the abstract symbolic kind of thought that requires a sophisticated language.
     
  11. wesmorris Nerd Overlord - we(s):1 of N Valued Senior Member

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    Thinking without words comes to mind for me considering many games. Chess for instance. Thinking ahead probably has some words involved, but they are secondary to the focal point of thought.
     
  12. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    Wouldn't a computer with AI be able to do this for all computer language is only based on 1's& 0's?
     
  13. tablariddim forexU2 Valued Senior Member

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    Words are a sophisticated way of communicating and hence thinking. We can and do communicate without words, we can use symbols, gestures, certain 'looks', facial expressions, grunts and noises and I think we also think in abstract mental expression a lot of the time, it's just that we're not really aware of it. Just think, when you are faced with a certain situation, your thought processes may take only a few seconds of imagery and visualisation before you reach a conclusion, but were you to have used words you would have needed pages and pages of them to have reached the same conclusion.
     
  14. watercello Registered Member

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    Actually, most of my thoughts aren't in words at all. Instead, they're more like abstract images - fluctuating colours, textures... that sort of thing. I actually have to put forth effort to translate my thoughts into words. And to be quite honest, I had mistakenly thought that everyone was like this.
     
  15. Just Curious Registered Senior Member

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    There is a similar thread on here by Horsebox who can't believe people think in words. Personaly I don't buy any of it. Just the fact that you can write on this thread shows you are thinking in words. How can fluctuating colours and textures help you create a page of writing?
     
  16. Enmos Staff Member

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    It's what's behind the words and/or pictures obviously. You know, thought.
     
  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    It's quite difficult to put one's thoughts into words, often. That doesn't mean the thoughts didn't exist prior to their being so put.

    Some pretty complex chains of thought can be exchanged between people who have no language in common.

    I know I can teach an illiterate deaf mute raised in China how to properly change the internal hub brake liners on a old style three speed bicycle.
     
  18. Shadow1 Valued Senior Member

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    yes i can think without words, it always happends to me,

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    some times, also like in some topics, like does the univerce have an end? i have the ideas and thoghts in my head, i have my theories and explinations in my head, but i can't just explain it to anyone by words, atleast if he readed my mind,

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  19. Search & Destroy Take one bite at a time Moderator

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    You can't define thought, so you cant relate it to words. The meaning if your sentence is in its use, and its cultural implications and my personal experiences. To me when I meditate both thoughts and words are bound, this may be because I am observing them.
     
  20. Shadow1 Valued Senior Member

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    i can think without words, i can think by voices, or by images in my head,
     
  21. visceral_instinct Monkey see, monkey denigrate Valued Senior Member

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    I tend to think more in visual symbols than words. It certainly didn't mess up my abilities in either math or verbal reasoning

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  22. Shadow1 Valued Senior Member

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    me too

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    : P
     

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