Manual Thinking without Words

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Maybe one part of my brain was communicating with some other part by offering structured sentences to be diagnosed and interpreted. More importantly, I suddenly realized that I was allowing my brain to reflect on my thoughts. I tried to catch myself reflecting on notions, without actually using words. We do think in many alternate non-linguistic ways. How often have you just considered a thought visually? Images can replace language for communication and thinking. It's not uncommon to think with image representations. That can even help with interpretation. Abstract thinking goes beyond concrete thoughts.

It allows the ability to visualize ideas beyond the obvious. Child prodigies who can multiply large numbers in their heads are probably using abstract methods of thought. Thinking with representations can be accomplished a lot quicker than actual thinking because no time is wasted putting it into words. Maybe some people get through life with a little imaginary person on their shoulder telling them how to behave:. Awareness or consciousness does not require words. There is still some form of thinking going on.

Illustration: thinking without words

Paying attention to what is going on around us or paying attention to our behavior does not necessarily require words. Different regions of the brain are triggered based on what is happening. We may actually have feelings and emotions that come from this brain activity. Thoughts in the form of words may not be required to feel the feeling. Those thoughts related to feelings might have developed unconsciously in your brain. You didn't need to use actual words or structured sentences. Words are not always required to describe pleasing or displeasing emotions. Thinking may be on a conscious level, but I wouldn't rule out unconscious brain activity influencing our thoughts.

Two linguists, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf , had publicized an interesting theory. Known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, they state that the way people think is strongly affected by their native languages. One of their hypotheses is known as the Linguistic Relativity. The words of a language determine how a subject thinks.

Although I agree that most of us do that most of the time, it's because we had learned a language and we use it. As I mentioned previously, I think that people can to think in terms of concepts.

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Therefore words are not always necessary. An individual can have a concept of an idea. Benjamin Whorf indicates that words place a label on the idea, and that influences our thought about it. That much I agree with. Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. I also like to compare the way the human brain works to the way computers work. So the speed of thought is an interesting addition to that analysis.

An intriguing article Glenn. My thoughts are it may have been a challenge to write because you processed 'thoughts' or were thinking, which became abstracts, then related those in words as I am attempting here.

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I dun'no. I will continue pondering this morning. Something you may be interested in and taking a peek at is the recent study and testing of the speed of thought.

Catherine Giordano - Good thoughts on the subject. But how do you know that a gorilla had those thoughts before being taught sign language? We really don't know that. We have no knowledge of a gorilla's thoughts before signing. If you have some reference to scientific data on it, please let me know. I'd like to read up on it. You have got me thinking about thinking. You make so many good points about how words shape our thinking.

I agree some thoughts can exist without words.

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  • Words are something we overlay onto a thought. The most primal thoughts require no words. For instance when a gorilla was taught some signs from sign language, he then hadwords for his thoughts. But he had those thoughts before he had the words.

    Ziyi - You are experiencing the exact same thing I was referring to. When you think, you are using some other form of thought rather than applying words to the thoughts. Thank you for that detailed explanation. Right now while I'm writing in the comment, my brain is working hard trying to articulate literally my thoughts in a structured way. Before this time point my thoughts in my head were not completely literal or structured or well-organized. So, what exactly was I thinking with? I came across this article because I saw a word that I didn't know in a sentence, yet without knowing its meaning I still understand the content and the meaning of the sentence from the context.

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    But for that specific word, I feel I have some sort of abstract and vague idea of what it could mean but in my head it's all very blurry and vague and I cannot find another word or put it into other words trying to define its meaning, not even in my native language. Such things happen to me on a daily basis and I normally wouldn't give it second thought. But today it made me thinking As a native Chinese but predominantly using English in my daily life, my own experience says that the dominant language one uses in my case English , has greater influence in one's thinking rather than one's native language in my case Chinese.

    I can definitely feel how my English skills confine my ability of thinking in English. It influences my thinking to a degree that I often find myself stuck in a place, empty headed, as my English does not support my thinking yet I cannot activate my brain to continue thinking in Chinese either.

    As a matter of fact, it is more frequently happening to me that I cannot find the word in Chinese than in English and when I talk with my fellow Chinese people they often complain that I mix with English words or speaking with a foreign feeling. A lot of times, I find myself "thinking" without or beyond language, neither in English or in Chinese. I am clearly thinking of something, but if you ask me, it's difficult for me to tell you exactly what I am thinking about. In that sense, I do feel putting thoughts in words do help to organize and structurize is that a word?

    I am not sure if that is unique for bilingual people or it's common. And I can't help thinking "if i'm not thinking in either language, what am I thinking with? Piyush Ranjan - You have interesting questions about being productive without language. Language is something that's taught to us after we born. It is not innate.

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    • I was wondering if there's an alternative to languages? Could we have been more productive without words? As English is not my first language, I find difficult to put my thoughts into words, and this makes me wonder - is language really required? We could have improved non-verbal communication technique which is more universal. Leekley - That's a good example of alternatives to using words and full sentences. The languages you refer to that make it difficult to label or judge might not have a need for that based on their social norms. This is a fascinating topic.

      Google on Buzan Mind Mapping for a way to take notes—to save the main ideas of a lecture, a meeting, a phone call, etc. I have heard of languages that have no to be verbs. This makes it difficult to label and judge others.