The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.

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Thinking About Thinking

I was reading recently that there are two basic ways people think, in words and NOT in words.

People who think in words tend to “hear” sentences in their heads, as if they are carrying on an internal dialog with someone. That makes up about 80% of the population.

The other 20% are non-verbal thinkers. Some of them think in images. It’s harder for them to explain how they think, because we are asking them to put words to a process that has no words.

Both sides have difficulty understanding the other side’s process. The idea of hearing words in your head can sound like schizophrenia to the non-verbal folks. Inability to express the pattern your thoughts follow can sound like having no internal process to the verbal people.

And then there is a very small subset that actually processes information by visualizing written words.

It’s a little like asking how does a blind person dream or how does a deaf person read. They do it, but it isn’t the same as someone who reads as if a voice was speaking the words they see.

What I am wondering is, is there a connection between personality traits and style of thinking? For example, are non-verbal thinkers more likely to become artists or dancers rather than writers or speakers? Because humans want to communicate with each other, so how does the method of thinking affect one’s choice of communication style?

I have a memory that it has taken me a long time to figure out. I am sitting looking at a stream flowing under a bridge in the fall. There is a sky blue tray in front of me. I can see a child’s hands protruding from a fur-lined sleeve. I have realized that it is a pre-verbal memory from my childhood of my mother wheeling me in a stroller to the doctor’s office. The stream ran across the end of our street. Now that I’ve put words around it, the memory is less visceral. I remember the words and the description more than the image itself. I have added a layer of distance. And I wonder if that’s what thinking is like for the non-verbal.

In this case, I invite commentary. How do you think? I’m asking you to pay attention for a few minutes to your brain doing what it does. Then drop me a note and let me know what you observe. I’m curious.