Thinking about Visual Thinking

We have so much information coming at us so quickly when do we get the time to stop and think about it. Do you look at how much of how you perceive is a form of thought.
I do know people that evaluate analytically and appear to be mostly verbal in their thought, but then I know others who when they speak they form and express themselves visually. Computers and technology have given individuals who form thought with images new platforms with which to express themselves and to develop content.  Here are two thinkers that have influenced my thought.

The art theorist and psychologist, Rudolf Arnheim has an interesting take on art and perception in the introduction to his book, Visual Thinking.

“My earlier work had taught me that artistic activity is a form of reasoning in which perceiving and thinking are indivisibly intertwined. A person who paints, writes, composes and dances, I felt compelled to say, thinks with his senses. This union of perception and thought turned out to be not merely a speciality of the arts. A review of what is known about perception and especially about sight, made me realize that remarkable mechanisms by which the senses understand the environment are but identical with the operations described by the psychology of thinking. Inversely, there was much evidence that truly productive thinking in whatever area of cognition take place in the realm of imagery.”

Rudolf Arnheim, Visual Thinking, 1969.

The Washington DC based writer and researcher, Thomas West in this book “In the Mind’s Eye: Visual Thinkers People with Dyslexia and other Learning difficulties, Computer Images and the Ironies of Creativity” provides succinct terms that allow us to begin to grasp what visual thinking encompasses.

Three  overlapping capability  that define visual thinking  and text from his groundbreaking book are excerpted below.

Visual Thinking

” Visual thinking may be considered a form of thought in which images are generated or recalled in the mind and are manipulated, overlaid, translated, associated with other similar forms, rotated, increases, or reduced in size, distorted or other transformed gradually from one familiar image into another. These images may be visual representations of material things or abstract concepts. It should be noted in passing that visual forms need not be actually derived from vision. A blind person may build up a mental image of a room through movement, touch and sound. ”

Spatial Ability

“Spatial ability is closely related to visual thinking but emphasizes elements of three dimensional space evident in the work of the architect, mechanic, sculptor, or athlete. “

Pattern Recognition

“Pattern recognition is the ability to discern similarities of form among two or more things. These could include textile design, facial resemblance of family members, graphs of repeating biological growth cycles or similarities between historical epochs.”

Pattern recognition which is seen in our daily lives and is a short step to problem solving.

“Problem solving generally involves the recognition of a developing or repeating pattern and the carrying out of actions to obtain desired results based on ones understanding of this pattern.

Problem solving is related to creativity.  To quote Thomas West once again:

An original and effective solution to a problem is usually considered creative.”


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