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Rethinking ThoughtInside the Minds of Creative Scientists and Artists$
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Laura Otis

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190213466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190213466.001.0001

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The Vast Range of Visual Worlds

The Vast Range of Visual Worlds

Chapter:
(p.51) Chapter 3 The Vast Range of Visual Worlds
Source:
Rethinking Thought
Author(s):

Laura Otis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190213466.003.0003

The insights of five strikingly different visually gifted thinkers shape this chapter: cell biologist Barry Shur, engineer Temple Grandin, painter Mary J. Welty, neuroscientist Hugh Wilson, and U. S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. Their introspections confront a narrative of how, since the 1880s, neuroscientists and psychologists have tried to learn how visual mental imagery works, including experiments by Francis Galton, Allan Paivio, Roger Shepard, Stephen Kosslyn, and Zenon Pylyshyn. The participants’ insights support cognitive neuroscientist Maria Kozhevnikov’s finding that spatial visualization (focused on dimensions, orientation, velocity, and direction of motion) differs markedly from object visualization (focused on shapes, colors, textures, and visual details.) Their introspections illustrate Kozhevnikov’s claim that there is no unified “visual” way of thinking, and that spatial and object visualization constitute two distinct thinking modes. At the same time, their insights trouble her idea, because their mental worlds differ so greatly that two kinds of visual thinking seem inadequate to describe them.

Keywords:   visual thinking, Temple Grandin, Natasha Trethewey, Francis Galton, Roger Shepard, Stephen Kosslyn, Maria Kozhevnikov, cognitive neuroscience, spatial visualization, object visualization

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