Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Marvels and Flaws of Intutive Thinking

Sometmes when you listen to great thoughts, you are awestruck. Ofcourse you understand what is being said, you dont require special skills to understand it. It is simply put, and still you feel "Why did I not think of it?". It is these kind of ideas that I have started getting fascinated about. And not so surprisingly these ideas are related to cognitive science. Today, I heard a very beautiful lecture by Daniel Kanheman (A Princeton Professor, Author and Nobel Laureate). It was about Intuitive thinking.


He described the research he has been doing on the subject. He summarized his 40 years of work in a one hour lecture, and I would try to summarize that one hour lecture in a few lines here. So if you really want to read it all please visit this link and read his books.


Coming to the topic, the primary theory was that there are 2 types of thinking we do : Type 1 is the unconscious thinking , as he termed it. And Type 2 is deliberate.


The part I loved is, he says, that we see the world in a far more coherent way than the what the world actually is, and that primarily is an outcome of type 1 kind of thinking. He relates Type 1 to perception and says there isn’t a clear sharp line of distinction between intuition and perception. Perception is predictive.


Then he gave an example. Read out the following 2 words : Banana                                  Vomit


Now what did the words do to you? Within milliseconds of times, the words activates other words, feelings, emotions and thoughts in your mind. Most probably you might have created a causal relationship between the 2 words, i.e. banana caused vomit. And that particular thought / expression does influence your way of thinking or say mood. This he said is “Associative thinking”. Based on our perceptions, our understanding of disjointed facts , our experiences, we co-relate things and create interpretations. Thus he says, reality is different from our interpretation of it, it is far more incoherent. Interpretations are quick and responses are faster especially in case of finding incongruities. For example if I say, “A man got pregnant”, you can immediately identify the issue with the statement. There is a lot of knowledge, and its extraction that goes in to your mind when you identify that anomaly instantly. Think of it, you understand “pregnant”, you understand facts and knowledge around it, and you could judge the validity of the statement, all in a flick. He says – you know a lot more than what you think you do. (Which is pretty much in line with what our Indian scriptures say).


An insight I thought here was that language impacts your thinking hugely if this is the case. A few months back I had this discussion with a friend on how language impacts thinking. This was while discussing one of my favorite edge lectures – Encapsulated universe.


Now considering both, I think we can derive a few inferences for creative works. This would imply that our understanding of written, visual and audio medium of arts is guided by our intuitive thinking which is natural and fast and then there are films/books that makes subtle inferences that requires deliberate thinking. Works of art evokes emotional as well as intellectual cognitive responses in that sense. And the author / creator of the work, if he understands the cognitive science better he can clearly follow a path to guide his / her audience to a feel or thought he wants to evoke. Language and words and the association people have with it can really play a strong role in it. SO does the visuals.


Excellent I sayJ!


There is a book that he mentioned in the lecture and I think it might be an interesting read. Joshua Fuer’s “Moonwalking with Einstein” – just in case you are interested.


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