B1 Intermediate US 20600 Folder Collection
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Here's a question.
Do you sometimes have difficulty remembering peoples' names.
But you're great at remembering their faces?
Or maybe you're really good at moving odd-shaped furniture around the corners.
Or packing your car full with so much stuff everyone told you it was gonna be impossible.
If so, you might just be a visual thinker.
How about this?
Try and remember an event from your past.
What happens?
Do you find yourself remembering something fuzzy like the significance or emotion or mood around that event?
Or do you remember specific scenes and images?
For some people, it turns out that images and spatial relationships seem to dominate their thinking process.
Basically, they think in pictures.
It's thought that upwards of 60% of people are in this category.
And it's a continuum.
Not all or none, some people just think this way more than others.
For example, for some people, and this might be you, a messy desk isn't a problem at all.
You know where everything is.
But you know where it is in relation to everything else.
So, when someone comes along and cleans that desk up, supposedly helping you organize, you completely feel lost and you can't find anything.
The same sort of spatial thinking that helps you navigate a messy desk can be incredibly powerful.
The chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer said that he could see all of the pieces on the chess board even when it wasn't in front of him.
Which allowed him to practice and play in his head.
Nikola Tesla, a pretty amazing inventor, took this one step further and said he was able to build and rebuild complicated machines in his mind.
And then run them to see where the moving parts could potentially fail.
When he was only 24 years old, the inventor Thomas Edison described his experience this way.
"I have innumerable machines in my mind now, which I shall continue to illustrate and describe day by day when I have the spare time".
But this kind of thinking, visual thinking, sometimes comes with a price.
Namely, it can be hard to communicate, when you're thinking, to other people.
Maybe you've had this experience.
Where you see something pretty clearly in your head, but you wind up needing to draw it to explain it to someone else.
Albert Einstein often said words failed him to describe the images in his head.
But it turned out those images were the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe.
It was after he envisioned a man riding the wave of light that he was able to construct his theory of relativity.
James Clerk Maxwell, the mathematical physicist, had a similar experience.
His colleagues urged him to show the relationship between energy entropy and volume using equations.
Which is how they best communicated ideas.
Instead, he used clay and plaster to show the relationship in the way that he understood it as a physical and visual form of thermodynamics.
And that's the power of visual metaphors. They allow people to see complex relationships in new, relatively simple ways.
And the history of invention and discoveries filled with those kind of stories.
For example, August Kekulé unlocked the new way of thinking about the structure of molecules when he envisioned a snake eating its own tail.
In that moment, he realized that the bonds in the molecules benzene formed a ring.
And this led to a whole new way of understanding how molecules could be visualized.
And that's ultimately the challenge that visual thinkers face.
How do you get those images out of your head and into the real world as inventions or discoveries?
It's also why right now is such an exciting time for people who think like this.
The digital age has brought technology that allows visual thinkers to directly experiment with the forms that they're best at understanding.
Visual thinkers can now fold complex proteins on the screen and use 3D printers to build almost any forms that they could imagine.
And they can invent and play in virtual reality spaces that just couldn't exist in the real world.
It's a good time to be a visual thinker.
So next time you forget the names of streets on a route that you can navigate with ease.
Don't beat yourself up. You might just be the next genius and inventor of our time.
What kind of inventor are you?
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Are You A Visual Thinker?

20600 Folder Collection
Sally Hsu published on February 12, 2019    Sally Hsu translated    Kate Chang reviewed
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