Sunday, December 16, 2018

Ways of thinking and remembering names

So, imagine someone is walking along, down a street.  They see the store their going to and they enter through the shop door.  So, when you were imagining this, did you see it?  Which direction was the person walking, relative to your mind's eye?  Did they turn to the left or right to enter the store?  What color was everything?

When someone first did this exercise with me they were walking away from me and turned to the left.  I could still see them inside the shop through the wall because nothing in my visualization had any color.  For other people they might be imagining it more like a video where things have color and you can't see people after they move behind walls.  Some people don't form mental images of the scene at all, here's a widely shared Facebook post by someone who was surprised to discover that other people actually did form mental images in their minds.  Francis Galton was the first person to study this in 1880.

A related topic is the notion of how people go about their thinking.  That is, some people will talk to themselves inside their head when they're thinking about a problem and other people won't.  According to this article this is another property of people that varies quite a bit between individuals with some people having no inner monologue and some people talking inside their head almost all the time.  For myself, I do have an inner monologue sometimes but mostly only when I'm thinking of what I'm going to say - for example I've done quite a bit of it in organizing this blog post.  Other than that I mostly just use single words inside my head when I need the concept behind the word but I'm not practiced with it enough to just use the concept directly.

This is all interesting and has led me into some speculation.  Do people who use words inside their heads use people's names when they're thinking about that person?  I almost never do but it makes sense that that would be common.  And if so then does this correlate with people's abilities to remember names?  It seems that if you're using a name inside your head all the time you should have an easier time remembering the name.  This seems like just the sort of thing an enterprising grad student could create a study for and I hope someone does.  Or it might just be that someone already has and I haven't heard of it.  If any of you reading know or have your own related experiences please let me know.

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