Human Information Processing
Synaesthetics, Eidetakkers to PNVs
Ray Bradbury’s fictional Fahrenheit 451 in which there was the burning of the books had a group of people in which each individual had the job of committing a particular book to memory.
The reality is that in Poland there is a group of people of the Jewish faith who have committed all of the 12 volumes of the Babylonian Talmud to visual memory. Though most American literature refers to this as eidetic this is incorrect. These Shass Polacks are using what is more accurately termed photographic memory. This can be distinct from Eidetekkerism which is a creative skill This is where the person can create new things in the air for themselves, as if they were really there. I once worked on a project with an eidetic architect. It was not unusual to find him in the wee hours walking around the room opening doors in a building which for him alone was physically there in the room. I should note that for these people they can readily distinguish that which is real from that which is their construct. A task which at times may not be all that readily done by so called normal people. I had in none of my groups at Paula Dawson who constructed the largest hologram in the world. Viewers walked past a log cabin and looked in the window. There they say a fully furnished room. When they entered the room they found it to be bare except for one item, a television set. they had not been able to discriminate the real from the unreal.
It has been estimated by Haber that probably about one third of children may have latent eidetic ability. Generally the ethos in which they operate causes them to loose or suppress this ability. Used properly and wisely it can be an extremely useful skill. However the current educational system has repressed rather than developing them and their potential. This is another massive case of dislearning as a result of the present educaitonal systems.
Towards the other end of the Human Information Processing (HIP) continuum is the Non Visual. This group is generally less common. Logically there is no real need to convert thought into images, Thought is merely a set of chemico-electrical impulses in the brain, the same is of course true for any form of perception. There is no real need to translate these impulses in the visual cortex of the brain, indeed to go through this additional processing takes time. Non visuals therefore tend to be somewhat faster in their decision making than high visuals. They can often be very strong in the area of theory but may miss some of the practical difficulties in implementation.
In the middle of the continuum are the mixed imagery people who tend to use a little of each of the two and can cope with both forms of presentation of materials.
At both ends of the continuum there are the extremes. On one end of the extreme high visuals are the synaesthetics
These are people who have the ability to use their whole sensorium. A wooden picket fence may have its own distinctive sound, a day of the week may have a particular colour. This sort of skill can be highly creative and useful however at its extreme it can become dysfunctional.
The great Russian researcher Professor Luria of Moscow University in the Mind of a Mnemonist describes a person, (S), who could accurately recall 70 item lists of random words 17 years later. The way he (s) achieved this was to take an imaginary walk down and imaginary Moscow street and place the objects along the way. This person made a consistent error with an egg as one of the items. When asked why, he again walked down the street and explained that it was that he had put the egg against a white wall. He is also on record as having told another psychologist Vygotsky, "What a crumbly yellow voice you have.Unfortunately "S" was unable to hold a job, despite his great gift. He apparently could not hold to a line of argument. I would suggest that this is because of the band width limitation to the human brain of 7 plus or minus two channels. Once one exceeds the 9 channel limit then there is a pay off.
In the USA Professor Renshaw had a group of highly trained subjects who could see recognize and accurately recall 9 digit numbers at one two millionth of a second exposure. The limit being the 9 digits. Working with my students and less sophisticated tachistiscopic equipment I frequently could have my students achieve 7 digit numbers at a 50th of a second exposure. It should be noted that the time element is not important in this exercise as anytime shorter than on tenth of a second is really a function of the light level available. Once one exceeds one fifth of a second exposure then the image perceived bypasses immediate conscious perception and goes directly to memory store from which it is recalled. Frequently my students would believe they had not seen anything but could accurately write down the digits. Many of those who did not recall the numbers accurately actually had the correct digits but had transposed the order in recall mode.
Consider the great Serbo-Croatian, Nicola Tesla, inventor of AC electricity, florescent tube, in 1920 a Vertical Take off (VTO) aircraft, and many other great discoveries including radio controlled model ships. When he had invented a generator he was asked by his students when it would break down. Tesla replied "ask me when I return from America" the next year the students duly asked. Tesla named the part that would first fail and the number of hours of operation before the failure. When the machine was actually built it was exactly as he had predicted. When asked how he knew his reply was illuminating "I just constructed the machine in my mind put it in a corner and left it running". At a later stage I will suggest reasons for the huge difference in performance between Luria’s mnemonist and Tesla.
Pure Non Visuals
At the extreme opposite are the Pure Non Visuals. These people are sometimes labeled as eductive in their thinking processes, confronted with a problem they will often give an immediate answer, if asked to justify the reply it may take considerable time to give the explanation as to how the decision was arrived at. The PNV may be able to describe in detail a book from which some information has been derived. The description given in rapidly produced words, without having "seen" anything the information being retrieved as if from thin air. Some apparently paradoxically have good spatial memory but it is non visual and based on the concepts of spatial position. A familiar door may be opened in the dark from a massive bunch of keys purely from a "concept" of that place and the relative position of the particular key. Indeed the person concerned may close the eyes so as not to interfere with the concept. A PNV may also have an excellent audial memory sometimes approaching tape recorder like accuracy.
The down side for non visuals is if they are lost and are given directions by a stranger in visual terms they will just head for the first place described and ask the next obliging stranger to gain the next point. For PNVs they often fear that they will walk past their friends or even family members without recognizing them as they are not oriented towards visual memory storage.
Yet again there is no question of one group being better than another they are just different skills. On exercises I have given to groups over the years high visuals and high non visuals have often come to the same results but taking different amounts of time. The interesting thing has been to see the looks of incredulity on the faces of the participants as their colleagues describe what they have "seen" or "experienced" and conversely the struggling with the idea that their friends and colleagues actually saw nothing.
Communication between those at opposite ends of the scale can present great difficulties. Because of their rapid thought processes. Pure non visuals are often intolerant of high visuals, it is often said of them that they do not easily tolerate fools. Those at the high visual end of the scale, tend to distrust PNVs because they cannot, "see", how they have come to their decisions. This distrust my be reinforced by the discovery that the answer my be theoretically correct but may have errors in application due to elements not being able to be "seen".
A further area where there is a need for understanding of the perceptual system is the question of where is the information being processed in the brain. To illustrate the point I would refer to the case of SB. SB was the first person in the United Kingdom to have been blind from birth to have been given a corneal graft and to have gained sight of the first time in adult life. Prior to the operation he had been well adjusted and frequently rode a bicycle with his hand on the shoulder of a colleague. One of the lessons from this case was that one does not just instinctively "see" one has to learn to see. After some time of learning to see SB was taken to a museum of technology. He had always wanted to be able to use a lathe, at the museum there was one in a glass case, they had to open the case and let him touch the lathe before he could "see" it. Again one of the areas of interest was his drawings. His early drawings of a London double decker bus become more and more sophisticated and detailed over time, however even to the time of his death there was one detail always left out, part of the front of the bus – the radiator- it was always hot and he had never touched it. I would suggest that indeed the information is actually being mainly processed in the tactile cortex of the brain.
A similar situation exists in the processing of audio information. It is well known that a child learns to discriminate sounds before the age of 2 years. If the child has not learned to discriminate between the sounds by that time it is unlikely the individual will ever do so. It is common knowledge that with Chinese and Japanese because of the lack of L/R discrimination it is common for them to have difficulty with words such as rice and lice. These sorts of problems are common across other languages also and tend to be life long problems for migrant populations. There are of course exceptions, sometimes music or melody may give the experience needed. I would ask how is it that some Japanese or Chinese people who have never heard the sounds of English until adult life actually speak English perfectly including the L/R discrimination ?
Just to please me I would like you to think about what I have just said. In there is a major clue as to the answer. If you pick it you go to the top of the class for now anyway.
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