Can we think without using language? (unsymbolized thinking)

C C Offline

EXCERPTS: . . . The answer, surprisingly, is yes, several decades of research has found. Hurlburt’s studies, for instance, have shown that some people do not have an inner monologue — meaning they don't talk to themselves in their heads, Live Science previously reported. And other research shows that people don't use the language regions of their brain when working on wordless logic problems.

For decades, however, scientists thought the answer was no — that intelligent thought was intertwined with our ability to form sentences.

"One prominent claim is that language basically came about to allow us to think more complex thoughts," Evelina Fedorenko, a neuroscientist and researcher at MIT's McGovern Institute, told Live Science. This idea was championed by legendary linguists like Noam Chomsky and Jerry Fodor in the mid-20th century, but it has begun to fall out of favor in more recent years, Scientific American reported.

New evidence has prompted researchers to reconsider their old assumptions about how we think and what role language plays in the process.

"Unsymbolized thinking" is a type of cognitive process that occurs without the use of words. Hurlburt and a colleague coined the term in 2008 in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, after conducting decades of research to verify that it was a real phenomenon, Hurlburt said.

[...]  it can be tough to recognize language-free thought in the first place. "Most people don't know that they engage in unsymbolized thinking," Hurlburt said, "even people who engage in it frequently."

And because people are so trapped in our own thoughts and can't directly access the minds of others, it can be tempting to assume that the thought processes that go on inside our own heads are universal. 

However, some labs, like Fedorenko's, are developing better ways to observe and measure the connection between language and thought... (MORE - missing details)

Dr. Hurlburt explaining how you can think without using internal monologue or images. ...
Kornee Offline
If say a certain boxer had to internally verbalize/symbolize every move in a match, the match would be expected to be over very quickly.
And, to paraphrase emperor Hirohito at the end of WW2, "not necessarily to that verbalizing/symbolizing boxer's advantage".

But it seems one needs a breakthrough scientific study to nut that one out. Deep thinking for sure needs verbalizing/symbolizing, but much else, even say 'automatically' formulating a line of response to another's conversation quip, is imo just streamlined reaction, reflexively drawing on experience from past memories.

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