The prevailing view on how we think is that we use language: through writing our thoughts down, or debating them with friends, or reading other people’s words in books. But might there be some concepts, some feelings, some images, that are beyond words? After all, what’s the point of visual art or design or classical music if they don’t have meaning without the words to describe them? What are our thoughts really made of? The psychologist Barbara Tversky has a wrench to throw in the argument that language is behind cognition. She makes the case that movement and spatial reasoning are the real keys to understanding our bodies and their place in the world, as well as the wildly abstract thoughts we come up with.
Go beyond the episode:
- Barbara Tversky’s Mind in Motion
- Listen to our interview with Alexander Todorov about the science of first impressions—an example of how the speed of our visual thinking can compromise its accuracy
- The method of loci—or using a memory palace—is ancient evidence for spatial reasoning
- Australian aboriginal songlines—written about most famously in Bruce Chatwin’s book The Songlines—are used to navigate physical and spiritual space
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.
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