Picture thinking, visual thinking or visual/spatial learning is the phenomenon of thinking through visual
processing, where most people would think with linguistic or verbal processing. It is nonlinear and often has the nature of a computer simulation, in the sense that a lot of data is put through a process to yield insight into complex systems, which would be impossible through language alone.
Information Processing in Visual Thinking
Thinking visually is often associated with the right half of the brain. The visual-spatial learner model is based on the newest discoveries in brain research about the different functions of the hemispheres. The left hemisphere is sequential, analytical, and time-oriented. The right hemisphere perceives the whole, synthesizes, and apprehends movement in space.
Picture thinking could be called "non-linguistic thinking", and people who do such information processing could be called "visual thinkers". It involves thinking beyond the definitions of language and has many personal referents to meaning which cannot be translated.
Picture thinking involves different categorization than verbal or linguistic processing. Linguistic thinking
involves categorization of thought in defined, linear forms. It is serial, and it concentrates on detailed parts in the stimulus. Visual thinking involves categorization which is parallel and holistic. Though linguistic thinkers often feel that visual-thinkers concentrate on detail, in fact this occurs because of the extreme memory of picture thinkers. Much of the thinking of children in the preoperational stage (2-7 years of age) is visual. It is hypothesized that autistic people get stuck at this stage of information processing.
Visual Thinking is a name applied to the use of visual aids in thinking processes. From time immemorial
people have made marks in the sand with a stick, made gestures and used simple models to represent their thoughts. Extensions of these simple devices - blackboards, whiteboards, flipcharts and projector screens are used as visual aids to our thinking and our communication. We will frequently make thumb nail sketches to help clarify our thoughts about something or re-arrange the objects on our dining table to illustrate a point. Any child can support amazing mental images with the aid of a few Lego bricks. Blueprints and maps are more sophisticated means of expressing a great deal of thinking with great precision. Wall charts showing timetables, vehicle movements or production flows have been around some time. All these are aspects of visual thinking – representations of thought that can be seen.
What is beginning to change is that more complex and subtle thought processes are being explored and
methods that permit constant changes to be made are extending the scope. Perhaps an early version of
adaptable visual aids is the war room with its maps and models being updated with the latest intelligence.
Some characteristics of modern visual thinking methods are ;
· Object based – The objects may represent thoughts or they may represent stages of a process or
particular processes in themselves. Objects enable relationships to be worked out and understood.
· Alterability – Usually words will be written on the objects to clarify what they represent or they might
be coloured or shaped to represent different ideas. Objects are either disposable or they can be
cleaned and re-used. It should also be possible to write and alter notes and titles on the background.
The facility to provide additional information would certainly be valuable.
· Manipulability – It will be possible to move objects in relation to one another in order to express
relationship and subtle shades of meaning. Shapes and colours will ideally be changeable.
· Recordability – You should be able either to keep the original or to be able to replicate it for storage
(memory). It should be easy to make copies for communication purposes and to transmit outputs
· Ease of use – It should be easy to set things up and the methods used should be as intuitive as
· Appropriate scale – for solo work something that fits on a desk-top may be all that is required.
However, much of the power of visual thinking is its use with groups. Typically these will be small
groups of a dozen or so, although occasionally it may be necessary to work with much larger groups.
This can be achieved through replicating the small group many times or large-scale visual media
may be needed.
To which we might add:
· Portability so that they can be used anywhere.
Halil Özmen 03/10/2006