Thinking in words, and noticing errors

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flicky1991
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Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby flicky1991 » Thu Dec 29, 2016 2:51 pm UTC

I wonder if there is a correlation between whether someone thinks in words or in pictures, and how likely they are to notice typos.

There was a discussion on Reddit about how some people always think in words, as if there's a constant narrator in their heads (I definitely get this), and how people who don't think this way find it hard to imagine. One of the people in the thread was saying they tended not to believe people who said they constantly heard their thoughts as a voice - and there was a typo in their post ("the" instead of "they") which definitely tripped my mental voice up. It made me wonder whether that poster's lack of mental voice had any connection to them not noticing their own typo.

Then again, I've heard of people being more extreme than me, and not having any mental picture at all, just thinking in words. Or sometimes, not usually picturing the scenario when reading a work of fiction, just taking in the words themselves.

Perhaps it might be useful if anyone posting here to discuss this also shares their answers to these questions:
When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences?: Yes
When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?: Yes
Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?: Yes
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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby Sizik » Thu Dec 29, 2016 2:57 pm UTC

flicky1991 wrote:When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences?: Yes
When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?: Yes
Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?: Yes
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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby Zohar » Thu Dec 29, 2016 3:22 pm UTC

flicky1991 wrote:When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences?: Yes
When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?: Not really. Some glimpses from time to time, but it takes a conscious effort to imagine a picture. I do try to do that sometimes.
Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?: Yes
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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Dec 29, 2016 3:42 pm UTC

flicky1991 wrote:When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences?: When consciously planning, but I can't say 'always'.
When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?: Often.
Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?: Others, mostly. My own mostly if I review outside 'my' editing box.

A whole lot of 'depends' in there. Errors1 I make in (as the most immediate example) composing a forum message tends to be a homophonic error that need not even be a correct spelling, or incorect punctuation that is 'locally good' but ruins the sentence. I will not spot this during review, having just written it and knowing what I should be reading, even with the Preview. Then I inevitably notice it after posting, during my habitual (if narcissistic) reading of the post I just posted.

I sometimes also get that wrong. I recently changed "effect" to "affect" once, or the other way round, in a re-edit because I convinced myself I had erred. I hadn't, until I went back in and 'corrected' it for spurious reasons.

1 That aren't keyboard errors. Hitting 'b' insyead of 'h' in "the". Or that 'y' that was a genuine miskey for the adjacent 't', just now, and left in as a better example. But now sometimes complicated by this Android on-screen keyboard sometimes substituting top-row characters (and probably the letters preceding in the same word) with a whole new 'suggested' word. But I tend to notice these things, even if it forces me to work out what the original unrelated word should have been.

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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby Lazar » Thu Dec 29, 2016 5:14 pm UTC

When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences? Yes. My self-assessment is that my thinking is very verbal, and I talk to myself very frequently (as long as no one else is around).

When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?: Generally yes, I think, although I might forego it if I'm cruising through a dialog-heavy section.

Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?: Yes, pretty acutely – but with the "edit box" exception that you note. I often make homophone errors (especially "to" for "too") when writing quickly, but I almost always catch them after I post.
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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby Deva » Thu Dec 29, 2016 7:58 pm UTC

flicky1991 wrote:When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences?
When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?
Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?

1. Yes.
2. Believes not.
3. Probably. Rarely knows of missed misspellings in others' writing.
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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby Demki » Fri Dec 30, 2016 2:20 am UTC

flicky1991 wrote:When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences?

Most of the times, yes, especially when writing text. My thinking has actually shifted from being mostly in Hebrew(first language) to English, probably due to the time I spent on the internet and thus reading a lot of English text.
flicky1991 wrote:When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?

Not automatically. I have to actively picture it, and even then I find it lacking.
flicky1991 wrote:Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?

I notice them most of the times, when reading text that I didn't compose myself just now. It usually doesn't hinder my reading too much. What really slows me down when reading is when people use mathematical terms in a mathematical context in a non-standard way, without specifying that ahead of time.

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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Dec 30, 2016 2:21 am UTC

There is probably a distinction to be made here between "thinking in words," which is something most people do to some extent, and many if not most do almost constantly, and "reading in a voice," or subvocalization, in which one imagines the sound of written words while reading them. The latter can be compared to reading aloud, except you stop short of actually producing the sounds. However, you use all the cognitive processing necessary to formulate and imagine the sounds of the words, rather than just their meanings. Subvocalization is almost universal when reading new words that are long or complicated (sort of "sounding them out" in your head), but it is somewhat less common in fast, proficient readers encountering familiar words.

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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby flicky1991 » Fri Dec 30, 2016 9:03 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:There is probably a distinction to be made here between "thinking in words," which is something most people do to some extent, and many if not most do almost constantly, and "reading in a voice," or subvocalization, in which one imagines the sound of written words while reading them. The latter can be compared to reading aloud, except you stop short of actually producing the sounds. However, you use all the cognitive processing necessary to formulate and imagine the sounds of the words, rather than just their meanings. Subvocalization is almost universal when reading new words that are long or complicated (sort of "sounding them out" in your head), but it is somewhat less common in fast, proficient readers encountering familiar words.

Hmm, I never thought of it like that. I definitely hear the sounds, both when thinking in words and when reading.
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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby New User » Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:57 pm UTC

I've done quite a bit of analysis of my own thoughts and introspection. I've even tried doing it in my sleep (as I described in the "What were your dreams last night? thread).

First comes the thought. It's neither words nor a picture.

Then comes the sentence. The thought is made into English words in my mind. I try to stop it sometimes but it's very hard to resist doing this. It seems as if my thought has an echo. First comes the thought, then the sentence comes immediately after. But the language is like a reflection of the thought, so it's very much like thinking it twice. Sometimes I talk out loud. I'd be embarrassed if someone noticed me doing this. I sometimes make very subtle movements of my jaw and tongue muscles when thinking words. I've heard that I'm not the only one to do this.

I often have the notion that if I could keep from ordering thoughts into sentences, I could think more quickly and more efficiently. Forming a thought into a sentence seems to take more time, but I think it helps me keep my thoughts organized and also aids memory. I'm not certain of any of this. When I'm in bed trying to sleep, I find that when my thoughts stop being organized into words is when my thoughts start being jumbled together with images and starts forming a dream. Sometimes I stir from this, and consider myself to have been dreaming for a few moments. I rarely can remember any specific image from such thoughts/dreams, and if I can the memory often fades within seconds no matter how hard I try to recover it. Sometimes I'm under the impression that I have lost the memory of word thoughts as well as image thoughts, but I can't be totally certain since the memory fades away.

There are other thoughts that don't become sentences. These can be related to recognition of cause and effect, and also related to physical motion. For example, I recognize that I should take some action, and I just do it. I don't form that thought into a sentence. For example, I'm playing a sport and I recognize that I should move to another position on a field or go for the ball, I just move my body. I don't think the words, "I should move towards the ball. I should grab the ball now. I should pass the ball as soon as I have a chance. I'm passing the ball." I just do it. For the "recognition of cause and effect" example, let's say I have a mechanical water fountain. I'm standing watching the water stream, and I hear a grinding noise and the water stops flowing. I investigate the mechanism and find it jammed by debris. I remove the debris by hand, the mechanism resumes functioning properly. I don't have to think of any words to do any of this. I just do it, guided by sensory input.

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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby Bloopy » Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:38 pm UTC

When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences?: No
When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?: Yes
Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?: Yes

My thoughts are primarily pictures. If I need to go to a place I've never been to before, I represent it with a picture of what I imagine it looks like. If I need to message someone, the first thing that comes to mind is their face or what the chat box looks like. Just now I looked back at some posts I'd made on another forum, and I recall pictures of a small township, a motel bedroom, and a bigot standing on a soapbox in the street.

My noticing of typos has little to do with the fact that they're in words and sentences. I enjoy spelling words correctly in the same kind of way that I enjoy mathematics. Attention to detail is a skill that applies to all kinds of things... data entry, household chores, arts & craft, etc.

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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby ThirdParty » Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:53 am UTC

flicky1991 wrote:When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences?
Mostly.

I feel like my working memory can hold about 12 things. Each thing can be a word, a location, a simple image, or a sound. In principle I can think with any of them. (e.g. Counting to ten in words, on my fingers, by imagining polygons, or by humming a musical scale.)

In practice, in any given situation there are maybe 200,000 possible words, 2000 possible locations, 200 possible glyphs, and 20 possible tones that I wouldn't be in danger of mixing up with one another. So unless a task is fundamentally spatial in nature, words tend to be the best option.

flicky1991 wrote:When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?
No.

I don't really think in "pictures" at all. I can imagine a visual doodle, such as a stick figure climbing a tetris block, but it'd be rather silly to translate a story into such doodles. Or I can imagine a spatial map, such as the layout of a room with the locations of all the furniture, people, etc.--it's much richer than the doodle, but still not something I construct routinely unless it's critical to the plot of the story.

Mostly when I read, it's just facts, ideas, events, emotions, etc.--verbal stuff. I might get a map once in a hundred pages, and a sound or a vista once in five thousand pages.

As far as I can tell, my dreams are the same way: mostly intellectual, occasionally spatial, and only very rarely sensory.

flicky1991 wrote:Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?
Yes, of course.

Provided that I know how to spell the word in question, that is. If you throw a plausible-looking misspelling at me in a foreign language that I don't actually speak--e.g. "madamoiselle" or "leibkuchen"--I probably won't notice.

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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby Writergirl » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:03 am UTC

I'm a fantasy writer, and I mostly think in words. I often plan out fantasy stories in my head, which I may or may not write down someday. When I'm doing that, I don't notice grammar mistakes (because I don't really make any), but I do notice when I have clunky or awkward wording. I'll often stop the story momentarily to find the best way to describe a certain action.

As I side note, in addition to words, I often use proprioception in my thinking, which is the awareness of where your body is. As I read, I'll feel myself running or picking things up or punching or whatever. I don't feel it exactly, like there's no texture, but I feel the force of my feet on the ground and the weight of objects.

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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby somitomi » Mon Mar 27, 2017 5:41 pm UTC

When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences?: Mostly, although sometimes they become very visual. For example I tend to visualise key locations or some sort of mental map when recalling the way someplace. This is why I absolutely love Google Streetview. On the other hand, I also talk to myself a lot (usually not loudly).
When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?: Sometimes, although usually it requires conscious effort to make it more than a vague notion. Despite this, I sometimes dislike when details about a character or location are revealed gradually (for example: "Her long hair waved in the wind" two chapters after introducing the character) because of it conflicting with the image I had in my mind.
Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?:
  • in other people's writing: YES (although how would I know how many errors I missed)
  • In my own: Not every time, and always after posting
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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby ThirdParty » Mon Mar 27, 2017 6:10 pm UTC

somitomi wrote:I sometimes dislike when details about a character or location are revealed gradually (for example: "Her long hair waved in the wind" two chapters after introducing the character) because of it conflicting with the image I had in my mind.
Yeah, I don't have that problem. Heck, the author can change the character's hair length midway through--actually contradict himself, rather than just engaging in a slow-reveal--and I probably won't notice unless the old hair length mattered in some way to the plot.

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Re: Thinking in words, and noticing errors

Postby freezeblade » Mon Mar 27, 2017 6:33 pm UTC

flicky1991 wrote:When you have a thought, do you tend to think it in words and sentences?:

No, I see a thought as a physical thing or action, which I then have to interrupt into words to describe it to others, speaking or writing. This can sometimes be difficult, and I doodle with paper a lot to describe things, especially at work, which used lots of problem solving and creating solutions for physical problems (I work at an architectural metal fabricator)
flicky1991 wrote:When reading a story, do you automatically picture the locations and characters in your mind's eye?:
Yes, I very much see the the book as a movie playing in my head, and I prefer books with a solid narration, for this reason (it seems this lends itself to my thinking better, and the stories grab me better when they are formatted as such). However I have a tendency to picture settings and locations better than people (Hence Architecture again).
flicky1991 wrote:Do you typically tend to notice errors in spelling, whether your own or other people's?:
I usually notice use-cases more than typos, as I sub-vocalize most everything when I'm reading, so when the wrong word is used, or an especially egregious typo occurs, it will cause me to "pronouce" it wrong in my head, making me notice it.
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