Thinking channels

🌱June 13, 2023.
Last tended June 20, 2024.
seedling 🌱
2 minutes read ⏱

@Jerome Bruner created a simple framework for thinking. In it there are 3 channels people use to think about things:

Method Description
Interactive Thinking by doing
Visual Thinking by seeing (recognition, comparison, etc.)
Symbolic Thinking with language (logical reasoning)

By switching from one channel to another or combining several of them together, complex ideas can be made easier to grasp. Using a more appropriate thinking channel can make Unthinkable thoughts thinkable. Imagine trying to do calculus or algebra without mathematical symbols! It turns out modern mathematics can be traced back to an interface improvement: moving from word problems to the symbolic logic enabled by the Arabic number system.

Examples of channel switching to make thinking easier

  • Symbolic -> Visual: Taking numbers (symbolic) and plotting them together on a chart (visual)
  • Visual -> Interactive: A circuit diagram (visual) overlaid with frequency graphs that show the output for a given frequency (interactive)
  • Interactive -> Symbolic: Math with an abacus (interactive) moving to mathematical notation (symbolic)

shape rotation and words

@roon found that aptitude and personality tests lead to an exciting dichotomy of thinking aptitude:

  1. People who can rotate shapes in their mind (applications thinking/tinkerers)
  2. People who have strong language skills (theorists/abstraction)