Differing Inner Worlds
BY TIFFANY VALKOVA '25
What is your thinking style? You could be wondering, “But, what do you mean? I just think.” But there are plenty of different thinking styles, ranging from what you visualize to your thoughts, determined by your personality. For example, if you were an architect embarking on a new project, what would be your first thought? If you were designing a house, would you vividly imagine a detailed view of a building or a loosely constructed template? Do you have a constant movie in your mind or just a stream of words? Although it is not a conscious effort to control whether you think in words or pictures, everyone ultimately has a unique style of thinking: visual and verbal, or creative and abstract.
Visual thinkers have the ability to create intricate and vivid mental images, imagining picture-perfect replicas in clear HD resolution. These thinkers usually exhibit a keen eye for detail, remembering faces instead of names, visualizing abstract ideas, preferring images and graphs over reading information, and daydreaming about exciting and detailed scenes. Typically, individuals in artistic fields such as artists, directors, and photographers fall into the category of visual thinkers.
On the other hand, verbal thinkers have more linear and language-structured thought processes, usually accompanied by an inner monologue. These thinkers are usually adept at learning foreign languages, prefer lists and words over pictures, can grasp concepts quickly when explained instead of visually mapped out, absorb obscure facts, and value literature and the written word as opposed to mathematical subject matters. Verbal thinkers can pursue careers as lawyers, teachers, historians, and politicians; language dominates their lives.
Multidimensional or multi-sensorial visual thinkers are often juxtaposed with straightforward verbal thinkers because the styles of thought are fundamentally different. However, we can all identify a part of these thinking styles in ourselves because they go hand in hand. Especially in school, when students are expected to take a variety of subjects including a foreign language, math, english, science, and history, both styles of thinking are utilized. Beyond school, all careers require different approaches and thinking styles when problem solving and completing tasks. Overall, by putting each on a scale, which thinking pattern is used more in your life?
In their own category, opposite from the thinking patterns outlined above, are individuals with the rare condition and psychological phenomenon known as aphantasia. A mere 1-3% affected by this have the inability to visualize any imagery in their heads. Discovered in 1880, British psychologist Francis Galton’s studies showed that when one hundred participants were prompted to imagine a dinner table, twelve people demonstrated faint or even nonexistent mental images. A unique situation known as “mind blind” is described as the inability to “see” anything when one closes their eyes. Interestingly enough, people with aphantasia are often surprised upon learning that others can create entire worlds with their imagination. Studies have also shown that in addition to lowering the strength of the mental imagery, aphantasia can weaken the link to auditory and olfactory senses plus reduce tactile controls. Getting an fMRI scan by a neurologist is a reliable way to determine whether you have aphantasia.
Additionally, apart from the main categories of thinking, each individual has a certain “style” of thinking, and a short list could contain the distinction between those reliant on logic and those reliant on creativity, which are similar in nature to verbal and visual thinkers, respectively. Possible careers for analytical thinkers include jobs such as accountants, criminologists, and data scientists. In contrast, those drawn to fields like architecture, art, and marketing often align themselves with the realm of creative thinking. Understanding how you uniquely solve problems and navigate social situations can help you identify your particular style of thinking and ultimately gain insight into your identity.
Imagine a vacation to Rome: do you think of the sun beaming down on you, the smell of delicious pasta wafting through the air, and the beauty of the Colosseum in front of you? Or does an itinerary with different activities, tourist attractions, and restaurants appear in your head? If you are confronted with a problem, does your brain immediately default to a rational and straightforward solution, working through it step-by-step? Or does an innovative way to solve the issue at hand come to you? By answering these questions, you can find and use learning methods that correspond with your thinking style to increase efficiency in the way you absorb information and subsequently approach situations. Each person’s unique thinking style is an integral aspect of society, highlighting the importance of novelty, change, and diversity. A web of differences can be mapped out in the inner workings of our communities, the hardwiring of our brains all a mystery to each other, yet gradually unfolding in tandem with the emergence of talents and skills.