Seeing Shapes as Ideas

In part of my post called “Meta-Thought“, I share how images of WeiQi patterns often pop into my mind when I am talking to people.  Not because I am daydreaming, but because my brain is actually translating the ideas of our conversation into shapes and puzzles from the game of WeiQi.

Alissa Greenberg, in her article What’s It Like to See Ideas as Shapes? (The Atlantic) tells the story of a synesthete who sees ideas as shapes. My story is far less bizarre than his, but I wonder if perhaps we all experience synesthesia, albeit some more that others.  In my post called The Mountains Breathe, I speak of another common somewhat synesthesia experience I have.

Below are a few quotes from Greenberg’s article to perhaps entice you to give it a quick read:

  • synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon that has long been defined as the co-activation of two or more conventionally unrelated senses.
  • Jackson sees his thoughts as shapes. Every person he meets, every sentence he reads, and every decision he makes are presented as data points on a kind of continuously moving mental scatter plot, creating figures he compares to constellations.
  • When he makes a choice, his gut feelings are visually laid out in front of him.
  • A native Californian, Jackson went east to Massachusetts for college—that’s where he met Linscott. From there, he moved to Princeton to study the cognitive science of religion, examining the ways the human mind acquires and shares religious belief. “I wanted to understand how other people thought,” he says.
  • Our ideas and our senses are inextricably linked, he says, and that means (at least in the case of synesthesia) that one can’t exist without the other.



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