How do you Think?

An article on the BBC website ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34039054 ) highlights new research at Exeter University on what the researchers call “aphantasia” – the inability to see mental pictures in one’s head. Prof. Adam Zeman suggests that this could affect 1/50 of the population.

This doesn’t surprise me at all, as I have this “affliction” in a mild form myself; I can see pictures, but they aren’t at all clear. But the article has reminded me of another observation which I made, years ago, which I often mention to clients who don’t visualise well.

I think in language – “Internal Dialogue” – in perfectly grammatical English sentences. I always assumed that everyone else thought this way too, until I asked a Chinese friend brought up in England what language he thought in. He didn’t understand the question, because he didn’t think in language at all; he thought in pictures and symbols. (In retrospect, this may have been connected with the way that Chinese is written.) I’ve asked this question to others many times since, and received a variety of answers.

One of the first things you learn when you study NLP is the concept of “representational systems”. The main ones are V (visual), A (auditory) and K (kinaesthetic – touch and feeling). NLP textbooks say that we all use a mix of these systems, although presumably anyone with total aphantasia will have no V system. Generally speaking, though, we will always have a “preferred” rep system which is better developed than the others; mine is A, so I have a preference, for example, for music and writing (and proofreading!) over the visual arts – I’m hopeless at drawing and painting. I also find it hard to remember faces.

As well as the preferred rep system, we also have a “lead” rep system that we use to retrieve information from memory. If I ask you to think about your last holiday, for example, what is the first thing that comes to mind? When I first came across this concept, I was surprised to discover that my lead rep system is V; the first thing that comes to mind when I think about my last holiday is definitely a picture – although of course it’s not a clear one.

When I took my first NLP Practitioner training, I struggled with some of the exercises, as the trainers’ preferred rep system was clearly V. I still have a problem with a few highly visual NLP techniques, such as Time Line, Swish and the “Fast Phobia Cure”, so I tend to avoid using them with my clients; as a general rule, I prefer to use techniques (in NLP and other therapies) which I have tested on myself.

If you’d like to know more about representational systems, have a look at this article on my website, which was an early attempt of mine at a piece of writing using language appropriate to each of the three main systems. (NLP textbooks also say that we tend mainly to use the language of our preferred rep system.)
http://magicofthemind.co.uk/2015/05/28/nlp-the-concert/

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Comments

  • Robert Scammell  On August 26, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    It seems I have ‘hyperphantasia’! Oh dear, is that bad…?

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