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Words Get in the Way

Curve-billed Thrasher, Alamogordo NM, November 12, 2011

Research shows that language suppresses visual memory, This is called verbal overshadowing and is a well-established phenomenon .... For example, in one study people watched a short videotape of a bank robbery, then spent twenty minutes doing something unrelated. Then one group spent five minutes writing down everything they could remember about the bank robber's face, while the other group did an unrelated task.

Two thirds of the people who wrote nothing down and did unrelated tasks could identify a photograph of the robber, while only one third of the people who wrote verbal descriptions could pick him out, This is a well-established effect; many studies have found exactly the same thing, and some studies have extended the effect to auditory memory as well. People who write down a description of a voice are less able to pick it out from other voices than people who didn't describe the voice in words.

These studies have also found that language doesn't erase visual memories for good; it just suppresses them. When the researchers asked the people who wrote descriptions to do something nonverbal for a while, like work a puzzle or listen to music, their visual memories came back, and they could identify the bank robber's face as well as the people who hadn't written descriptions in the first place.

I think for normal people language is probably a kind of filter. One of the biggest challenges for an animal or an autistic person is dealing with the barrage of details from the environment. Normal people with language don't have to see all those details consciously. But I see them, and animals do, too.

Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin, pg 261

clipped March 15,2005

Collection: Philosophy

I Ain't What I Was
Alex Can Spell
Alex Can Think
Beware of Hypnotic Media
When Hope Dies
Commitment is the Glue that Binds
Concentrated Space Intensifies Everything
Frustration Between People in Creative and Non-creative Universes
The Credential of the Dominant
Lifestyle's Supports and the Difficulty of Understanding
Digging Your Toes
Digitally Thin
Do We Really Mean What We Say
That's the Point of Emotions: Survival
Ever Tried, Ever Failed
Finding a Balance in Execution, Reflection and Articulation
Finding the Words to Fit It
First Find What's Truly Significant
Fit In Better
Float Your Ideals
From Knowledge to Wisdom
Genetic Determinism and Human Nature
God made mud. God got lonesome.
Growing up... it never stops
Skepticism is Helpful
How Do You Know
Haunted Until his Humanity Awakens
Gets Me Into My Boots
It's Time to Go Home
It was the Crickets
Leaving Home
Life is Strange
Life is to be Lived, Not Controlled
Make No Little Plans
Mix With the World
More Toward Realism than Fantasy
I Mourn the World in Which I Live
Normal Damage
There is Nothing a Man Will Not Do for Another
Now, Dazzled
Transcript of Barack Obama's Speech on Race and Politics
Observational Learning
One Forgets
Others Choose the Path of Healing
Our Peripheral Existence
Over Fifty
Passing Time in Byzantium
Our Past is Written Deep
People are Themselves
Persistent and Ineradicable Instinct
Playing and Learning and Loving
Politics and the English Language
Primary and Secondary Emotions
Proficiency in Knowledge of the World
Relive Your Traumas
Running With the Pack
The SEEKING Circuit
Shopping for sensation
Sincerity Itself is Bullshit
Or So I Feel
The Speed of Wisdom
Stay What You Always Were
That Ideas Should Freely Spread
The Bottom Line
A Theory of the State
The Speed of Darkness
Our Three Brains
Tools for Communicating
To Remember Safely
I Tremble for my Species
Truth and Story
Something Useful Can Be Artful
The Value of Notebooks
The Value of Time
Vision, Novelty and Fear
Visual Thinkers
A Voyage and a Harbor
Walk Humbly
Walking the edge, I am. ...
Was Love Then
What a Deale
What I've Learned
Ask What Surprised Them
Words Get in the Way
Writing From the Inside Out