Monday, June 15, 2009

Visual thinking

Imagery for diagrams by T. Dreyfus
Exploiting mental imagery with computers in mathematics education
By Rosamund Sutherland, John Mason

What attracted me to this article is the analysis of thinking visually or visual mental images, the article has a wider scope. A synopsis of the comments on visual mental images follows:

One cannot think without mental images
A subset of mental images is visual images: mental images with a strong visual component
They can be diagrammatic, 2 or possibly 3 dimensional, static or dynamic, definite or vague
One can watch processes in an evolving visual mental image. Watching the mental images can be more useful than watching real world objects.
It is difficult to analyse others' visual images as we have no direct access to them.
A mental image cannot be measured without being disturbed, (parallels with quantum mechanics), visual images are vague or fuzzy, in communicating an image to others, one needs to make it precise, changing it.
Images can be used for hypothetical reasoning or thought experiments though there are difficulties in retaining an image long enough to transform it and reason with it.
Are visual images pictures, or interpretations of diagrams?
Is diagrammatic information stored analogically or propositionally?
the analogically school believes it is stored like vision
the propositional school holds that interpretations of the visual information are stored
Experiments indicate that the images are interpreted abstractions rather than picture like encodings.
Physical drawings allow chunking, organisation of knowledge into perceptual chunks, do images?
Visual images are probably better at expressing underlying structure than other mental representations.


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