I taught neuropsychological research with an emphasis on special education for 25 years. I got started in this area when I told a friend that I did not have visual imagery. Her reaction was, "How do you think?"
I think by talking to myself but she thought via mental imagery. From there I developed a theory of the causes and remediation of reading disability.

To get started, try a simple experiment. Image an animal. Now rate it from 0-10 in terms of vividness and being lifelike. Did you image with your eyes open or closed? Now image with your eyes closed if they were open or open if they were closed. Now rate the image. Did it change?

I have tried this demonstration many times and about 50% of the people image with their eyes open and a majority of them, find the image decreases in vividness when they close them. But how often do we hear the instructions: Close your eyes and imagine.....

Try this in your classroom and let's hear what you find.

A closing question: When a song runs through your head, who is doing the singing?

Tags: imagery, neuropsychology, visual

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How interesting! My findings surprised me too! A class of 29 students. I would have expected more vivid imagining with eyes closed. My results were 3 the same and only 5 eyes closed. Wow! What does that tell us -- multitasking statement? limiting sensory imput is not factual? digital video gaming? Most interesting?
Ask the kids who image with eyes open if the outside world interferes with their imaging. I've gotten some interesting answers. Most of my work on consciousness has been done with college students. I would like to get more information on younger kids.

As far as interpreting these findings, the one thing I can say for sure is my conscious experience is not the same as yours and anyone else. You can make some simple divisions (eg eyes open/closed), but that is jusIt illustrative of the diversity of consciousness. The real question is whether those who image with eyes open and those who image with eyes closed differ on some other factor that is important to education.

Are you interested in formalizing this into a "study" your students can do as part of a life science project.
Collect the data from friends and family, put it into a spreadsheet (eg Google docs) and analyze and report the results.

Could develop into a expanding database of conscious experience.
I'm game.
Tight for time -- AP Psych in May but after the examination let's talk!
Meet you in May
Just tossing out a possible clue to the eyes open/ eyes shut question....

Perhaps the ones that are eyes closed are the visual/spatial thinkers instead of purely visual. I am an eyes shut visual thinker but I am not just visual, I am also strongly spatial. I don't just see the images but I move them around in my head, assemble them, and take them apart. I have noticed that my muscles even activate slightly. For instance, if I imagine a carousel horse on the stage of my mind and I want to 'see' the other side, I sometimes notice the muscles in my arm and hand slightly tense as I mentally turn the object to see the other side. I have a background in both illustration and wood carving, so maybe the muscle connection is merely because I have used real-world contact with objects a great deal and there is a strong muscle 'movement memory' connection. Ironically, I don't recall closing my eyes much while carving - a bit too dangerous. hehe
As I said in the original message I just do not have visual imagery so the way you minipulate images that I cannot even see is totally beyond my capability. That makes spatial relations a weak point for me.

I can understand the distinction you are making between visual and spatial. I can imagine a square with two diagonals and know there are 4 triangles, but I cannot see them. But at the same time I can move my eyes around the square and diagonals that I do not see. I have the spatial information without the visual. One of my colleagues has been blind since birth, but needs to "visualize" an Excel spreadsheet before she can manipulate it. She is not talking about visual, but spatial.

You say you are an eyes shut visual thinker, but what happens when you open your eyes? Does your visual/spatial imagery become less clear?
You asked "You say you are an eyes shut visual thinker, but what happens when you open your eyes? Does your visual/spatial imagery become less clear?"

If my eyes are open, I pretty much have to look up at the ceiling to keep a clear image. If I see the real world, I often get distracted and everything become much harder to manipulate in my mind. The exception is when my attention and interest is turned on to full intensity. For instance, if I see a dog walking down the street and I suddenly begin to think about carving a particular pose he strikes up for an instant. I can linger with eyes open. I think, however, that that is more related to the intensity of the interest that moment grabs me with. So, perhaps it is definitely more of an attention/distraction phenomenon. When my attention is riveted and I am highly interested, I don't need to shut my eyes to turn down the volume of the real world. If I am less focused, the real world gets a chance to disturb my concentration. It is similar to being in a movie theater. You get so totally absorbed in the story that you forget that you are an audience member sitting in a room with a bunch of other people. If the story gets less interesting, you begin to reorient to being in that room instead of being in that story. Your attention gets divided. It may also be the level of processing needed. I suspect that visual spatial processing takes a lot of RAM to be done clearly. Sometimes you have to turn off competing programs to allow the CPU to have the resources needed for the job.

I have also wondered if the development of a natural learning style bent has a lot to do with how hard you work at it, much like the difference between a casual jogger and a dedicated marathon runner. My keen interest areas requires hours of intense and detailed attention to many subtle nuances of form, color, texture, etc. My brain has been exercised to it. I definitely image and manipulate imagery far better now than I did in the past and the more I use it the clearer it is and the less effort it takes to use it but I am always pushing the envelope in new projects - though pushing the envelope isn't the goal; it is merely a by-product of other goals.

I imagine there is a corollary with audio learning styles. The ones that have intense interests in areas that push their audio thinking skills will develop those skills to a higher degree than students who may lean to that style but not push the skills in any interest area that needs it to be highly developed.

As strongly as I am visual/spatial, my son is auditory (like his dad). He can listen to a movie once and verbally perform the script back word for word even with inflection and pace of the original performers. He amazes me! I cannot remember my way through a joke to the punchline nor do I know the lyrics all the way through a single song. My auditory memory skills are far below average and I was a disaster with lecture classes in school and college. I had to translate everything to pictures. I wish they had OneNote back when I was in school! However, with my son, you tell him once and he remembers every bit of it. Teaching him phonics was a breeze. He was reading at a young 4 and by kindergarten was well into upper elementary level books. He is continuously at word play with his dad. I love to hear the two of them banter. They switch letters around in words and come up with hilarious twists and turns on the fly. I could never do that without really thinking hard about it first and mental rehearsing it. My son has consistently scored in the 99th percentile on reading comprehension and vocabulary because he is wired for words. He loves the sounds of them. He loves the interplay and juxtaposition of them.

I see the auditory processing and memory issues pop up with reading students. Being able to pull up a sound association at the speed needed for beginning reading is a very slow process for low auditory skill learners. Phonics has to be modified substantially and a great deal more time is needed for these learners. It is So very much easier for them to memorize the 'outer container shape' of a word than it is to break it down phonetically with any speed. The need patient pushing to build up the speed for phonetic processing and someone to keep reminding them that the stuff in the middle of the word they don't know is important and to go one bit at a time linearly through it in necessary to figuring out what the word is. How many times I have said, "Focus more. not less." to one of these readers because the brain just doesn't want to do the stuff in the middle and they will actually look away from the word. What I have seen with these readers is when they break through the barrier it is instant. They will go from struggling to rapid progress because something just clicks in the ability to visually process the internal parts of the word and link it to the sounds they have been drilling for months on end.

Sorry. rambled a lot here in this post. hehe

Do those who struggle against phonice become better (greater comprehension) once they learn phonics, or are they just better oral readers?
I have been blessed to be able to see readers progress throughout their entire school years instead of just a glimpse of one year. The very strongly visual/spatial learners with a corresponding weakness in auditory skills are the struggling ones when it comes to phonics are the ones that struggle initially with phonics but they develop their own techniques to cope while the phonics groundwork slowly settles into place. My visual/spatial kids have all had similar characteristics in that they see the whole shape of the word but have to be trained to pay attention to the parts inside. Unlike the auditory sequential learners they see the entire word all at once and have a very hard time wanting to process it as parts - both phonetically as well as visually. They naturally want to get a big picture snapshot and read using that method. They very quickly build up a sight word vocabulary, but words with subtle internal differences will often get the wrong response. Often, when the student gets a word wrong you will see that the student will have given you a substitute that has the same beginning letter, ending letter, and general shape. They are processing at a whole word level and seem either oblivious to or not careful of the internal portions.

Other patterns I have seen is that the visual/spatial learners, despite their slower phonics start will rapidly surpass the auditory, phonetic kids in applied spelling skills. Though both may do fine on spelling tests, the visual kids will more consistently turn in compositions with accurate spelling. My brightest phonics kids will often not see a spelling error despite me actually telling them what line the misspelled word is in. I have had them read what they wrote to help them spot the error and they will see it as correct. My visual kids can spot a misspelled word instantly. They might not always know the correct spelling, but they can tell you it is wrong.

Comprehension. It would seem that the kids that got the fast start in phonics do retain a comprehension advantage for many years over the visual/spatial-low auditory learners, but the final result is more based on if they come to love reading. If a visual/spatial - low auditory student doesn't get hung up on the frustrations and feelings of being a late reader and fall in love with reading they will have just as good an outcome as the fast learner that loves reading.

Another thing I have noticed is that my auditory learners love to discuss, talk, listen. They will beg you to tell them more for hours on end. But I don't think many instructors realize just how fast a visual/spatial, low auditory learner's buffer fills up. I have found with these learners you must give pictorial instructions or be concise and quick with verbal information and then let them apply what you discussed. Then give them another short burst, Give them a list of 10 steps and they will have forgotten 8 of them while the auditory learner will remember every one of them and not be taxed at all. I have more than once heard 'my ears are tired' from the mouths of my visual spatial kids. You know the classic dreamer kid that is off in wonderland. I suspect those are the introverted visual spatial kids that as their ear buffers filled up their imagery of what they heard became lively and animated and hijacked their 'ears' and minds away from what was happening in the classroom.

Another interesting thing that I have seen is that the visual learners often fall in love with narrative writing about the middle school age and can come up with some amazingly complex stories with very well-developed characters. So far, all my visual/spatial learners have been introverted and they generally are somewhat reticent to share their stories, but the work is marvelous and they will quickly see that you are truly impressed with their work which helps them to move to sharing them more openly. These have also consistently been my kids that move into video/filming in the high school years.

I truly hope that Bob is making notes on what you are saying because you have some valuable insights into your students.

Have you run into the child who reads a synonym for the word instead of the word itself? Plane for Jet ... mouse for rat .... cat for kitty

What is the longest you have worked with a given student?
Indeed, I see this very frequently with the audio/spatial intuitive learners! They make connections to meanings just as strongly, sometimes even more strongly, than to the concrete word right in front of them.

I am a visual spatial intuitive so I very much know that I think differently than my husband who is strongly auditory sequential. We talk about how we think through things quite frequently and find it delightful compare notes. His thoughts flow in a very orderly, sequential pattern. Mostly using words to think with.

I see that I think out in a rapidly expanding net with meaning connections linking up all over the place. My thoughts hop all over the place. In my mind it all makes sense because I 'see' the whole network at one time as it spreads out. It drives my husband nuts that I go a thousand different directions at once when I get excited about a topic. I have learned that it is helpful to others to wait until it crystalizes before I share what is in my head because it is too hard to fit a three dimensional idea out a 1 dimensional channel like a mouth. In my mind, the concept are all stretched out into a three dimensional network - even the abstract concepts. Meanings, feelings, images, everything all connect up.

This is why they will give a synonym instead of reading what is right in front on them. They see the word and the visual impulse fires to the associated connections in their mental network pulling in meanings they have associated with that word image. They don't realize that they have not read the word right in front of them until you ask them to try again.

I have a deep need, a hunger, to see it all at once and move the parts around with new connections. My thoughts are in chaotic movement for a while and then they suddenly crystalize into place. It is really very spatial and takes up real space in a mental environment. I have longed for a software tool that would let me make mind-maps 3-dimensionally in which the pieces can be moved around in 3-D space with ease and new connections quickly snapped into place. I want so much to manipulate the pieces in a virtual environment like I do in my head. Then, when there is just too much data to hold on to everything's position all at once, I can let the computer hold it for me while I focus on a small section at a time and refine that area then zoom back out to connect back up with the big picture again.

The longest I have worked with a student? -

I home school my kids, so I have...

... 21 years of observing my extraordinarily verbal son who can perform a two hour movie he saw once five years ago right down to the verbal inflections and timings of their speech patterns. He is way out there on the verbal learning style scale and can remember everything he hears, He has an eidetic auditory memory and has a natural bent toward wordplay and complex word structures. He has scored in the 99th percentile in reading comprehension and vocabulary ever since he was in elementary school. He devoured books faster than I could provide them for him even when they were 6 grade levels higher than his age-based grade. I placed him in a classics-oriented curriculum and he thrived on the complexity of the sentence structure and loved the flow and lilt of word combinations used by some of the best writers of the ages. He went to college wanting to become a writer like his grandfather. His composition professor in college told him that he must simplify his writing style - use simpler vocabulary. It was then that he realized that to write like his mind wanted to write, he would have limited success as a writer because few would want to read at that level. He would be unmarketable unless he changed his style. He lost all interest in a writing career and moved to his second passion, computers. Because he is so strongly auditory and I am not, the learning style elements come in to very great clarity because of the disparity.

My second child is almost as strongly visual spatial as I am. She is married now. She faced all the struggles I describe when it came to phonics and reading.

My third child is your typical blended-learning style student who is not on any extreme end of the spectrum.

Over the years, I have worked with other parent's children and the experience of seeing the far ends of two learning styles has been invaluable.

You are extremely expressive in what you have observed. Yes, I know what you mean about having to crop your writing down for your audience. I write stories online for children, including beginning readers, and sometimes the target level is however the story turns out. I tend to list broad ranges of ages who can read a given story. I just finished a story on King Midas, and all the clip art I could find was medieval instead of ancient Greece. So I asked a sister if she will do the pictures, but 30 pictures (one on each page) were way more than she could tackle, so I changed the format of the story to need 8 pictures instead. I got to thinking about the age level that would have an understanding of the concept of greed, and decided that at that age they could handle one picture per two pages.

I, myself, do not like to read something that is overly wordy for the concepts, or throws too many concepts per paragraph. There is a member of another forum I am on who delights in gossipping about literary lights, and is the most horrid writer I've ever seen, but if you try to remind her that you put one thought to a sensence, and one topic to a paragraph, she whips back that you just aren't a good reader!!!

So, I suspect this woman is perhaps similar to your son, and he made a good choice not to go into writing.



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