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Making meaning in the mind’s eye

"Louder Than Words," by Benjamin Berger

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Visualization has long been known to be a useful tool – for improving athletic performance, practicing the piano, memorizing a speech or planning your route to the grocery store, to give just a few examples.  Visualizing a loved one or recalling a childhood memory are pleasures we take for granted.

But visualization itself is somewhat of a mystery to most people.  What goes on in our brains when we think, read, listen to music? Just how do we turn abstract ideas and words – “left hook, “Martian invasion,” “driving lesson” – into pictures in our minds?  How do your mental pictures – built from your unique memories and experiences – differ from those of someone of a different generation, culture or time zone?  How did the human brain evolve to be able to visualize our thoughts in such complex and distinct ways?  Cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen’s new book explores these questions, which bring up fascinating ideas about language, behavior, learning and meaning.  

What pictures fill  your mind on a daily basis, and how do they help you navigate your life?  What would they look like in the mind’s eye of another?  How do we use our imagination to turn clouds into circus animals, dreams into reality?


Benjamin K. Bergen, author of "Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning"; Associate Professor, Cognitive Science, University of California San Diego