Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking

By Vera John-Steiner | Go to book overview
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PART ONE
SOURCES OF THOUGHT

Sources of Thought

From the beginnings of life, the inward flow of sensations and experiences is organized by the brain in a variety of ways. The transformation of what is heard, seen, or touched is dependent upon the skill of the human mind in representing events as images, as inner speech, as kinesthetic symbols. Through these varied forms or languages, the consequences or meanings of these experiences are stored.

The emergence of a particular language of thought is embedded in the history of an individual, in his or her first efforts at reflection developed in childhood. Among these are the activities a child chooses to participate in and the internalized representational processes that derive from his or her participation. Preference to learn by touch, by vision, or by language is developed by children and young adults in the course of sustained inquiries, and from these emerge a reliance upon a particular way of learning. These contribute to the establishment of an internal hierarchical system of symbolic processes.

As a person grows up, cycles of activity, and the internalized knowledge based upon them, are molded by the particular setting in which one is raised. The opportunities and content of children's learning are historically and culturally patterned. These are further shaped by family interactions, which provide models and motivation for the acquisition of knowledge. Although differences in one's "language of thought" have been discussed in the psychological literature of the mind, few studies have examined the developmental history of verbal or visual thinking.

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