Thinking across Cultures

By Donald M. Topping; Doris C. Crowell et al. | Go to book overview

and of their solutions or nonsolutions on the other hand: Although the examination of this question extends beyond the scope of the present discussion, let me just suggest an idea that may serve as the basis for further investigation. The articulation of mentation in verbal-like thought expressions of which the thinker is conscious allows the progression of thought in directions not planned or expected--in other words, it is the basis for cognitive novelty and creation. Were one aware only of thought expressions that define the problems or issues that one is to solve and of the solutions or end results of the processing associated with them, thinking would be confined to what, in one way or another, one already knows or is concerned with. One's being conscious of intermediate thought expressions and the concretization of conscious thoughts in forms with a particular medium introduces into human thinking aspects which are from the perspective of problem-solving redundant or irrelevant. These very aspects, however, allow the cognitive system to proceed in directions other than ones the thinker might have envisaged at the onset of his or her mentation. A manifest example of this pattern noted in the foregoing discussion is the contribution of the particular phonological forms of the specific natural language in which a thought sequence is entertained. From the point of view of information processing what is important is the content of thinking, hence the particular phonological articulation is totally irrelevant. Yet, given that thoughts are concretized in a particular medium, additional veins are provided that the cognitive system may use. Indeed, given that these veins or aspects are, from the perspective of the content being entertained, irrelevant, they enable thought to proceed in directions which are contentually novel.3 The medium-based and lexical couplings serve precisely this function. Thus, in a sequence like (3) the purely accidental commonality of phonological form in English and in Hebrew may enable one to start with thinking of a dog and end up with thinking of sentimental feelings--the sequence could have, for instance, continued with the memory of a friend shedding tears coming to the thinker's mind, followed by thoughts contentually concerned with affective and romantic issues. Actual examples of this sort are, indeed, encountered in the corpus and their detailed analysis is to be elaborated elsewhere.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The research was supported in part by grants from the Faculty of Social Science and the Institute for Human Development, both of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It could not have been completed without the close

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3
This pattern may be an instantiation of a much more general functional principle whereby novelty is generated from redundancy and noise and order from disorder; for a general exposition in this thesis see Atlan ( 1979).

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