Blogs & News

Gordon Dutton’s Blog (36) Imagining & Envisioning

Our written conversation with Yellowstone gave me one of those ‘Aha!’ moments, akin to finding a new route through a city that joins up two favourite parts of the city.

She taught me something that’s obvious, but only once you’ve been told... CVI can impact upon the process of imagining and envisioning, which in turn can hamper interpretation of other people’s ‘visual’ language. By this I mean the use of words that invoke visual imagination to allow the reader to understand what the author is wishing to convey. I then realised that this must be particularly true for visual metaphor.

Mental visualisation plays an enormous part in understanding, and in communicating. The abilities of the architect, designer and artist all depend on this skill.  The key issue here though is that those of us who can visualise with mental pictures tend to make the assumption that everyone else can do the same. This means that much of what we say, or write  relies on the assumption that others visualise in the same way as we do. But what if they don’t? What if they use alternative thought strategies? To what extent could difficulties with interpretation be misunderstood.

What if many people, those with CVI or other causes of low vision from an early age in particular, capture the meaning of words in a different way, because the mental pictures they create from what they currently experience and what they have experienced in the past, are much more auditory in nature than visual? Where there are shared personal experiences in day-to-day life this may not be much of an issue,  but when it comes to reading literature or taking part in academic study, material written in ways that invoke and convey mental visual imagery may not allow the reader to extract the same meanings that the author intended, because the capacity of the reader to form the same mental imagery is different to that of the author or lecturer. 

Yet on the other hand, written and spoken communication that puts across ideas in ways that evoke accessible stored memories, are likely to be totally understandable, learnable and memorable.

There is a flip side. What about the material written by the person with CVI. To what extent is this likely to reflect the differing yet often remarkable mental skills of the writer? 

I’ll let you be the judge of that…

Take a look at Yellowstone’s Blog (5) Empty Words.

Photograph of the book Vision and the Brain by Gordon Dutton & Amanda Lueck

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