Mental imagery and personality

Via Steve Sailer, some rather eclectic research which finds surprising correlations between mental imagery and personality:

In “Describing Inner Experience? Proponent Meets Skeptic” (M.I.T. Press, 2007), Dr. Hurlburt, 64, presents the case of Melanie, a young woman who was fitted with a beeper that randomly prompted her to record everything in her awareness several times a day. In later interviews, she reconstructed these moments, often under rigorous cross-examination …

After hundreds of introspective interviews, Dr. Hurlburt still hesitates to generalize from his findings. But he has observed that the basic makeup of inner life varies substantially from person to person.

“My research says that there are a lot of people who don’t ever naturally form images, and then there are other people who form very florid, high-fidelity, Technicolor, moving images,” he said. Some people have inner lives dominated by speech, body sensations or emotions, he said, and yet others by “unsymbolized thinking” that can take the form of wordless questions like, “Should I have the ham sandwich or the roast beef?”

In a 2006 book, “Exploring Inner Experience,” Dr. Hurlburt suggests that these differences may be linked to personality and behavior. Inner speakers tend to be more confident, for example, and those who think in pictures tend to have trouble empathizing with others.

Differences in thinking style may also help explain some aspects of mental illness. In studies conducted with Sharon Jones-Forrester and Stephanie Doucette, Dr. Hurlburt found that bulimic women experienced a clutter of simultaneous thoughts that could often be cleared by purging.

“Why is that? I have no idea,” Dr. Hurlburt said. “But I haven’t found anything about it in the bulimia literature.”

The usual caveats apply here if not with more force given that we are talking about self-reporting. But I’ve often thought about the question myself. How do most people think? In words or concrete pictures or some hybrid of both? I find my own thinking to be a running verbal commentary interpersed with abstract imagery.

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2 Responses to “Mental imagery and personality”

  1. Tinos Says:

    Feynman touched on something like this in this video.

  2. steve from brisbane Says:

    Is it too snarky to suggest I would rather not know how a certain, often banned, commentator around the traps thinks.

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