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Rethinking ThoughtInside the Minds of Creative Scientists and Artists$
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Laura Otis

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190213466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190213466.001.0001

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Beyond Visual and Verbal Thinking

Beyond Visual and Verbal Thinking

(p.113) Chapter 5 Beyond Visual and Verbal Thinking
Rethinking Thought

Laura Otis

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines thinking that can’t be classified as verbal or visual and might better be described as bodily–kinesthetic, algorithmic, musical, or emotional. It depicts the mental worlds of flamenco dancer and choreographer Linda Richardson, multiagent software designer Nicholas Gessler, physicist David Finkelstein, and musician, photographer, and former Sister of St. Francis, Barbara Zettel. These creative thinkers’ insights engage philosophical and scientific explanations for thinking that do not involve the conscious use of visual mental images or verbal language. Richardson’s and Gessler’s insights resonate with philosopher Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge and neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti’s studies of mirror neurons. Finkelstein’s intuitions about physics address cognitive scientist Nancy Nersessian’s ethnographic studies of how scientists form mental models. The introspections of all four thinkers support Robert and Michèle Root-Bernstein’s qualitative finding that creative thinking functions similarly in science and the arts, with ideas emerging as feelings difficult to capture through visual images or words.

Keywords:   bodily–kinesthetic thinking, algorithmic thinking, musical thinking, emotional thinking, Michael Polanyi, tacit knowledge, Giacomo Rizzolatti, mirror neurons, scientific models, creativity

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