# bill comments on Generalizing From One Example - Less Wrong

261 28 April 2009 10:00PM

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Comment author: 29 April 2009 03:20:47AM *  49 points [-]

Interesting illustration of mental imagery (from Dennett):

Picture a 3 by 3 grid. Then picture the words "gas", "oil", and "dry" spelled downwards in the columns left to right in that order. Looking at the picture in your mind, read the words across on the grid.

I can figure out what the words are of course, but it is very hard for me to read them off the grid. I should be able to if I could actually picture it. It was fascinating for me to think that this isn't true for everyone.

Comment deleted 29 April 2009 05:39:14AM [-]
Comment author: 29 April 2009 09:09:58AM 4 points [-]

TAWME (This Agrees With My Experience)

Comment author: 29 April 2009 06:00:59PM 4 points [-]

Same here. Is there anyone who does it with no trouble? If so, I'm envious.

Comment author: 30 April 2009 05:41:24PM 1 point [-]

I bet with the right training we could learn to do this, and on bigger grids too.

Comment author: 29 April 2009 06:36:48PM 12 points [-]

Picture a 3 by 3 grid. Then picture the words "gas", "oil", and "dry" spelled downwards in the columns left to right in that order. Looking at the picture in your mind, read the words across on the grid.

Interestingly, I find the task much easier if I do it the other way: visualizing the words spelled across, and then reading off the words going down the grid.

If mental images consist of replayed saccades, this makes perfect sense. To generate the downward images of words and then read across would reasonably be harder than simply replaying the stored "across" patterns, and then reading them down. IOW, visualization is more like vectors and sprites than it is like pixels -- which reflects how sight itself works.

Comment author: 29 April 2009 06:24:47PM 1 point [-]

I wonder if the ability to play blindfold chess is related to the ability to perform with exercise.

Comment author: 08 December 2012 05:24:09AM 0 points [-]

I can't, at all. And I find this extremely odd, as I've always thought of myself as someone with extremely good visual-spatial skills, and can picture and rotate quite complex objects in my mind. I can also do it if, instead of those words, they are a series of 9 numbers. I would speculate as to what's going on here, but I have no idea whatsoever.

It's been 36 hours since I last slept, so that may also have something to do with it. I'll see if I can do it after I sleep (it might have something to do with working memory, which is currently not operating at full capacity).

Comment author: 08 December 2012 05:41:26AM *  1 point [-]

I can't either, but I wonder if I might have been able to as a child. My spacial reasoning skills have always been terrible (which is probably responsible for my absolutely appalling sense of direction; I have literally gotten lost in a straight line on multiple occasions,) but my perception is that I had a much more powerful visual imagination as a child. I could actually visually "see" fabricated images overlaid over real scenery if I so chose (but not indefinitely, I needed cooldown time between images.) I haven't had any such ability since at least the time I became a teenager, probably earlier.

That's not the only mental faculty I've lost in the process of growing up either. I remember in kindergarten my teacher complained that I needed to pay attention to the lesson, while I was clearly diverting my attention to something else, and I told her I was quite capable of paying attention to both. She understandably didn't believe me, until I proved to her that I could listen to two separate audio recordings simultaneously, one in each ear, and afterwards, recite the content of both. Today, my ability to split my attention is terrible, and it boggles my mind that I was ever capable of this.

Comment author: 08 December 2012 09:12:27AM 2 points [-]

I can still see images overlaid, or more accurately shapes and densities. I can't give the things I imagine color or even shadings, but I can picture objects and their spatial relations to each other. I think that I am not visually picturing the numbers when I imagine the grid of numbers, but rather that my mind treats them as primitive objects that can be put in a grid pattern. I can do that with letters, but not when I consider them as part of a word (my mind is weird, even by my standards). So I can imagine geometric shapes in 2 and 3 dimensions (I've gotten 4 on occasion, but it's not easy and rotating those shapes makes it feel like my brain is about to overheat), but I can't picture a scene to paint it.

I have the same memory of being able to split my attention between two tasks, but I'm not sure that memory is accurate. Instead, I think I may just have a very good ability to cache the last 30 seconds or so of my life. The reason I think that is that when I was in elementary school (either 1st or 4th grade, I don't recall which), I spent most of my time in class reading. When the teacher would ask me what she just said, I could answer pretty much verbatim. However, I didn't retain any of the information given for history (which I have attributed as me being bad with history, but is actually probably that I was exposed to all of the other subjects outside of the classroom and so didn't notice that I wasn't learning). So it seems likely that I was caching but not processing what the teachers.

I can still cache conversations very well, so that if I'm writing a paper, and my roommate will ask me a question, I can finish the sentence I'm writing and then process and answer the question.

I wonder how consistent my abilities are. Specifically, I wonder if I'll have the same subjective experience of cognition and mental imagery in a year, or if it changes from day to day. Because it may be that we not only assume that everyone else experiences cognitive phenomena the same way as we do, we also assume that we always experience these phenomena the same way.