Thinking in Pictures (question for “neurotypical”or autistics)

I read this short interview on Huffington Post today. Temple Grandin was asked a question about thinking in picturesHere is her description when asked about “dessert” and what thinking in pictures is like:

I went to Starbucks yesterday afternoon and I had two chocolate cake pops over at the hotel. Now I’m seeing a delicious, decadent flourless chocolate cake I had another place. Now I’m seeing desserts I had as a child: strawberry shortcake and coffee ice cream. Now I’m up at Ben & Jerry’s getting a scoop of ‘Coffee Buzz Buzz.’  (T. Grandin)

My question is: Doesn’t everyone think like that? 

It’s a serious question for me. Of course this is how we think (or I think). I can’t get an idea in my head of what NOT to think like this would be like. I assume everyone does and perhaps it has to do with memory and recall or ?

My thinking is what Temple Grandin describes as “thinking in pictures” but I think about it often (how I think and how I could describe something to another person) like flashcards or playing cards with pictures on them. These pictures represent a feeling, a memory, a thought or consideration, anything really. It’s how they operate however that makes it difficult to describe.

Pretend you are sitting at a table with another person (me). This other person has a handful of cards in their hand. You ask them a simple question. In super fast superhero mode the other person takes the hand of cards and puts them down on the table with a quick snap (fast). They lay out the series of cards (pictures) in a row in front of them for you to see but they make a new line after about 6 or 8 cards. They continue doing this until you interrupt and say something else or ask a new question or just a little statement like “wow, it’s nice out today….” The person doesn’t stop snapping down the cards in a sort of “memory game” lay out. The pictures just change. The momentum never wanes.

Snap snap snap. Like a card dealer snapping down quickly the picture filled cards in front of you. Each one is visual although one might represent a feeling at that memory or an occurrence, or a memory about your past, or something you forgot about for years, or anything really.

Do you know that word association game? One person says a word and then the next person says another word that first comes to mind from hearing that first word, and then the person beside says another word that comes to mind.  All different words but each one slightly associated to the previous (for the person stating them). It reminds me of how my thinking is. There is no thinking through to the end of an idea, or logical pattern of start to finish and then moving on to something else. Or in words. Do people think in words? I mean I see pictures of words. The letters in black with a white background just like on this computer screen. I’m curious how others think.


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