Visualizing words.

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Visualizing words.

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jan 15, 2010, 10:53am

This morning I was talking to myself (per usual) and realized I did something a little strange, and I'm wondering if other people do it.

Somewhere along the way in my pathetic attempts at math or programming, I learned that if you add an extra f to if, it means "if and only if." I'd pretty much forgotten this until this morning, when I saw what I said. I don't remember exactly what it was, something like "We -- I talk to myself in the plural -- can get our blood drawn today iff we drink a lot of water this morning." And I could see the word, and it was an iff, not an if.

Of course, when I write the word iff I practically have a seizure from the wrongness.

It makes me wonder how much of my - or anyone else's - speech is visual. Do we see words - all words? Without noticing? Do we see homophones? And - where did I see this? Written on my brain? I mean, what the hell?

jan 15, 2010, 11:09am

I only write "iff" in notes (yes, I study Computer Science :P).
But I always see words when I hear spoken language (from other people or my own), as well as when I think in words (I think in both words and images). I think I see them written because I know how to write and/or because I read a lot.

jan 17, 2010, 7:08am

I use iff quite a bit, as you used it (for if and only if) - both in comments to myself and in written stuff (though again, only to myself. I wouldn't use it in a note for someone else to read). Computer Science and math major, currently programmer.

And I definitely see words written. Not always clearly - I frequently have to write a word before I can tell how to spell it (weird, for instance). But I do visualize things, especially if I want to actually remember them. I can remember the written word a heck of a lot better than something spoken - and if I can't actually write it down, I'll 'make a note in my head' (which includes visualizing the piece of paper that the words are 'on'), which greatly improves my chances of remembering. I also visualize words that I hear (on the radio or whatever - not so much in conversation), and will stop dead and re-visualize one to try to figure out what the person actually said versus what I heard.

jan 17, 2010, 7:38am

+1 for the iff users. +1 for the Computer Science / programmer types.

However I am not a big word visualiser, at least not consciously, although very often when typing I will stop and correct myself because a word looks wrong.

jan 17, 2010, 11:19am

The only "iff" I'm familiar with is the old IFF radar system, which stands for Identification Friend or Foe. I was a radar navigation technician in the Air Force.

Many times in the wee morning hours I will visualize in my head the words and sentences for essays I'll be writing or talks I'll be giving, composing along as my brain fights going back to sleep. I don't actually see the words, I either hear them or feel them – it's hard to describe. Afterwards, when I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, the words literally flow.

jan 18, 2010, 11:50pm

This reminds me of what Richard Feynman has to say about the differences between people who hear and those who see numbers and mathematics, I think in surely you're joking or maybe what do you care what other people think.

I can say that I most definitely don't visualize words, or numbers and math, I wonder if there is a direct correlation?

jan 20, 2010, 12:01pm

Should not the mathematicians/programmers be encouraged to use the spelling "if'f", to signify the missing " and only i"?

Perhaps we should steal this linguistic concept from the originators, with usages such as "whenn", and "untill" ...

jan 22, 2010, 5:39pm

I visualize words a lot because I have Synesthesia, which makes me associate colors with letters and numbers. So when I hear/say/think a word I visualize it with its proper colors.

jan 25, 2010, 10:49pm

I don't visualize words normally (at least I don't think I do) unless I'm trying to spell a word or remember a word in a foreign language. I also visualize to remember co-workers names, since I don't know their last names but ID's on computer programs include at least part of our last names.
I visualize a lot if I'm planning on writing notes or working out an equation. If someone says something and I'm not paying attention or I'm writing notes slower than the professor talks, when I replay the speaker in my head I visualize his words.
I definitely visualize to recall material on exams.
Now I see I visualize words more than I had realized.

jan 26, 2010, 3:43am

I visualize words sometimes -- if something someone said doesn't sound right, or if I'm bored with what's being said, that sort of thing. I think for the next few days (at least) I'll be doing more of it just because of this thread!

I learned to use "iff" when I was in high school. It was a math class called "Modern Introductory Analysis" - whatever that means. As I recall it was a pre-calculus class.

jan 26, 2010, 4:18am

Dear Group,

Sorry, I'll mainly stick with the iff

My late Dad, a mathematician, statistician and a hydrologist, would sometimes talk about IFF. He said it was a very subtle idea which he had not yet fully grasped. He said he had struggled with it for many years and that each time he thought he had it, it turned into an "EEL". Hey, he was a Latvian.

I never understood his struggles with iff but hey, I'm an Aussi non-mathematician.

WRT. visualising words, unfortunately NO, but do you think it might be related to that "brain crossover" thing (as well described by sacks) I just can't remember the word? Syna...?


jan 27, 2010, 5:11pm

> 11

Now if you're talking 'IFF' rather than 'iff', which was where we started, you should know that this is a relatively well-established acronym for 'Identification - Friend or Foe', used for systems (nowadays very sophisticated) by which 'friendly fire' incidents are avoided. It's the electronic equivalent of painting symbols on military vehicles.