Friday, February 3, 2012

Creative Thinking - Part 1: Bridging the Gap Between the Experience and the Mind

Every organism interacts with the world in some way, but only human beings are capable of bridging the gap between "the experience and the mind" with the aid of representational thinking tools (illustrations, speech, concrete models, etc.). All abstract thoughts are grounded in concrete scenarios, and we can represent these abstractions on paper, whiteboards, or computer screens.

The human brain is capable of recreating at will an original event, modifying a past experience, or completely inventing a fabricated occurrence inside the mind. Vision and visual imagery have been essential to the evolving human brain far longer than the printed word has.

The celebrated petroglyphs found around the world, including the cave paintings discovered in Lascaux, France, represent some of the first cognitive leaps in the evolution of abstract thinking, but the $64,000 archaeological questions are:

1. What were these particular drawings used for?
2. Were these etchings prescient efforts to convey historical records to
future generations or just flights of artistic and imaginative fancy?
3. Were the illustrations intended for storytelling, or possibly teaching models
that were used to instruct prospective Paleolithic hunters?

The power of these two-dimensional illustrations resided not in the images themselves, but in what the human brain did and continues to do with those illustrations.

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