The Way We Think
In The Way We Think Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner argue that our mind is more complex than a computer. Many scientists have tried to make the resemblance between our brain and a computer by looking at functions such as memory, learning, symbolic thought, and language acquisition. The theory of conceptual blending, according to the authors, makes humans more complex. This happens through blends of metaphors and bodily experiences. The key to the invention of meaning are the three I's: Identity, Integration, and Imagination, all of which occur unconsciously, without awareness. Our mind operates using these three operations, and they are the subjects of The Way We Think. Also, according to the authors, they are “the key to both everyday meaning and exceptional human creativity.”
F&T present a simple example of a cup of coffee to prove the complexity of our mind and what they call “perceptual categorization.” When one of us looks at a cup of coffee, we simply perceive it as such. Neuroscience however, proves to the scientists that there are many more aspects that allow us to perceive it in such a simple manner. Our brain evaluates features such as “the color of the cup, the shape of the opening, the topology of the handle, the smell of the coffee, the texture of the surface of the cup, the dividing line between the coffee and the cup, the taste of the coffee, the heavy feel of the cup in the hand, the reaching for the cup, and so on…” There are parts of the brain, which receive each sensory detail separately and then allow us to perceive and understand simple objects such a cup of coffee in a split, single moment. It’s a fascinating phenomenon many of often don’t notice and appreciate.
Furthermore, the authors discuss the development of the study of analogy. They state that people take for granted the ability to “perceive everyday analogies, like the ability to perceive everyday identities.” To make matters easier for the readers to understand the authors give an example of what a simple analogy is. We often understand the room that we are in, and when we try to compare it with other room we have been in, we are then using an everyday analogy. Fauconnier and Turner further discussed the evolution of analogy and brought me, as a teacher, to a moment of truth and wonder. This was when they discussed the time when analogy had lost its status as a scientific topic and was even ridiculed. It was until about 1970s, when it regained its respect, and terms like mental images, narrative thinking, affect and metaphor came to live again. Researches explored terms such as mental images, visual perception and visual imagination and their relationships.
When I read this, I thought about my students and how I think that they have such a difficulty with reading and a dislike of literature, because they simply don't have the visual perception and the mental images that are described here for example. When explaining analogy, and how that "became respectable as a phenomenon," I think that I often find myself struggling to explain the content I'm teaching, especially poetry, because our "inner city" students are so out of touch with nature and life experiences, that they cannot create the mental images in their mind, and therefore cannot relate to what they're reading. It takes us teachers to provide what F&T call “the blend”, or the imaginative blended scenario, to our students, in order to allow them to relate the new schema they’re learning to an old one they’re already familiar with.
F&T claim that “complex blending is always at work in any human thought or action but is often hard to see.” I wonder how this is true in our students, especially those that don’t have much experience with certain situations that may arise in the literature we’re teaching. Let us take the romantic notion of love for example. How can we possibly help a sixth grader (in that some of you in class do teach that grade) help to “blend” that feeling? This may be a bit of an extreme situation, but what about others, such as walking on the beach, or taking a silent, peaceful walk in the forest? What kind of a relationship will our students develop with text, and how well will they be able to understand, or even care about the text, if they cannot relate to what they’re reading?
- Is it our responsibility as educators to help our students to learn how to “blend”?
- Do you feel that utilizing “blending” is an important aspect of teaching students?
- Are there ever situations that students may not be able to “blend” in order to understand a literary work or concept?
- Can “blending” ever give bad results in our classrooms?
Ps. If there are any unclear terms or questions that arose in the reading The Way We Think, and any of you would like clarification on, please let me know in this Blog or email me: email@example.com