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Cubism: Another example

Here we discuss the notion of how our thinking might be cluttered by excess baggage
Lets back pedal slightly and reconsider what may actually be going on. A basic claim is that thinking about the world in part depends on being able to mentally simulate possible future events. In order to do this stored knowledge of the world must be retrieved from long-term memory. This is quite a bold claim but is there any evidence to back it up? Try the following Imagine a solid cube and imaging painting one side of the cube. Now take an imaginary knife and cut the cube in half horizontally and cut it again vertically front to back and side to side - 3 cuts. You now have quite a few mini cubes as a consequence.
How many of these mini cubes have a coloured side? We might claim that is a case of visual problem solving – we have got you to engage in reasoning using visual imagery. You may have experienced a mental video? But this demonstration provides us with some further insights. What colour of paint did you use? Now it turns out that typically people report a colour of a particular kind and yet this information is of no consequence in solving the puzzle. And you might argue that it is an irrelevant distraction.
At one level this merely reinforces the point that we are not optimal reasoning machines – such a machine would be unable to answer the colour question because this is of no consequence in solving the problem. A side is painted or it is not. What seems clear though is that our ability to solve problems is intimately connected with our knowledge of the real world and how we interact with it. Just think about it if you were to physically follow the instructions with an actual cube and some paint, it is impossible to do this and ignore what colour the paint is.
However we are still left with the concerns about the form in which knowledge is being stored – it is picture-like or language-like? Perhaps the more pressing questions concern what is being stored and how it is being used.
Rob discusses another really intriguing imagery puzzle that has been taken to show just how knowledge of the real world influences our ability to reason about it.

The fact that apparently irrelevant facts about the word encroach on our thinking about it has been taken by some as an indication of how cluttered our thinking can be with so-called excess baggage. Thinking with excess baggage is the topic of this week’s class experiment.

And if you are still concerned about our rotated cube… the key thing is to note the position of the remaining six corners. Most people report only four!

Here is the hint we mentioned…


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Introduction to Cognitive Psychology: An Experimental Science

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