Intellectual Ways of Knowing

quoteyellow4CMYK intellectualIntellectual knowing is accomplished by the brain through thinking processes like analysis, pattern recognition, and generalization.  Ways of knowing and learning generally referred to as rational, analytical, logical, or empirical, and that deal with the observable material world or with highly-developed abstract concepts (such as philosophy or higher mathematics), are included in this category.  While brain function is obviously related to intellectual ways of knowing of this type, some of the more important ways that brains process information are far more subtle and certainly not related to “reason”.

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The human brain can recognize and process patterns in powerful ways. Notice the brief lag time it takes for your brain to recognize the image in this picture after you first look at it. Illustration is from The Universe Within: A New Science Explores The Human Mind. Morton Hunt. Simon and Schuster, New York. 1982. (The picture is of a dalmation snuffling through fallen leaves.)

The diagram of black and white splotches to the right has no meaning except that given it by the brain itself. If you look at it a moment, you’ll notice that after a very brief lag time of processing you suddenly “see” the image in the picture.  A second picture, below left, shows pairs of objects that are oriented differently in three-dimensional space. If you rotate one or both of the pairs in your mind, you can “match them up” to see if they’re pictures of the same thing. Notice that this process is a bit more difficult and requires more intentional concentration, therefore taking you longer. Also, whereas most people can see the picture in the pattern of black-and-white splotches, the ability to rotate figures in three-dimensional space varies substantially. Some people can do it very easily while others simply can’t.

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Has one object in each pair been rotated, or is the second drawing of a different object? If you mentally rotate each of the paired objects, you can “match them up” to tell. This mental task takes longer and requires more intentional concentration than the task in the first exercise. The ability to do it also varies greatly from one individual to another. Illustration is from The Universe Within: A New Science Explores The Human Mind. Morton Hunt. Simon and Schuster, New York. 1982. (The objects in A and B are the same, one of them rotated. The objects in C are different.)

Howard Gardner’s book “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences” explores some of the basic differences in human thinking processes and concludes that our culture has been too quick to classify only certain types of brain abilities as “intelligence” for purposes of testing a person’s smartness or possibility of future success.  Clinical neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks explores still broader types of non-analytical brain functions that expand our understanding of how the brain participates in many different types of knowing.  His best-selling book “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat:  and Other Clinical Tales” challenges our ideas about brain functions, intellect, and intelligence in provocative ways.  Nevertheless, “intellectual” knowing as we are typifying it here — the way it is generally typified in American culture — refers primarily to rational, analytical processes.

To explore an example of Intellectual Ways of Knowing first-hand, visit Intellectual Ways of Learning about Tornadoes.

To proceed around the Circle of Ways of Knowing, visit Experiential Ways of Learning and Knowing.

To proceed around the Circle to the next direction, visit South.

You may use the table below to explore the directions, their associated ways of knowing and learning, and an example of each type of learning as applied to understanding tornadoes. (Note: The tornado page links take you to older pages with a different format that we have not yet changed because it is so content-heavy. Please use the back button on your browser to return to this page after you visit there.)

Directions on the Circle Ways of Learning and Knowing Tornado Example
East Intellectual Ways of Learning and Knowing Intellectual Ways of Learning about Tornadoes
South Experiential Ways of Learning and Knowing Experiential Ways of Learning about Tornadoes
West Spiritual Ways of Learning and Knowing Spiritual Ways of Learning about Tornadoes
North Mythic Ways of Learning and Knowing Mythic Ways of Learning about Tornadoes
Center Integrated Ways of Learning and Knowing Integrated Ways of Learning about Tornadoes