Categorical Thinking

Liz (@thesaharaofbraindust) 9 years, 7 months ago

I first heard this term used by a professor who was discussing how human beings organize their thoughts in terms of specific categories. He used an example of how animal behavior could be described by different perspectives from which one could deduce if a behavior was due to hormones, natural selection or environmental influences. His point was to show the different aspects there are to consider during these kinds of situations and that there is no single “bucket” of thought to describe this. His goal for that class was to put an end to categorical thinking and broaden his pupils’ perspectives.

I don’t know if I am taking it too literal when he says this, but is it really possible to end categorical thinking? By broadening your perspective I would think that there are simply more buckets to reach into when you are considering different subjects or situations. It seems to me as if thoughts are no more different than internet search engines that run on algorithms triggered by our own memories. To rewire your brain in order to eliminate categorical thinking would just expand the category to which one subject may full under.

I don’t know if my ramblings make too much sense or worthy of discussion, but I would like to know if any one else had any thoughts on this. :)

My first insight as to how the brain functions:

June 30, 2012 at 1:31 am
DaJetPlane (994)M (@lytning91) 9 years, 7 months ago ago

Umm…in short, I basically think you’d go insane before you could do away with categorical thinking. We think…categorically. Our design is such that we require every short cut we have to actually keep up with the world around us as much as we do (which, in all honesty, isn’t THAT efficient). To say we should remove categorical thinking, literally, is to say we should just explode and have brain ooze out our nostrils.

Figuratively, there’s some worth I GUESS, but that is more of an opinion on how you should live your life. And yeah, that Spongebob episode is amazing. I love that freaking show.

Liz (3) (@thesaharaofbraindust) 9 years, 7 months ago ago

Yeah that’s basically what I was thinking as well. Even the way we organize the objects around us reflect this mindset even if the particular order can vary among individuals. I even think that his figurative use for the expression can be misleading. I should write him an e-mail! Haha.

Whenever I feel nostalgic and watch old cartoons or children’s movies it’s funny to see hear the puns that i wouldn’t have understood at a younger age. Even some of the things they do are pretty questionable and it makes me wonder how easily we can be brain washed. Still, they don’t make cartoons like how they used to. . .

DaJetPlane (994)M (@lytning91) 9 years, 7 months ago ago

@thesaharaofbraindust, I actually agree, yeah, that teaching this can probably add confusion where none is required. I would also like to hear more about his opinion to see if maybe I missed something, so to have him elaborate would be kind of nice actually.

Cody (472) (@versai) 9 years, 7 months ago ago

Hehe I love that spongebob episode!! I’m sometimes reminded of it during intense dmt trips where I perceive different functions of my mind on an individual scale. Like in the clip, it’s like having a bunch of little Cody’s talking at the same time, each communicating their unique message, whether it be a stimulation, thought, movement, memory, etc.

I recognize it as my subconscious, all the activity that’s going on behind the scenes that make up the big show. I also suspect schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are the mind loosening those connections to the point that they can be perceived as separate influences, like losing control of the actors in your play.

I also believe in a higher consciousness. Just like our mind’s conscience can forget and become fragmented from itself, I believe we’re all forgotten fragments of a united consciousness. That is to say, we are children of god. And while fragmented from the source, are ultimately one with it. I sometimes wonder if that isn’t what is meant by the holy trinity; father, son and holy spirit concept of life.

Caroline (0) (@croemer) 9 years, 2 months ago ago

@thesaharaofbraindust, I just learned about Conceptualization and Categorization in my Cognitive Psychology class. There is actually behavioral experiments and neurological evidence that the brain automatically categorizes objects based on our past experiences with them. Over time, those objects are represented and judged by a prototype of them. Thought in general is a long interconnected network, which is understandable.

I think you are completely right in saying that to broaden our mind with the intent of ending categories would just mean broadening the categories that we already have. Because this is just the way we are made. Which actually makes sense that we have judgments of people based on their labels, because that’s what the brain does. So I think just as we should avoid ignorance of people by looking at their different aspects beyong their label, we should do the same with objects, ideas, etc. by consciously understanding that they are not confined to what we believe their only uses to be. It’s a conscious effort.

Brendan Barstow (182)C (@eyesopen) 9 years, 2 months ago ago

I love Spongebob! If only Patrick existed in the physical world for he would be my best friend.

To echo the other posts here, there isn’t any way to truly end categorical thinking, it would only be broadening the categories to incorporate more items in each. This notion, however, does hold some value as it might allow one to view ideas or subjects from multiple perspectives. For example, If I were to go from narrow categorical organization to wide categorical organization, I would first view a novel only in relation to other literature but after widening these categories I would be enabled to view literature as an art, a science, a meditation, an escape, and would thus reap the benefits that these disciplines provide for understanding.

Ben (231)M (@benjamin) 9 years, 2 months ago ago

We talked about this recently in my cognitive psych class. I took it as categorical thinking is the structure our stream of thoughts depends on to process things mentally in an effective way. Its how our brain organizes what we know and how we think about it. I think “broadening one’s perspective” in relation to this would be less about moving beyond categorical thinking and more about putting it in it’s place among the other ways we process life/dimensions of our existence.
First of all, I think categorical thinking on its own can become more flexible through contemplative practices like meditation, or whatever works for you. If categorical thinking is the arrangement of cabinets in your house, then doing shit like meditation is yoga for the observer of your thoughts (i.e., the person walking through the house to get shit) and lets you reach these places faster and make more connections among them.
But we process life on more than just the mental level. Categorical thinking is the organization of the mental level, but we live in more than just a dimension of thoughts. We experience physical sensations, emotions, intuitions, and I think unconsciously a lot more dimensions of experience that we’ve yet to discover. Many people, especially in today’s world, are so preoccupied by a constant stream of thought, and identify so strongly with their thoughts, that it seems like all of these things add up to BE the thought stream. As if the thought stream is the final important culmination of these other things, because it is identified as the self.
I think what’s really going on is that there is a space that all of these dimensions fill (THIS is our self!), and the culmination of how this processing system of sensations, emotions, thoughts, intuitions and whateverhaveyou filters what is going on in your life is your conscious experience.
To relate back to categorical thinking! It is the structure of our thoughts, but the structure of our thoughts is not the structure of our entire experience/being. We don’t need to move beyond categorical thinking; we need to move beyond thinking that categorical thinking is all there is going on in our psyche.

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