Textual information follows people all their life. Everybody reads. Pupils, students, researchers, and housewives do read. In this article, we will try to find out how a person understands texts.
Everybody knows from his/her experience that, if the text you read is not understood, it can hardly be memorized. There are easy and difficult to read books; there are “interesting,” “uninteresting,” and even “boring” books.
In what cases does a book become uninteresting and boring? It occurs when a person does not understand the text he/she is reading or the information given in the text does not coincide with the information in a person’s mind. The second variant is worth more detailed analysis than we are discussing here; therefore, we will analyze it separately in further articles. First, let’s find out why the perceived text may not be understood by a person.
Read the first extract. Read it slowly, and follow your imagination.
“Old coins belong to the most widespread monuments of the past. The nature of the coin allows numerous, equal specimens produced of durable materials to be spread among people, constantly changing their owners, going from one person to another and accompanying people everywhere. Only small portion of the mass of coins in existence has been preserved to the current day, but even this portion has quite significant value. Some millions of old coins are kept in the museums of Russia; the systematic collection of Hermitage consists of more than three hundred thousand different coins, not taking into account buried treasures which remain inseparable, as well as the second, the third, and so on specimens which are the part of all collections of ancient coins.”
Read one more extract and, again, follow your imagination attentively.
“To this day, we supported the ten-year old supposition that singularity of the phase can have no relation to the mechanism of circadian rhythm and can be just the consequence of summing the rhythms with accidental phases in populations of cells. Maybe, it is justified in relation to neirohumoral regulation of vertebrates, but the results of experiments with insects and plants disprove this. It means that singular arrhythmia is stipulated by the misrepresentation of “force,” “energy,” or amplitude of fluctuations of the circadian clock. Consequently, the amplitude of the clock as well as the phase can be tuned.”
If you have no special physical and biological education, the first text seemed to be more pleasant than the second one. If you followed your imagination attentively, you can draw a conclusion about the reasons why the first text is understood, but the second one less so.
When a person reads the text, the words which are perceived with the help of eyes reach the voice analyzer of the brain, where they have connection to visual images. Such words as “coin,” “specimen,” and “owner” stimulate emergence of consistent visual images in the imagination. The person sees what is “behind” these words. When you were reading the first extract about coins, groups of interconnected images arose in your imagination while you were reading. Some people have brighter visual images; others have less bright ones. Still, if you have understood the meaning of the first extract, it means that visual images have arisen in your imagination.
Reading the second extract, your brain comes across unknown or less-familiar words – “singularity,” “phase,” “circadian rhythm”, “neurohumoral clock.” – words that do not reflexively educe a visual image. What happens when you perceive these words? There are no images in the imagination at all, so the connection between the word and visual image was not found. Another thing that can happen is that the brain starts “dashing” from one image to another selecting, for instance, different images which match the word “rhythm.” As a result, reading such a text “the film of images” is not formed and we cannot readily understand what it is about.
The mechanics of automatic transformation of the text (or speech) into combinations of visual images is called re-creative imagination. If re-creative imagination works while reading a text, the person understands that text. If re-creative imagination is blocked (due to unknown words), a person will fail to understand that part of the text.
What is understanding? Understanding is the capacity to generate in one’s imagination combinations of spatially organized visual images. To understand and to view in your imagination are the same thing.
What does the word “meaning” mean? It is easy to find out. You can take a sentence and change it in different ways. You can change the sentence so that its meaning will remain unchanged. You can also change the sentence in ways that would change its meaning.
Take a simple experiment. Read the sentence below and try to understand it; in other words, try to see in your imagination what is going on.
The cat is lying on the bed.
Now, we will change the sentence so that its meaning would remain the same.
There is a cat lying on the bed.
And now, we will change the meaning of this sentence.
The cat is lying under the bed.
These examples show what is, in English, identified with the word “meaning.” The meaning is the spatial organization of images in one’s imagination. When we changed the sentence “The cat is lying on the bed” to “There is a cat lying on the bed,” the spatial organization of images in imagination (meaning) did not change. Yet, when we perceive the sentence “The cat is lying under the bed,” And our brain moves the cat under the bed, spatial organization of images changes and the meaning of the sentence changes as well.
It is important to comprehend the difference between the words “understanding” and “meaning” because, in psychological literature, they are interpreted freely and often do not correspond to the notions we refer to with these words in GMS.
Let’s define these words, now, in the context in which they are used in the Giordano Memorization System.
MEANING is spatial organization of images in imagination.
UNDERSTANDING is the process of creating, in one’s imagination, spatially organized “picture.”
Textual information is understood as a result of the mechanism of re-creative imagination – reflex transformation of perceived word combinations into combinations of visual images.
Meaning associations (combinations of images) are actively used in GMS when memorizing mathematical and physical formulas, new terminology and notions, questions and their answers, and in memorization of textual information.
Understanding will be more difficult when a person’s attention is sidetracked or their thoughts are racing, scattered. When this happens while one is reading, images unnecessary or irrelevant to the text will enter the imagination. The result is that the eyes will continue looking through the lines, but understanding will be interrupted as the imagination will be occupied with other accidental, insignificant images.
Other sources of speech can distract from the process of reading as well. Hearing a song in the background while, a song in a familiar language perceived simultaneously while reading, will hinder understanding of the text. Yet, if the song is in unfamiliar language, it will not hinder anything. The words of unfamiliar language are not transformed automatically into images and do not occupy your imagination.
Visual (figurative) thinking can be trained very easily and well. Regular exercises with manipulations of visual images in the imagination improve understanding of texts and speech.
The brighter the images in a person’s imagination are, the more difficult it is for any distracting signals to enter into consciousness – hindrance resistance is trained automatically.
In the next article we will discuss why we forget texts.
© School of Phenomenal Memory