Literate Mind versus Illiterate Mind

by Charley Pein Electronic Engineer

Literacy is essential for most people in the present world. Throughout history, literacy has always been of significant importance. Literacy is linked to, and has a great impact on, reasoning, logic, rationality, etc. However, it is unclear how literacy affects the mind and to what extent the impact is. This article compares the literate (textual) mind with the illiterate (non-textual) mind from the visual input point of view.   

In seeing, visual instances enter the eyes one by one. They are stored in memory. The instances and the manner they enter the eyes reflect the (visual) thinking.

Text is composed of a limited number of symbols, whilst non-text comprises an indefinite amount of instances. Clearly, symbols are qualitatively recognizable and memorable.  They display clarity and linearity.  The mental processing of text is more efficient and effective, forming procedures. Whereas symbols can be arranged into a whole book to reach conclusions without chaos, a sequence of a few non-text instances would go into disarray and fail to form a procedure. It is difficult to establish a long and stable sequence of non-text instances. Although both literate and illiterate people can perform creative thinking, text-encoded new thoughts are clearer, longer, stable and much more likely to become reality. Since their new thoughts are transient, illiterates are unlikely to try out new approaches. They usually do things of brief duration.

The enhancement of the illiterate mind had already taken place before the advent of written language. Non-text may be any or all things in a visual field which comprises a large area. We usually focus on small interesting/critical parts of it. The (non-text) objects that we focus on impress our mind, much more than other areas do. Usually, these objects have salient features, such as shape and contrast. Thus, they are easily recognized[1]. We see one object after another. By the time relationship, our mind is able to remember the order of happenings, and to reason. That is to say, the human mind operates in salient visual features, sequences of which make up the thinking process.

This mental operating principle is maximized by written language[2]. Lines of symbols in text pages make it feasible to speed up reading, thus speeding up thinking. Thousands of symbols of interest in a book can be read without moving the head.  Generally, for non-text, few interesting objects are found in a static visual field. They enter the eyes at wider intervals. Moreover, there are no constraints for one object to enter the eyes before another does, or for neighboring objects in the sequence to be related. As a result, the objects are unlikely to form a logical sequence. The efficacy (and efficiency) of the sequence is impaired. On the contrary, symbols in text lines are arranged logically[3].

Movies (TVs, and the like) offer continuous interesting pictures, aimed at overcoming the drawbacks of the static visual field. A picture contains fewer objects than a visual field does. A sequence of pictures forms a plot. They greatly strengthen the illiterate mind. However, within a picture, there are a few salient objects. The way objects in the pictures form a sequence is variable. In addition, the objects still have visual complexity. As a result, the efficacy of the movie-made mind lacks behind the literate mind. Movies provide rich content, but are not relied upon for working out solutions. Moreover, incorporated speeches (standing for the texts) are essential for movies, helping viewers in understanding the plot.

Albeit lacking logicality, the illiterate mind is natural and indispensable.  Obviously the merit of non-text is its indefinitely rich content in an instance. Because of the abundance, it is unstable. Also, because of the abundance, it is desirable. The world itself is non-textual in nature. Hence, no pure literate minds exist. The world is encoded in the literate mind. The non-text is often the goal of the literate thinking. Illiterate people could have quicker minds and actions as they react to visual instances without going through procedural textual thinking. Literates possess both an illiterate mind and a literate mind that works in their own ways while interacting with each other. The mind is like strings of symbols with the non-text branching out. 

The above explanations argue that visual features and their sequences have an effect on the efficacy of the mind. The method of study is quite simple: to analyze visual information and the timing it enters the eyes. The principle is “fit for sequential seeing”. It is in line with the “fit for reading” (legibility), which I described in the article “Visual Evolution of Writing Systems towards Latin alphabet - A Hypothesis”.

The real world is non-textual. Humans naturally possess an illiterate mind. With salient-featured symbols and their linear sequences in pages, the literate mind is procedural and logical. Literacy enhances the efficacy of thinking.



[1] In the human-created world, salient visual features are omnipresent, e.g. the shining surfaces, the prints on surfaces, the geometric outlines of products, buildings and dresses. Nonlinguistic elements, such as figures and drawings, often accompany the text. These enhance the illiterate mind. 

[2] Mathematical expressions and computer languages have the same function as that of written language.

[3] Note that the sequential order is demonstrated not only (take English for example) from left to right, then to the next line. Subheadings, formulas, first sentences of paragraphs, etc. form other dimensions of sequences. There are visual indicators, such as additional spaces, larger fonts or different font types, numbering. That is to say, symbols of a common visual characteristic form a sequence, in order to fulfill various functions, such as level of abstraction, mathematical expression, and emphasis. 

About Charley Pein Junior   Electronic Engineer

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Joined APSense since, April 12th, 2014, From Shenzhen, China.

Created on Dec 31st 1969 18:00. Viewed 0 times.


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