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motai Jul19-05 01:10 PM

Thought processes
 
I've always wondered whether people are naturally faster than others when it comes to thinking. For instance, in the Planarity mental challenge thread, http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=82571, I was able to finish level 6 in 11 minutes, while my friend was able to finish the same level in 3:45 minutes. We both had not been previously exposed to this game until it came up on PF.

I have noticed similar occurances at math competitions where speed is greatly emphasized.

My friend also coincidentally happens to do very well on standardized tests, so I'm wondering whether there may be a connection between cognitive thought processes and the results of such exams. Or perhaps I'm extending the bridge a little too far and coming to ill-complete conclusions.

Are there, if any, advantages to being methodical in one's thinking? Or is such to be brandished as being "slow" and not desired in any form? I personally cannot see the need to rush every calculation to risking it being wrong in some fundamental way.

It might be desired in the fast paced world of business, but it may not be necessary for science and engineering. And I've heard reports on NPR recently that Los Alamos may become privatized, would this mean that scientists will have to work to extreme deadlines and rush their work for the sake of profit?

jma2001 Jul19-05 02:36 PM

Good question, I don't have any answers, but it is certainly true that standardized tests like the SAT and GRE put a lot of emphasis on the ability to solve problems quickly, which I always thought was a little unfair.

I wouldn't mind seeing this thread moved to a more appropriate subforum, to allow a serious discussion to develop.

Danger Jul19-05 02:57 PM

:uhh: What's a thought process? :confused:
I've probably had one sometime, but I don't remember it. :redface:

kaos Jul19-05 05:25 PM

Hey motai , at least ur way better than me.I couldnt get past lvl 5. :(.
I think i read somewhere that ppl who scored higher in IQ test had more efficient minds, that they use less parts of the brain for a particular problem than ppl who scored lower(brain activity more localized). Is this true??

fileen Jul19-05 10:15 PM

I know that part of the I.Q. test is speed. I know that no matter how manny answers you get correct most of it is timed, and being slow will lower your score. Im a slower person myself. I take a long time to do think things out. I like to see all sides of something before I make a decision about it. I guess rather than slow I am more the type of person who puts all effort into everything. I dont rush. I personally would rather get more right in more time than less right in less time. people are quicker with different kinds of thinking too.

Nomy-the wanderer Jul20-05 04:46 AM

Quote:

Quote by motai
Are there, if any, advantages to being methodical in one's thinking? Or is such to be brandished as being "slow" and not desired in any form? I personally cannot see the need to rush every calculation to risking it being wrong in some fundamental way.

Well i donno but for ex. i'm a fast thinking person, if we are having exams, i'd be finishing first(the whole exam, not gettingg tired or having no clues) of course thinking fast sometimes can provide errors but the same rapidity gives u the chance to fix them in a minute...
Cause i've a certain way of understanding things and reacting to them, i understand things quickly and that gives me more time to react, and my reaction comes quicker cause it's a sort of a habit.

But if u r used to be slow, i don't think there's anything u can do about it, i believe it's a nature, iv'e been that fast eversince i was a kid, and i am still fast, and i'm trying to slow to reduce my mistakes and errors...But i'm not able to, also it's not just thinking fast, when i'm thinking of a problem, many answers and more questions appear to my head, it creates confusion but u quickly can reach the final answer..Or faster than others.

There r people who think of solutions in a method of one step at a time, they track one line untill they get the final answer or figure that it won't lead them anywhere and hence start thinking of another path..So this is much slower

In level 6 i finished in less than 2 minutes, it could be because of methodical thinking as u were saying because by level five solving this was a matter of time, and i've already developped a method for doin it...

And that's right fileen, i've never made all the correct answers in an iq test, but i get higher rates than some people who do it slower but all correct.

But being slow and accurate is needed, as much as being fast with an error percentage is needed also...

One more thing as a fast type of people :biggrin: I think also the amount of errors can be reduced by experience. But also thinkign fast gives u better chances of solving stuff u see for the 1st time in the given amount of time..

motai Jul20-05 09:52 AM

Quote:

Quote by fileen
I know that part of the I.Q. test is speed. I know that no matter how manny answers you get correct most of it is timed, and being slow will lower your score. Im a slower person myself. I take a long time to do think things out. I like to see all sides of something before I make a decision about it. I guess rather than slow I am more the type of person who puts all effort into everything. I dont rush. I personally would rather get more right in more time than less right in less time. people are quicker with different kinds of thinking too.

I remember taking an elementary school I.Q. test a long time ago. Apparently I was a little slower than the rest of the students, and was unable to be placed into the "gifted" program. I remembered being extremely distraught over it (and for a while, traumatized), becuase I knew that I should be up there with them. Because I have a tendency to be methodical, and the current precedence of speed in modern academia, I have often wondered if this trait may be disadvantagous to students who think like such. There also seems to be a... sort of "stigma" (if that is the right word for it) against people who happen to be "slow", regardless of their intelligence or desire to learn.

Quote:

Quote by Nomy-the wanderer
But if u r used to be slow, i don't think there's anything u can do about it, i believe it's a nature, iv'e been that fast eversince i was a kid, and i am still fast, and i'm trying to slow to reduce my mistakes and errors...But i'm not able to, also it's not just thinking fast, when i'm thinking of a problem, many answers and more questions appear to my head, it creates confusion but u quickly can reach the final answer..Or faster than others.

I have noticed that this is usually what is required the most on standardized tests. With the exception of a few AP tests, which require higher level thinking that usually takes a little longer to process (analysis and synthesis of given information to tie things together), the standard run-of-the-mill standardized test (and even some regular school exams as well, depending on the individual test itself) generally boils down to rehashing of information, but done at an extremely rapid pace. Is this supposed to somehow prove that one is "smarter" if he/she can quickly calculate topics such as elementary school arithmetic at a fast pace? How would this, say, help a team of professors who are working on an extremely intricate and detailed problem where one error can screw up their entire work?

Quote:

Quote by Nomy-the wanderer
But being slow and accurate is needed, as much as being fast with an error percentage is needed also...

I can see the role of accuracy in the professional community, but the speed part I do not understand in that situation. It may help in secondary and post-secondary education, but I find a situation unlikely that a professional physicist/mathematican will have to scramble post-haste to get a calculation done on a deadline. But perhaps I am wrong, I do not know for sure, since I haven't been there.

Quote:

Quote by Nomy-the wanderer
One more thing as a fast type of people I think also the amount of errors can be reduced by experience. But also thinkign fast gives u better chances of solving stuff u see for the 1st time in the given amount of time..

I'm not sure of that as well. To a point, perhaps. I have been doing the same calculations for years now and it still takes me a while to figure out things, and while my speed has increased slightly, it hasn't gotten to the point of matching some of my peers. When I approach a problem for the first time, I always re-read it so that I understand the given question, then cross-reference information in my mind so nothing gets confused. Yes, it does take longer, but it ensures that I wont get stumble on something trivial like a negative sign in place of a positive sign.

Nomy-the wanderer Jul20-05 12:36 PM

Quote:

Quote by motai
There also seems to be a... sort of "stigma" (if that is the right word for it) against people who happen to be "slow", regardless of their intelligence or desire to learn.

Well there's nothing wrong with being slow, but if u did the same stuff correctly in a shorter time, than that gives u more credit...That's noly normal, we were running in a competition and u were slower and i was faster and i was aware of it and used it and arrived first, that would give me the medal, no??


Quote:

Quote by motai
I have noticed that this is usually what is required the most on standardized tests. With the exception of a few AP tests, which require higher level thinking that usually takes a little longer to process (analysis and synthesis of given information to tie things together).

That was what i'm talking about, the tests that need time...Others in school needed information not much thinking there and it was a question of typing fast! But at college it's a different level there, there r still those running tests, but there r others that requires deep thinking and and need u to slow down, and time is never sufficient, if u solved all ur problems in that tests quickly and accurately with a small error percentage let's say 1% , u r goin to get higher grades from the one who was a bit slower and didn't complete 10 % of the test...

Quote:

Quote by motai
I can see the role of accuracy in the professional community, but the speed part I do not understand in that situation. It may help in secondary and post-secondary education, but I find a situation unlikely that a professional physicist/mathematican will have to scramble post-haste to get a calculation done on a deadline. But perhaps I am wrong, I do not know for sure, since I haven't been there..

In a professional community, speed is needed in some critical positions, in general, and i'm not talking about a mathematician who's trying to figure out some new theory or a physicist because these people have all the time in the world...

But if u were an engineer working with real world applications and a jam happened, it'd be much better if u had quicker reflexes...Of course u need to be accurate but i'm giving an error percentage just to give speed the benefit of the doubt...Fast thinkers get used to it, i learned that i should concentrate better if i didn't want to make stupid mistakes, concentration would help me better than reading a question 10 times with an absent mind, and still i'd get the same result, and that's how u fix ur problem.

Quote:

Quote by motai
I'm not sure of that as well. To a point, perhaps. I have been doing the same calculations for years now and it still takes me a while to figure out things, and while my speed has increased slightly, it hasn't gotten to the point of matching some of my peers. When I approach a problem for the first time, I always re-read it so that I understand the given question, then cross-reference information in my mind so nothing gets confused. Yes, it does take longer, but it ensures that I wont get stumble on something trivial like a negative sign in place of a positive sign.

People may think quicker and still figure it out the same way do, but if u r doin it slower it means u r smart enough to know that if u tried to speed up, the result won't be satisfying.
But there r people who try to force themselves to go faster and they end up with wasting their time, trying to finish things quickly..


But in the end it's kinda relative, depends on what u do, and also depends on the other candidates...One mroe thing left to add, being faster is an intellectual gift, it's important not to waste it. But that doesn't mean that u r not intelligent if u were slow.

motai Jul21-05 02:38 PM

Quote:

Quote by Nomy-the wanderer
Well there's nothing wrong with being slow, but if u did the same stuff correctly in a shorter time, than that gives u more credit...That's noly normal, we were running in a competition and u were slower and i was faster and i was aware of it and used it and arrived first, that would give me the medal, no??

What I'm trying to say is that there is more to advanced subjects such as mathematics or physics than just speed alone. It isn't the primary factor in determining the success level of a student. I would rather rate level of understanding and knowledge, and the interest that the student has in such topics, as a primary determinant of a student's ability to succeed.

Quote:

Quote by Nomy-the wanderer
That was what i'm talking about, the tests that need time...Others in school needed information not much thinking there and it was a question of typing fast! But at college it's a different level there, there r still those running tests, but there r others that requires deep thinking and and need u to slow down, and time is never sufficient, if u solved all ur problems in that tests quickly and accurately with a small error percentage let's say 1% , u r goin to get higher grades from the one who was a bit slower and didn't complete 10 % of the test...

True, I'm not trying to debate the usefulness of the small error percentage when going at a faster pace. I'm simply trying to determine whether methodical thinking can be disadvantageous from an educational viewpoint. It is clear that methodical thinking is a great advantage for working professionals who cannot afford, either on behalf of themselves, or the company/government/organizations they are working for, to mess up with their calculations. Even a 1% error percentage may be enough to destroy months of painstaking work. So if caution is required in the professional field, why is it left to wild abandon in (most) testing situations? (Disregarding the few tests that need a methodical approach to finish problems

Quote:

Quote by Nomy-the wanderer
In a professional community, speed is needed in some critical positions, in general, and i'm not talking about a mathematician who's trying to figure out some new theory or a physicist because these people have all the time in the world...

But if u were an engineer working with real world applications and a jam happened, it'd be much better if u had quicker reflexes...Of course u need to be accurate but i'm giving an error percentage just to give speed the benefit of the doubt...Fast thinkers get used to it, i learned that i should concentrate better if i didn't want to make stupid mistakes, concentration would help me better than reading a question 10 times with an absent mind, and still i'd get the same result, and that's how u fix ur problem.

I understand where you are coming from, obviously it may be necessary for engineers if they are working on a fixed time schedule and have a lot of work to do. Concentration, however, parallels the thought processes that I originally mentioned in the first post. While concentration and the actual thought process closely follow together, even the most ably concentrated person, who is totally fixated on getting his/her task done, can still accomplish tasks slower or faster than his/her peers. Perhaps thinks just "click" faster for those faster-minded individuals?

Quote:

Quote by Nomy-the wanderer
But in the end it's kinda relative, depends on what u do, and also depends on the other candidates...One mroe thing left to add, being faster is an intellectual gift, it's important not to waste it. But that doesn't mean that u r not intelligent if u were slow.

Alas, I have seen this as well. People who would make excellent scientists end up going into other fields that don't utilize their strengths. I'm not saying that it is a "waste" per se, but it is a little disappointing.

I still wonder why swift calculations seem to be more desired in the educational community than a methodical, accurate approach. I mean, shouldn't scientists be given the time to think things through? Modern computers can swiftly crunch algorithms at several billion operations per second...

Nomy-the wanderer Jul21-05 05:23 PM

Quote:

Quote by motai
What I'm trying to say is that there is more to advanced subjects such as mathematics or physics than just speed alone. It isn't the primary factor in determining the success level of a student. I would rather rate level of understanding and knowledge, and the interest that the student has in such topics, as a primary determinant of a student's ability to succeed.

I totally agree, it can't be just speed, what i wanted to say was that speed is an enhanced factor, i've a professor that was working for internartional institutes, one that ahve a great reputation, and still he was very slow, slower than some of us and that was a reason that students underestimated him, but he's a pure genious, he just needs some more time...I donno if he really can't do it in a shorter time or if he just tries to be more accurate, on both cases i've huge respect for him...


Quote:

Quote by motai
Even a 1% error percentage may be enough to destroy months of painstaking work. So if caution is required in the professional field, why is it left to wild abandon in (most) testing situations? (Disregarding the few tests that need a methodical approach to finish problems

I agree for sure 1% errors is not required sometimes, but u oppose speed with being methodical, speed is actually a result of being methodical...Working in a random way or approach would only slow u down..
Sometimes there r speedy accurates, it's pretty relative to the person and to the work field..So there's not much for me to say about that.


Quote:

Quote by motai
even the most ably concentrated person, who is totally fixated on getting his/her task done, can still accomplish tasks slower or faster than his/her peers. Perhaps thinks just "click" faster for those faster-minded individuals?

Well if u r slow that doesn't mean u r concentrating more than a faster person, beign slow or fast can't be enhanced, but for a fast person concentration is needed to avoid the error percentage...For a slow person (i donno) he mostly re reads questions and always revise his solutions, so if he wasn't concentrated the 1st time, he'll the 2nd time, or probably he reads very carefully and for that he slows down..

It's not bothering me, but u r right people underestimate slower people, although they might be very very intelligent, being fast or slow doesn't mean that u would probably understand something mroe than others, but it means that u r goin to learn it faster...going deeper depends more on ur intelligence.

Quote:

Quote by motai
I still wonder why swift calculations seem to be more desired in the educational community than a methodical, accurate approach. I mean, shouldn't scientists be given the time to think things through? Modern computers can swiftly crunch algorithms at several billion operations per second...

My personal opinion that u don't need speed for calculations because there r things created specially for that as u said, but still it's ur decision, and it depends on how fast u'll react...

One professor in my 1st day at college said an engineer= time and money saving...And he also said an engineer is worthless unless he was accurate in his calculations..Even though he doesn't have to work his mind on that...

I'm not sure why but some professors define engineers as numbers...
I personally hate numbers, but i'm accurate in my calculations cause i need accuracy in everything...

Requiring speed in everything could be a luxury, something for people to brag about..But what i'm sure of and i suppose u r agreeing with me that it can be required sometimes..

zoobyshoe Jul21-05 10:47 PM

According to a biography of Feynman I read, he had the ability to solve all kinds of problems very quickly because he knew what was and wasn't relevant to extrapolate from a word problem. Hearing it, he could jump over all extraneous detail.

Autistic Savants have something like this ability as well, except limited to a more narrow range. Within their field of expertize they can calculate so quickly it seems magical.

An experiment was done to see if a non-autistic person could learn to calculate at savant speeds. The subject was a college math student with high grades and good study habits. They taught him the essentials of calendar calulations, and he began drilling. What day of the week was July 21 1923? Questions like that.

He got better and better at it, but still, always had to think it through.

One day something happened, and he crossed a threshold: he could suddenly do it instantly with no conscious deliberation. He was as good at it as any autistic savant.

So, there is a difference between someone who rushes through a calculation recklessly risking a mistake, and someone who has a collection of deeply ingrained, unconscious calculating habits that allows them to do things like this quickly and accurately.

If you haven't cultivated the latter, take it slow and steady. Accuracy trumps speed in all cases.


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