# How to Think Differently: Counting & Talking Experiments

• micromass
In summary, according to the author, people have a different way of thinking than her. The experiment she tried where she had to simultaneously count and read a text was more difficult for her than the experiment where she had to simultaneously say sentences out loud. She attributes her inability to do either of the experiments to her OCD tendencies.f

## Can you read and/or speak while counting till 60??

• Total voters
19

#### micromass

Staff Emeritus
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How do you think??

I didn't realize that people have a different way of thinking than me.

So I'm wondering how you think.

Basically, the experiment goes like this: you have to count until 60 in your head (so don't count out loud!). In the first experiment, you need to count until 60 and simultaneously try to read a certain text. In the second experiment, you need to count until 60 and simultaneously say sentences out loud.

Which experiment can you do and which experiment is impossible for you??

I can do neither. I don't feel dumb that I'm not as gifted as Feynman, though...lol.

OK now that I've tried it a bit more, I can read a little. But not at the same time. More like,

Basically, 1 the experiment 2 goes 3 like this: 4 you have 5 to count 6 until 60 7 in your head 8 (so don't 9 count out 10 loud!).

My comprehension is seriously affected (negatively) and the pauses between numbers are not equal.

So I guess my vote stays, No I can't do it.

OK now that I've tried it a bit more, I can read a little. But not at the same time. More like,

My comprehension is seriously affected (negatively) and the pauses between numbers are not equal.

So I guess my vote stays, No I can't do it.

Can you explain a bit why that happens?? When you read, do you also "say" the words in your head??

I can read and count. But it doesn't go fluently at all...

Nope, not that good. But I can do 3 tasks simultaneously. I can write, do math, and take verbal instructions to change the writing and math all at once. It was actually a test that AT&T gave to see how many things you can do at once without making a mistake. They called it "overlapping". In the actual job, you would be talking to the customer, while writing down the conversation with one hand, and pulling up and viewing microfilm with the other. That was a LONG time ago. You had to be finished with everything as soon as you hung up, since the next call would immediately be there. Good old customer service rep in the telephone company business office, did that for 18 months before I got promoted.

But I can do 3 tasks simultaneously. I can write, do math, and take verbal instructions to change the writing and math all at once.

Wow

Can you explain a bit why that happens?? When you read, do you also "say" the words in your head??

I can read and count. But it doesn't go fluently at all...

But years ago I found a different way to think, when I was doing my long physics homework problems. I found a way to turn off the "spoken" language in my head, and just think in...math? It was so much faster!

At that time in my life I was doing this kind of thinking for several hours a day. My language skills deteriorated, though. Especially when I would try to explain to someone how I solved a problem.

I don't think that way very much anymore. But even now, I'm not good at bridging math thinking into words.

But years ago I found a different way to think, when I was doing my long physics homework problems. I found a way to turn off the "spoken" language in my head, and just think in...math? It was so much faster!

At that time in my life I was doing this kind of thinking for several hours a day. My language skills deteriorated, though. Especially when I would try to explain to someone how I solved a problem.

I don't think that way very much anymore. But even now, I'm not good at bridging math thinking into words.
That's cool. I've never had to do the complex math you do.

I was listening to Feynman talk about socks, counting in my head and I also started thinking about what I'd be posting about.

I always found this to be more of a problem than anything else, because at some specific instance, I get lost in a single one of those things I was thinking about.

Also, I can't put my finger on it now, but I know I've done facilitated counting or ordering in similar ways in the past. I'm very OCD about these things because, for god knows what reason, the accuracy of the number of C, F and K mundane things are somehow important! Eventually, I just resort to counting or ordering individually.

i tried it. what i found:

i can read and count simultaneously, but i cannot talk. my internal thoughts have "sound". even typing interferes with this ability, as i apparently compose the words i type by "pre-speaking" them.

When I was in high school, I'd eat while doing math or science homework and listening to the news on TV, and occasionally talk to my parents. I usually needed some background noise, such as the TV or radio, in order to study. Silence was rather irritating.

That's cool. I've never had to do the complex math you do.

What! Don't you both hold physics degrees? :D

But years ago I found a different way to think, when I was doing my long physics homework problems. I found a way to turn off the "spoken" language in my head, and just think in...math? It was so much faster!

At that time in my life I was doing this kind of thinking for several hours a day. My language skills deteriorated, though. Especially when I would try to explain to someone how I solved a problem.

I don't think that way very much anymore. But even now, I'm not good at bridging math thinking into words.

I can't even explain to myself how I solved a problem :rofl:

About thinking in numbers and doing other things, imagine what a test pilot of an F-5 fighter had to do -a long time ago- during the take off roll initiation.

You would put both engines in max power, ignition the afterburner in two stages. The engine responding with just about all parameters, rpm would roll back a few percent momentarely due to back pressure, exhaust temperature would increase but is checked by opening the exhaust nozzle on a certain staged schedule. The test pilot is required to write down all the numbers that go with all these reactions, some 20 in total occurring in some 2-4 seconds, while he is busy with the take off roll, which requires concentrating on the runway and speed /accelleration checking against distance. And obviously he is all alone. Impossible?

That's what it looks like when you're at the start of the training. But the keyword is "training" (in the flight simulator), making things routine by repeating ad nauseum. And eventually after 50 attemps, you manage to get it in the bone marrow, no longer thinking required, it has become second nature. you just registrate things visually and replay the dial reaction mentally -as in the movement and angle of the pointers- when you jot the numbers down.

So that's what Feynman was doing too, he trained himself counting to lower the level of consiousness that is busy counting and freeing RAM for other mental jobs.

30 years ago it was nothing unusual to eat, smoke, do a homework and talk with friends all at the same time during a class break. Now if I have to solve some ease question I am getting distracted by the noise of a power supply fan in my computer (that after closing myself in my room, to cut off everything) :grumpy:

When I was in high school, I'd eat while doing math or science homework and listening to the news on TV, and occasionally talk to my parents.
Me too! I still do it! Though I tend to focus more on my work than eating.

As for reading and counting at the same time: I can't do it as of now. I am pretty tired right now and I don't know if that would affect it. Ehh well I'll figure it out tomorrow! Goodnight/morning all!

I can read, argue with my wife and count to ten all at the same time.

First experiment seems to go fine for a bit, then I get distracted and wander of on a side thought about what I'm reading and forget to count.

Quiet time so no second experiment yet

When I was in high school, I'd eat while doing math or science homework and listening to the news on TV, and occasionally talk to my parents. I usually needed some background noise, such as the TV or radio, in order to study. Silence was rather irritating.

Were you counting the background noise? There is counting in silence too. later.

I didn't realize that people have a different way of thinking than me.

So I'm wondering how you think.

Basically, the experiment goes like this: you have to count until 60 in your head (so don't count out loud!). In the first experiment, you need to count until 60 and simultaneously try to read a certain text. In the second experiment, you need to count until 60 and simultaneously say sentences out loud.

Which experiment can you do and which experiment is impossible for you??

I counted to 5# while watching this vid!

For the first experiment, it's like a piece of cake. I always think of something while reading something else [sometimes not even related to what I think of at all]

30 years ago it was nothing unusual to eat, smoke, do a homework and talk with friends all at the same time during a class break. Now if I have to solve some ease question I am getting distracted by the noise of a power supply fan in my computer (that after closing myself in my room, to cut off everything) :grumpy:
Haha, same here. I used to study and do math and solve problems in the heart of noises, the louder the better! But to be honest, that's not the case when I try to understand and read complex structured texts.

The second experiment seems impossible, but I think one can program his/her mind to do such processes.

I can read Playboy and count at the same time. So far I've gotten up to 2.

Update

Experiment #2: I picked up a fiction book, opened to a random page, and started reading aloud. I then tried to invoke my inner counter. Utter failure. There's a hidden problem here: Reading aloud uses both the visual and auditory parts of the brain.

Experiment #2a: I tried reciting something from memory out loud. Still no go. My counting mechanism is obviously verbal.

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Experiment #2: I picked up a fiction book, opened to a random page, and started reading aloud. I then tried to invoke my inner counter. Utter failure. There's a hidden problem here: Reading aloud uses both the visual and auditory parts of the brain.

I just tried this myself and it seems I can do it. I started my phone timer and then placed it upside down so that I couldn't see the screen and started reading from a book in front of me. I got to 60 when the phone was at 54 but that's close enough. I've recognised being able to do this before, curiously I'm never really aware of counting serially (1, 2, 3, 4 etc) rather at some point I think about how long it's been and a counting number pops up in my head before fading to the background again. I don't know if this is a real thing or if I'm just quite good at guessing lengths of time and my brain tricks me into thinking it's been subconsciously counting the whole time.

I have tried thinking "visually" before (long before reading this thread), that is, attempting to make my thoughts as visual text instead of talking in my head. I could only get a few words before mentally pronouncing them at the same time.

I can read silently while counting out loud to 60. Is that what you meant? That was easy.

I found it much more difficult to speak about something while counting silently to 60.

After giving each method 1 good attempt, I was able to read and count, but not talk out loud and count.

Counting while reading was possible but slowed my reading speed down to probably 25%. It also greatly reduced my comprehension. There's no way I could read something technical and actually understand it while also counting.

I could also speak aloud while counting in my head, but only by using the method Feynman described. I'd never counted like that, and wouldn't have thought to do it before I watched the video.

In both cases it took quite a bit of concentration, and both tasks were slower and more prone to errors.

NO...i cant.. its difficult for me...

During engineering school, I'd generally be smoking, listening to music (often singing along), thinking about how to get a late-night snack, refreshing my coffee, and working out math/physics problems at the same time. Also, taking out time to deal with dorm-mates who were alternately intrusive or just rude. I was SO glad to get out of my freshman year, when I was allowed to live off-campus.