A Wandering mind

In my last post, I wrote about Vince.  I suspected dysnomia, which turned out to be the topic of that post.

It also turned out that he was no more dysnomic than a rhetorician. He simply couldn’t recall that one name (Charles Dickens). Otherwise, he was fluent and linguistically sophisticated.

But he did turn out to be what I have come to call the “unconventional thinker”. I will be writing about this sort of learner in future posts quite often because they are very interesting and very much misunderstood. I alluded to this sort of mind in a previous post.

Suffice it to say at this juncture that Vince could generate multiple plausible responses to any test stimuli that permitted some degree of response latitude. So, while the answer to “What is two plus two?” is highly constrained, the answer to the question , “In what way is first and last alike?” is not. There are a number of correct responses to this question (e.g.  they’re both “extremes” or they’re both “ends”.)

But what Vince could do effortlessly was conjure a range of plausible (or possible) responses to items that seemed to have a very limited range of appropriate answers. This capacity to think discursively (non-linearly) appeared most strikingly in his efforts to assemble a series of pictures (presented in mixed-up order) into a “sensible story”.

The IQ subtest used, called Picture Arrangement, has been deleted from the most recent IQ battery; nonetheless I use it to assess just this type of thinking. Imagine, then,  a five-panel cartoon strip, without words, that has been cut up into individual panels and then presented in a disarranged sequence . The examinee, in this case, Vince, is told to “put the pictures as fast as you can into an order that tells  a sensible story.”

Vince spent a great deal of time with these items, shifting and repositioning the panels until he settled on one that he considered correct. But in nearly every case, his facial expressions and body language emanated uncertainty even as he said, “Done.“… as if he wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he was wrong.

I talked to Vince about his delays and uncertainties, asked him what it was about this task that seemed to confuse him. After a moment’s reflection, he said, “ I just could see so many different ways to put the pictures together.” Asked to give an example, he selected one of the card sequences he’d already done. Then he set about explaining how the features of each panel could mean something slightly different…depending on the assumptions made about the rest of the pictures.

He subsequently demonstrated no less than five different ways in which the pictures could be sequenced and explained how each was plausible, even if some were unlikely. “I sorta’ guessed which sequence was right because really they all could have been right.”

Vince turned out to have an IQ at the 98th%ile; his Verbal powers were no less than gifted. In effect, then, it was the very “generativity” of his intelligence, his enormous powers of perception, inferential reasoning, fund of information and abstracting capacities that he deployed in extraordinary idea proliferation.

Consider the simple sentence,”Mr Jones sold his house by the beach.” Consider then a multiple choice question like ,”Where was Mr. Jones’ house located ?” 1) in the city 2) out of town 3) by the beach 4) in the suburbs.

If you picked #3, you’d probably be right. But it could also be any of the others. Why? Because it may have been the case that Mr. Jones was standing by the beach when he sold his house that was #1, #2 or #4. That is, Mr. Jones’s house was nowhere near the beach though  he did contract to sell it as he stood on the beach.

Needless to say, Vince “hates” multiple choice tests. “I see more than one answer,” he says. He also dislikes essay writing: “I come up with so many ideas, good ones. But I can’t decide how to organize them.  I don’t know what the teacher expects. My teachers say I ramble, include too many details and the connections between my ideas aren’t clear to them.”

Vince dislikes the authoritarianism of text books, of grammar rules, of the idea that are absolute scientific “truths”. He’ll dislike formal education until he gets to Graduate School… maybe.

But he’ll be an innovator, a discoverer…unless education defeats him.

I’ll be writing about this type of person, this wandering mind,  often.


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