My guest is acclaimed psychologist and longtime Stanford University professor Barbara Tversky who calls on her nearly 50 years in the field of cognitive psychology for an in-depth discussion about how our minds work.
We discuss the Nine Laws of Cognition, why action shapes thought, how the language we use changes what we think, tactics to communicate better on Zoom, why she dove into the work of Leonardo da Vinci, when to use charts and when to avoid them, the importance of perspective taking, learned knowledge vs. earned knowledge, and so much more.
Tversky joined the faculty at Stanford University in 1978, and she is currently an active Emerita Professor of Psychology. She is also a Professor of Psychology at Columbia Teachers College and the author of the 2019 book Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought.
Her work focuses on the relationship between the spaces we inhabit and the actions we perform and how we think, create, and communicate.
Some highlights from our conversation:
People model them differently, but they make models. Again, it’s somewhere around 60% of the people make these models spontaneously. And when they do, they remember better. So those models are spatial motor.
The fact that we use spatial language to describe these things like line and dot seems to, again, indicate that our thinking about it is spatial visual and based on the spatial visual that we’re representing abstract ideas in these simple geometries of lines and dots and boxes.
Well-crafted diagrams are superior to language for explaining many, many kinds of information more directly, more succinctly.
If you look at designers or planners or any kind of committee, you often have a white board or something that’s central on the table that everybody can point at and add to and subtract from. And that a great deal of the communication and the joint understanding is externalized in that way.
You want to look at evidence that challenges your views in order to be calibrated with the world. Otherwise, you fall pray to wishful thinking and terror.
And so much more.
00:00 – Intro
01:51 – Why Tversky pursued work on the mind
05:36 – How space and language impact how we think
12:30 – Visual and spacial communication
40:08 – Gestures and body language
48:20 – How Zoom changes communication
01:00:00 – On teaching and learning
01:13:30 – The 9 Laws of Cognition
01:38:20 – What Tversky learned by studying da Vinci
01:42:25 – On “Cognitive Collages”
1:49:40 – Tversky’s work on perspective-taking
02:05:30 – What success means to Tversky