How We See Language

Neuroskeptic presents the case study of “Nissim,” a man who suffered a stroke that gave him a peculiar form of aphasia, or the a disturbance of the comprehension and formulation of language. He remained capable of abstract language but struggled to name “imageable” words:

Given a ball, he made gestures of throwing and catching it, but all he could say was: “Something accurate, swift, accurate… Something accurate that can serve him”. His appropriate gestures show that he understood what a ball is, but couldn’t find the words to express it – except abstract ones.

What might his case suggest about the connection between language and visualization?

[I]t makes you think: do we rely on visual imagery when it’s available? When we know what something looks like, does that visualization let us ‘get away with’ not knowing more abstract facts about it? Might seeing someone’s face make it harder to know or think about them in certain ways?