People vary greatly in what they notice. Different things capture our attention. We focus our attention on different things depending upon our experiences, knowledge, values and goals. As a result, we will see certain aspects and ignore others. Our capacity to process information is limited. Information organises itself into patterns like magnetic marbles. The handling of information in the mind occurs in patterns. Patterns of regularity, recursively, and predictability.
We take shortcuts to deal with the richness of information. The shortcuts are based on a complex interaction between assumption and previous experiences. We notice familiar cues and we use these to arrange the information in new patterns. Stargazing and looking for constellations is easier if you know what pattern to expect.
Patterns are Everywhere
Our world if filled with patterns. We have cutting, crochet, and knitting patterns. Traffic jams in the morning rush hour have its rather annoying pattern. A chosen gambit in chess evokes a standard pattern of response. A higher jumper takes on the height by using a specific calculated movement pattern. These examples are all sensory, and they can be observed. We hear, see or feel them. There are also abstract patterns that can only be discovered by a careful observation.
A company has a cost pattern and a distribution pattern. There is a demand pattern of a particular group of consumers. During the year, a warehouse has a certain pattern of consumption of materials. In an argument, a certain thought pattern can be recognised.
The Details and the Whole
M.C. Escher’s drawings are masterpieces that challenge your view upon the world. In some drawings, you look at the details and you cannot see the whole. And if you look at the whole thing, you cannot distinguish the details. Such a delusion appears also in daily life. When we are looking at the separate events or phenomena, we see not the regularity of the recurring pattern. If we look at every single movement of a footballer, we see not its characteristic movement pattern. If we pay attention to the individual player, we see not the game or pattern of the team.
The binding regularity
In patterns, the recurrent regularity is characteristic, despite the variations on the theme. There is a something of a rule or law. However, it is not always obvious and you have to sit down and make a deliberate effort to unveil the regularity.
The numbers 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18, 29 seem at first glance to have no logical connection. However, each number after the preceding two is determined by the sum of them.
The series 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36. . . etc. have as a mechanism the squares of the successive numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 etc. . . But you can also say that each subsequent square arises from the prior, squared plus two times the square root of the above plus one. Try it!
A similar phenomenon occurs with fractals. A few lines of code for a computer generate the most intricate patterns.
The above examples show that complex cases often can be traced to simple repetitive operations. The trick is to discover that regularity. Whenever this happens, then that will happen, it is the same logic what leads to a self-organising system of information.
There are also patterns of thinking. New information in our brains gets always in some way associated or combined with all other available information. The already existing information then in turn determines what new information is observed.
The processing of information in our brains has a feedback effect: new observations fit into existing frameworks, which in itself controls the observation.
Our brain is a self-organising, patterning system. We describe a thinking pattern as the regularity with which information organises itself into something meaningful. The way we store information in our memory can be compared with magnetic marbles. Magnetic marbles are grouped in clusters. They make associations and combinations. As such, they contain information. However, non-magnetic marbles, like data in a computer memory, remain at the same spot where they were put down, and they do not form meaningful connections with other marbles by themselves.
The human memory is different from a library where the books are located on a fixed known position. In the human brain books locate themselves in meaningful clusters. Automatically by associating to other already existing books in the brain, all by itself. Like magnetic marbles.
For another demonstration of this powerful concept, see here.
The way information organises itself in the brain has profound consequences for our perception, and thus our Thinkibility!
Photo: Fractal 7 by Suvro Datta