未登录

开通VIP,畅享免费电子书等14项超值服

开通VIP
双语:自闭学者的大脑 一个超常思考者的建议

Daniel Tammet is the author of two books, Born on a Blue Day and Embracing the Wide Sky, which comes out this month. He’s also a linguist and holds the European record for reciting the first 22,514 decimal points of the mathematical constant Pi. Mind Matters editor Jonah Lehrer chats with Tammet about how his memory works, why the IQ test is overrated, and a possible explanation for extraordinary feats of creativity.

LEHRER: Your recent memoir, Born on a Blue Day, documented your life as an autistic savant. You describe, for example, how you are able to quickly learn new languages, and remember scenes from years earlier in cinematic detail. Are you ever surprised by your own abilities?

TAMMET: I have always thought of abstract information—numbers for example—in visual, dynamic form. Numbers assume complex, multi-dimensional shapes in my head that I manipulate to form the solution to sums, or compare when determining whether they are prime or not.

For languages, I do something similar in terms of thinking of words as belonging to clusters of meaning so that each piece of vocabulary makes sense according to its place in my mental architecture for that language. In this way I can easily discern relationships between words, which helps me to remember them.

In my mind, numbers and words are far more than squiggles of ink on a page. They have form, color, texture and so on. They come alive to me, which is why as a young child I thought of them as my “friends.” I think this is why my memory is very deep, because the information is not static. I say in my book that I do not crunch numbers (like a computer). Rather, I dance with them.

None of this is particularly surprising for me. I have always thought in this way so it seems entirely natural. What I do find surprising is that other people do not think in the same way. I find it hard to imagine a world where numbers and words are not how I experience them!

LEHRER: In Embracing the Wide Sky you criticize the IQ test as a vast oversimplification of intelligence. You write: "There is no such thing as proofs of intelligence, only intelligence." Could you explain what you mean by that?

TAMMET: When I was a child, my behavior was far from being what most people would label “intelligent.” It was often limited, repetitive and anti-social. I could not do many of the things that most people take for granted, such as looking someone in the eye or deciphering a person’s body language, and only acquired these skills with much effort over time. I also struggled to learn many of the techniques for spelling or doing sums taught in class because they did not match my own style of thinking.

I know from my own experience that there is much more to “intelligence” than an IQ number. In fact, I hesitate to believe that any system could really reflect the complexity and uniqueness of one person’s mind, or meaningfully describe the nature of his or her potential.

The bell curve distribution for IQ scores tells us that two thirds of the world’s population have an IQ somewhere between 85 and 115. This means that some four and a half billion people around the globe share just 31 numerical values (“He’s a 94,” “You’re a 110,” ”I’m a 103”), equivalent to 150 million people worldwide sharing the same IQ score. This sounds a lot to me like astrology, which lumps everyone into one of twelve signs of the zodiac.

Even if we cannot measure and assign precise values to it in any “scientific” way, I do very much think that “intelligence” exists and that it varies in the actions of each person. The concept is a useful and important one, for scientists and educators alike. My objection is to thinking that any ‘test’ of a person’s intelligence is up to the task. Rather we should focus on ensuring that the fundamentals (literacy, etc.) are well taught, and that each child’s diverse talents are encouraged and nourished.

LEHRER: You also describe some recent scientific studies on what happens inside the brain when we learn a second language. Do you think this recent research should change the way we teach languages?

TAMMET: Thanks to the advances in modern scanning technology we know more today than ever before just how what’s happening inside the brain when we’re learning a language. That we can speak at all is nothing less than an astonishing cognitive achievement.

Learning a second language, particularly when that language is not one that the person has to use on a regular basis, is an extremely difficult task. I think it is a mistake to underestimate the challenges of it. Students should be aware that the difficulties they will face are inherent in what they are doing, and not any failing on their part.

One of the most interesting scientific discoveries about how language works (and how it could be taught) is “phonaesthesia”—that certain sounds have a meaningful relationship to the things they describe. For example, in many languages the vowel sound “i” is associated with smallness—little, tiny, petit, ni?o, and so on—whereas the sound “a” or “o” is associated with largeness—grand, gross, gordo, etc. Such links have been found in many of the world’s languages. These findings strongly imply that learners would benefit from learning to draw on their own natural intuitions to help them understand and remember many of the foreign words that they come across.

Another finding, by cognitive psychologists Lera Boroditsky, Lauren A. Schmidt, and Webb Phillips, might also offer a useful insight into an important part of learning a second language. The researchers asked German and Spanish native speakers to think of adjectives to describe a range of objects, such as a key. The German speakers, for whom the word “key” is masculine, gave adjectives such as “hard,” “heavy,” “jagged,” and “metal,” whereas the Spanish speakers, for whom “key” is feminine, gave responses like : “golden,” “little,” ”lovely” and “shiny.” This result suggests that native speakers of languages that have gendered nouns remember the different categorization for each by attending to differing characteristics, depending on whether the noun is “male” or ”female.” It is plausible that second-language learners could learn to perceive various nouns in a similar way to help them remember the correct gender.

Regardless of how exactly a person learns a second language, we do know for sure that it is very good for your brain. There is good evidence that language learning helps individuals to abstract information, focus attention, and may even help ward off age-related declines in mental performance.

LEHRER: You advocate a theory of creativity defined by a cognitive property you call "hyper-connectivity." Could you explain?

TAMMET: I am unusually creative—from visualizing numerical landscapes composed of random strings of digits to the invention of my own words and concepts in numerous languages. Where does this creativity come from?

My brain has developed a little differently from most other people’s. Aside from my high-functioning autism, I also suffered from epileptic seizures as a young child. In my book, I propose a link between my brain’s functioning and my creative abilities based on the property of ‘hyper-connectivity’.

In most people, the brain’s major functions are performed separately and not allowed to interfere with one another. Scientists have found that in some brain disorders however, including autism and epilepsy, cross-communication can occur between normally distinct brain regions. My theory is that rare forms of creative imagination are the result of an extraordinary convergence of normally disconnected thoughts, memories, feelings and ideas. Indeed, such “hyper-connectivity” within the brain may well lie at the heart of all forms of exceptional creativity.

LEHRER: How were you able to recite from memory the first 22,514 numbers of Pi? And do you have advice for people looking to improve their own memory?

TAMMET: As I have already mentioned, numbers to me have their own shapes, colors and textures. Various studies have long demonstrated that being able to visualize information makes it easier to remember. In addition, my number shapes are semantically meaningful, which is to say that I am able to visualize their relationship to other numbers. A simple example would be the number 37, which is lumpy like oatmeal, and 111 which is similarly lumpy but also round like the number three (being 37 x 3). Where you might see an endless string of random digits when looking at the decimals of Pi, my mind is able to “chunk” groups of these numbers spontaneously into meaningful visual images that constitute their own hierarchy of associations.

Using your imagination is one very good way to improve your own memory. For example, actors who have to remember hundreds or even thousands of lines of a script do so by actively analysing them and imagining the motivations and goals of their characters. Many also imagine having to explain the meaning of their lines to another person, which has been shown to significantly improve their subsequent recall.

Here is another tip from my book. Researchers have found that you are more likely to remember something if the place or situation in which you are trying to recall the information bears some resemblance—color or smell, for example—to where you originally learned it. A greater awareness therefore of the context in which we acquire a particular piece of information can help improve our ability to remember it later on.

Are you a scientist? Have you recently read a peer-reviewed paper that you want to write about? Then contact Mind Matters editor Jonah Lehrer, the science writer behind the blog The Frontal Cortex and the book Proust Was a Neuroscientist. His next book, How We Decide, will be available in February 2009.


Daniel Tamet是两部书的作者——《生于蔚蓝的日子》和本月要出版的《拥抱广阔天空》。他精通数门语言,同时,保持着背诵圆周率的小数点后22514位的欧洲纪录。《心智问题》的编辑Jonah Lehrer 将与Tammet聊聊关于他的记忆是如何工作的,为什么IQ测验被高估了以及他对创造力的超常技艺的可能解释。

Lehere:你最近的回忆录《生于蔚蓝的日子》将你的生活描述为一个自闭学者。例如,你描述了你如何能快速学会几种新语言,并且记住很久以前像影片场景般的生活细节。你曾经对你自己的能力感到惊讶吗?

Tammet:我用视觉的,动态的方式考虑抽象的信息,比如数字。我操纵着的数字在我脑中呈现出复杂,多面的形状以便找到算算数的方法,或者当决定它们是否是质数时以便比较。

对于语言,就将单词看作属于意义的群集看来,我做的事情很相似为的是根据对那种语言的词汇在的我的心灵建筑的位置理解每一条词汇的。用这种方法,我能够轻而易举地看清单词间的联系。这帮我记住他们。

在我的脑海中,数字和单词远不是纸上的墨水印。他们有形状,颜色,材质等等。它们对我来说是活生生的,这就是为什么在我是个小孩的时候,我把它们看作是我的“朋友”。我想这也是为什么我的记忆如此之深刻,因为信息不是静态的。我在我的书中说我并不吞吐数字(就像一台计算机)。而是,与它们共舞。

这一切都不令我惊讶。我时刻都是这么想的,所以这看起来很自然。真正使我感到吃惊的是其他人并不也用这种方式思考。我发现很难想象一个世界,那里数字和单词都不是我所经历的那样!

Lehrer:在《拥抱广阔天空》中,你批评IQ测验是一种对智力的过分简化。你写到:“智力是存在的,但它是不可测试的。”你能解释下你的意思是什么?

Tammet:当我是小孩的时候,我的行为远不是大多数人贴为“智力”的那些。我的行为是受限的,反复的和反社会的。我不能做到多大多数人认为理所当然的事情,就像对视进行交流或是解析一个人的肢体语言,并且我需要花很多努力与精力习得这些技巧。因为它们不合我的思维风格,所以,课堂上,我要与学习许多教授的拼写和做算术的技巧做斗争。

我从我的经历得知“智力”远比IQ分数有更多的意义。事实上,我对任何能真实反映一个人的大脑的复杂性和独特性或者有意义地描述他/她的潜在本质的体系将信将疑。

IQ分数的正态分布图告诉我们世界上三分二的人智力在85-115之间。这意味着约45亿人分享着31个数值,(他是94,你是110,我是103),等于1.5亿人分享相同的IQ值。这听起来让我觉得像是占星术,把每个人分入黄道十二宫中。

即使我们不能用任何“科学的”方法测量和分配精密的数值,但我确实相信“智力”的存在而且我相信“智力”在每个人的行为中变化着。这是个对科学家和教育者一类的人有用的,也是重要的概念。我反对的是认为人的智力的任何“测验”取决于这份任务。相对而言,我们应该集中精力于确保基础(文学,等等)要打扎实,鼓励和培养每个孩子不同的天赋。

Lehrer:你也谈到了一些关于当我们学习第二语言时,大脑内在发生什么的最新的科学研究。你认为最新的研究应该改变我们教授语言的方法吗?

Tammet:由于现代扫描技术的提升,我们今天比起曾经知道得更多关于,当我们学习一门语言时,我们的大脑是如何进行工作的。我们人类会说话本身,就是一项认知上的惊人成就。

学习第二外语,特别是当那门语言不是人定期要使用的,那会是特别困难的任务。我想低估这样的挑战是错误的。学生应该注意到他们将面对的困难是他们正在做的事所固有的,并且这不是他们的短处。

最有趣的关于语言如何工作(和教学是如何可能的)的科学研究之一是“音义联觉”——确定的声音和一个它所描述的事物有一个有意义的联系。举例来说,在许多语言中,元音“i” 与小相联系,如little,tiny,petit,nino等等——反之,元音“a”,“o”与大有关,如grand,gross,gordo等等。像这样的联系已经在许多语言中发现。这些发现强烈地暗示学习者会从学习听从他们的自然直觉来帮助他们理解和记忆许多他们遇到的外国单词中获益。

认知心理学家Lera Boroditsky,Lauren A.Schmidt 和Webb Phillips的另一项发现可能提供一种对学习第二语言的重要部分的深刻理解。研究者要求德国和西班牙当地人考虑用形容词来描述一系列的物品,如钥匙。德国人,对他们而言,钥匙是阳性的,他们给出了诸如:“硬的”,“重的”,“带齿的”,“金属的”,相反,西班牙人,对他们而言,钥匙是阴性的,给出了:“金的”,“小的”,“可爱的”,“发光的”这样的回答。这个结果暗示带性状的语言的当地使用者记住不同的每个词的类型,这通过区分特征,依靠这个词是“阳性”或“阴性”。第二语言学习者能够学习理解不同的名词也是用相同的方法来帮助记忆正确的性状,这似乎是真的。

无论一个人学第二语言学得多精细,我们确实相信这对你的大脑有好处。有明确的证据显示语言学习帮助个体获取信息,提高注意以及帮助避免在与年龄有关的精神表现方面的衰退。

Lehrer:你呼吁一种定义为认知特性的创造力理论,你称之为“超链接性”。你能解释下吗?

Tammet:我时常很有创造力——从视觉化由随意的数位串组成的数值图景到在许多语言中发明我自己的用语和概念。这种创造力从何而来?

我的大脑开发与大多数其他人的不同。除了我的高功能的自闭症外,我小时候也患有癫痫症。在我的书中,我提出一种在我的大脑功能和我的创造能力之间的联系,那是基于“超链接性”的性质。

大多数人,大脑的主要功能是分散工作的,并且不允许互相干扰。科学家发现在一些大脑障碍中,包括自闭症和癫痫,交叉通讯能够正常地出现在不同的大脑区域间。我的理论是创造性想象的罕见形式是一种超常的由通常不连贯的思维、记忆、感觉、和观念收敛的结果。确实,脑中这样的“超链接性”是所有不同形式的独特创造力的关键。

Lehrer:你是如何能背诵圆周率小数点后22514位数的?你有没有给大家的提高记忆力的一些建议?

Tammet:正如我已经谈到的,数字对我来说有他们自己的形状,颜色和质地。一些研究已经证明了视觉化信息的能力有助于记忆更简单。另外,我的数字形状是语义上的意义,也就是说我有能力视觉化他们与其他数字的关系。一个简单的实例,如37是燕麦片一样的团块状,111也是团块但也像数字3一样圆(是37×3)。(译者,大概明白了#_$)当你看着圆周率你可能看到一个无限的随机数串,我的大脑有能力同时“吞吐”几组这些数字形成有意义的可视图像,构造它们自身的结合等级。

使用你的想象力是提高你的记忆的一种有效途径。举例来说,演员被迫记住数以百计,甚至千计的脚本台词就是通过积极地分析它们并且想象他们角色的动机和目标。许多人也想象向别人解释他们的台词,这显示出随后回忆上的重大提高。

另一个我书里的小建议。研究人员已经发现你更可能记住一些东西,如果你正在回忆的信息所在的位置或地方有些相似性——颜色或气味,例如,与你原来学习它的地方。因此,更加注意那些我们拥有特别信息的内容会帮助提高我们的能力日后记住它。

你是个科学家吗? 你最近是否读了一篇经过同行评议的论文并想对其说几句? 那么请联系Mind Matters(心智问题)的编辑Jonah Lehrer,他是博客The Frontal Cortex和《普鲁斯特是个神经学家》(Proust Was a Neuroscientist.)一书的作者。他的下一本书《我们如何决定》将于2009年1月发行。

本站是提供个人知识管理的网络存储空间,所有内容均由用户发布,不代表本站观点。请注意甄别内容中的联系方式、诱导购买等信息,谨防诈骗。如发现有害或侵权内容,请点击一键举报
从APP上打开文章,阅读全文并永久保存 查看更多类似文章
[荐]  原创奖励计划来了,万元大奖等你拿!
猜你喜欢
类似文章
TED演讲:如何培养双语思维?
学习外语好处多:双语让你更敏锐
学习一门新语言的意外惊喜
3岁天才儿童:IQ145会用5国语言算术
新研究:真正的精英从来不同时做多件事
双语:“脑袋大”的人就一定是天才?
更多类似文章 >>
生活服务
绑定账号成功
后续可登录账号畅享VIP特权!
如果VIP功能使用有故障,
可点击这里联系客服!