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What determines the most complex thing that you can visualize and manipulate in your minds eye?

What is the most complex thing that you can visualize and manipulate in your minds eye? I have been asking around, and have found responses to be quite variable. Some people have no problem with complex images in 3-dimensions, others can't visualize in 3-d at all.

For example, I can visualize, rotate, and manipulate molecules in my mind's eye... but only up to 4 atoms. Sure, I can imagine things much more complex than that. I just can't "see" them in their entire complexity at once. So, here is my question: what is the most complicated thing YOU can visualize and rotate in your mind's eye and what do you think determines the level of complexity you can "see"?

http://thistoolslife.blogspot.com/2009/10/limit-of-our-minds-eye.html

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Re-design7 years ago
I think experience and interest play a large part in how complex you mind's eye can get. Natural talent plays a big part. I can mentally build houses and buildings that I designed 20 years ago. I can mentally rebuild that Cast iron Chevy 6 cylinder that I rebuilt 10 years ago. I can and do design woodworking projects and metal working projects in my head with the only variable being the size of each piece. I'm learning to play the guitar and am very interested in that. But I am having so much trouble learning the barre chords from the diagrams in the book. I memorize the chord and how to make it and the next day I have to start all over again to convert those charts into 3d fingers. I have no innate musical musical.
The chord thing takes time. I've been playing for over 35 years and it's only within the last ~15 that I've tossed the internal translator and replaced it with direct action, and only about 5 that I've been constructing whatever I want at will. And I've been playing musical instruments since I was 2 or 3. Bar-chords also take pressure that draws attention away from actually playing the chord seamlessly, because you have to concentrate on putting enough pressure on the strings while still allowing the strings to ring...that one takes time as well, to develop the musculature to support "blind" playing. One thing to keep in mind with bar-chords is that in general, they're just root chords with a support (the bar as the pseudo-nut) to draw them up the fretboard. So at fifth position, a Root-E major is an A major, at 7th, it's a B, at 10th it's a D. So it goes for the other bars
OH - that makes me feel good. I'm probably not going to live another 15 years. But I'll have fun along the way. I figure if I can learn to make a little recognizeable noise then I've done much more than I expected that I could. Thanks for the encourgement!
you'll get used to bar chords as your fingers get stronger. Don't worry, it won't take 20 or 30 years...lol (maybe more realistically 1-2 years depending on how much you play them to toughen the skin and gain the kinesthetic knowledge.
I once watched a Joe Pass instructional video a long time ago where he stated that every chord on the neck of the guitar is some modification of 5 shapes: E, A, D, G, and C.  It really helped me visualize everything on the neck when I first started.

And no, Re-Design, barre chords won't take 15 years to master.  I give it an hour a day for two weeks maximum.  I got them down solid in one week when I was 14.  It's really just a matter of training your muscles to perform a vice grip with your index finger and thumb while moving your other three fingers independently - the kind of digit-independence necessary when performing a Vulcan salute, only more involved.
chemantics (author)  Re-design7 years ago
That makes me wonder if ability to hear with our mind's ear, so to speak, is related. Like these people who can hear and compose original music in their heads.
It's all the mind's eye. The mind's eye doesn't just see, it feels, it hears, it even smells and tastes. The visual aspect of the mind's eye is is the easiest method of harnessing the mind's eye, and therefore the simplest way of describing the general concept of imagining, since afaik we can all visualize at least some basic info. I've been hearing and making multipart music in my head literally since I was a very young child. I often find when I'm walking at a particular gait, I'll draw myself into a theme, or if I hear a repetitive noise from the ambient environment, my head will seize onto it and start developing a musical theme. And more often than not, it is an unconscious decision..it just happens on its own. I can, under certain circumstances, (focus) consciously draw on touch, smell and taste, but they're more elusive for me, although I have never really tried to develop those aspects, since they have no direct use for me in general. The brain occupies known space, but the mind is vast and, unlike realspace, infinitely malleable. The only limitations are those imposed by our innate abilities, our acquired information, our ability to embrace the idea that the mind is what we make of it, and developing the connections to the abilities it can use.
orksecurity7 years ago
Note that this is precisely why professional jargons, standardized components, subroutines, and the like are developed -- if you only have to deal with one level of hierarchy at a time, that can add up to something far more complicated than you could visualize as a complete unit.
lemonie7 years ago
A lot of what you think you are seeing you're not. Peripheral vision for example. There's no real limit in imaginative terms. L
chemantics (author)  lemonie7 years ago
You bring up an interesting point. If I can only dynamically process a relatively simple image in my mind's eye, then does that mean that I am only dynamically processing an equally simple picture with my regular vision?
Yes you use the same vision system. If you look at a model of something with 200 atoms in it you might think "I can see all 200 atoms", yeah, but not all at the same time, and they become one single object anyway. Perception is what you make of it really... L
Kiteman7 years ago
Personally? Would entire towns count? If I am thinking about somewhere I know - the town I live, the town I work, my school, my favourite reserve etc - I imagine the whole thing like one of those zooming-holographic-map special effects on TV. I could sit here at my computer, and "zoom out" to "see" the local cluster of towns, then "zoom in" to my desk at work.
kevinhannan7 years ago
In my opinion it is experience and expectation that allows us to do many things, including seeing with one's minds-eye.

Whether it is K'Nex (?), Meccano, Lego or molecules and atoms, if you have had the benefit of handling models, then after a period of time unique to you, you will be able to do the same in your mind. That is experience: add to that motivation. If you have a family, friends, or boss demanding an outcome then you will work harder to achieve just that. (Well, I expect you do, if you are not a sociopath).

My direct experience of this is wood-working and materials handling, which I am sure many here can relate to.

Additionally, through the years I have seen families grow up and the difference between the expectation that the off-spring will go to Universty has a distinct outcome that they do. In other words peer pressure, self-expectation etc plays a part, so if you are motivated to see with your minds-eye it is likely you will.

And then there's genetics and the old nature/nuture debate which I'm not going into - it's too long.

So, genes, experience and motivation are your allies!

(Can you see in your minds-eye my geeky glasses and anorak? ;-) )
Hey, just thought of

Stephen Hawking

(actually I sent him an email a few months back, saying how much I loved his work, he still has a full tutorial workload as well as his own work. What a guy!)