Bimodal Minds in the Prevailing Linear Monoculture

Another interesting article from my father, Mayer Spivack, about his theory that there are two main modes of human cognition. One is linear and the other is associative. Our culture calls the linear mode “intelligent” and the non-linear mode “dyslexic” or “disabled.” But actually the non-linear mode is in fact another form of intelligence, with incredible utility and special adaptive benefits. Linear cognition is not inherently better — in extremes it is actually disabling as well (for example savants, and some autistics for example). What is interesting is that nonlinear cognition — what my father calls “syncretic thinking” is underutilized in our society. In fact, our entire educational process discourages it and penalizes it. But what if we actually recognized syncretic thinking as an important cognitive skill — and actually trained children to develop and harness it just as we train them with linear thinking? We could produce a whole new generation of syncretically trained kids. They would be more creative, more intelligent, better at solving complex problems and managing complexity, and they would probably be more successful at whatever they end up doing. Why? Because they would be using all of their brain’s potential, not just half of it!

Human brains and minds appear to be inherently capable of at least two quite different kinds of processes and reasoning, The first kind, the one we have come to regard as normal, is predominantly linear and logical. The second process is more non-linear. It is often labeled “sloppy,” disorganized, and is considered by many as slow to learn. In school it does appear to be inefficient when compared to the linear. It is called learning disabled, and specifically often diagnosed as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and attention deficit disorder.

You can read the rest at Arts and Minds

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One Response to Bimodal Minds in the Prevailing Linear Monoculture

  1. Denny says:

    Your father is right about linear thinking and associative thinking. They have a basis in the physical organization of the brain. The left side of the cortex is organized by language (in over 90% of people, language functions are on the left side), so logical, categorical, linear thinking is produced there.
    The right side doesn’t work that way. Without language, it thinks by associating perceptions to create meaning. Intuitive, creative, artistic, value-centered meaning. This is not trivial stuff, it’s key to survival.
    The frontal lobes create meaning, where perceptions are linked into meaningful units and memories. The left side tends to do this logically and categorically, while the right side tends to do this based on feeling and association.
    Every person with a healthy brain does both. People rely on their different potentials differently, hence differences in cognitive style, or personality.
    This science is the basis for MindFrames, featured on, and I relate to it frequently in my blog posts.