August 30, 2023
Q&A 108

πŸ‘‚πŸ“–πŸ€” Modality

The intriguing insight we highlighted before that our thinking is influenced by which mode of communication we use, triggered me to learn more. Last year we quoted:

"Consequently, we propose that people think more intuitively in the spoken modality and more analytically in the written modality."

But what happens if it is the other way around. In other words, does it matter to what you think when you're on the receiving end of different modes of information? Apparently it does and much in the same way as when you're the transmitter of information.

In the article 'Do you think more clearly when reading or when listening', evidence is presented that generally speaking different brain circuits are in action depending on whether you listen to or read information. Listening tends to invoke intuitive thinking, relying on gut feelings and instincts that come (and go) without much effort. Reading information tends to trigger analytic thinking, taking time to evaluate all arguments and evidence before reaching a conclusion.

One explanation for this behaviour lies in the process how we have learned to speak and read. Generally, we learn to speak a language by listening carefully and responding in a spontaneous, trial-and-error kind of way. A very intuitive way. Learning to read is much more organised, according to a set of rules and a lot of practice. Hence, different mental processes are in play when learning to speak compared to learning to read.

"Because of their experience with learning and practising reading while growing up, people may become conditioned to thinking relatively analytically when they read and get accustomed to putting in a bit more mental effort, compared with when they listen."

I believe these insights could have significant implications. You could for instance force yourself to both listen to and read information about a topic you need to take an important decision about. Partly, we naturally tend to do this already. Being social animals and facing big decisions, we often query our friends and family and listen to their experiences and advice. Internally, we try to combine those inputs (which you would have digested intuitively, mostly) with spending hours surfing the internet, reading magazines, books and other literature.

Is the combination of the analytical and intuitive thought processes the holy grail? Or, does this depend on the subject matter? What does this tell us about the advice to listen to our gut feeling?

The trick will be figuring out when to use which modality and in what balance. That might be the ultimate trait. I'd say, back again to your intuition and gauge what feels right, when πŸ˜‰!