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Do Animals Think in Pictures?

posted by LIM College staff Staff Profiles Desktops & Documents lola.rephann My Documents website BLOGS Hubspot Blogs Short Takes content images ThinkingInPicsSome time ago, I had four hours to kill at JFK airport before my flight, and decided on a whim that my project over the break would be to educate myself about a new topic. I've always liked figuring out how other people work through things in their minds. With every passing year, and every new way of thinking I encounter, the closer I find myself to inner peace (although I have a long way to go to find that).

To my pleasure, Hudson News had a new arrival, Thinking In Pictures: My Life With Autism, a book by Temple Grandin, Ph. D, a well-known scientist and writer who provides a first-hand account of a successful career she built while she was categorized with that diagnosis.

After ten pages I was fascinated, because the book enables one to feel as if they were placed in the mind of someone whose brain works in ways 180 degrees different from that of most others.

Human beings are, after all, only similar to a certain degree.  Perhaps being a student is the ideal time to explore not just what we have in common but our differences. What was the reasoning or cognition behind a decision, statement, or action? I have made poor decisions, and also had other people's poor decisions affect me. But what gets me through them is an interest in peeling away the surface to arrive at an understanding of the thinking that contributed to such situations, however different it might be from my own habits of thought.

Taking that extra step is more time consuming than never questioning why something happened or why something was said.  It might seem like a hassle when in the midst of events, but for me those questions have been rewarding.     

Grandin’s way of thinking is hard to characterize in a few words, and it would be a mistake to provide a spoiler of the book. But it does not reveal too much to say that Grandin is a leader in the battle for more humane treatment of animals, with whom she feels strong kinship. Yet Grandin is not the typical bunny-hugger, sentimental or unrealistic. 

For people interested in fashion, Grandin’s ideas about how thinking can work by way of pictures, not words or memories are intriguing. I recommend her book to anyone with a genuine interest in people different from themselves, particularly because without much self-dramatization she narrates a life story in which she accomplished amazing things after overcoming her difficulties.

-- Chandler Lipe

Further Reading:

Grandin has websites for both her writing and for autism:


An essay Grandin wrote about how animals think in pictures


The HBO film about Grandin’s life, with Clare Danes as Grandin:


Topics: New York City