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Mouses ?! An interesting insight into the way the mind works

Some time ago I heard a distinguished expert speaking on a talk show, saying that we think in words. I considered at the time that this was wrong, as, although it's hard to speak for anyone else on this, I know that I don't think in words, at least not unless I'm rehearsing what I'm going to say. I think in concepts, and these have associations and meanings that are more powerful than would be possible by words alone.

It could be that the aforementioned distinguished expert then went on to argue some kind of theory that because humans think in words, humans are the only creatures capable of actual thinking and that consequently all other creatures were unthinking non-conscious entities. It was probably some kind of religious stuff that was being sold.

I've always known that the "we think in words" theory is false, simply by observation of what goes on in my own head. I don't think in words. It would be a very slow and tedious process rather like a computer having to process everything using an interpreted language of some sort rather than using machine-code. However, I have been unable to prove this conclusively to folk, especially to people who just believe experts as if they are some kind of all-knowing witch-doctor figures whose prophesies are just assumed to be right because that's the new faith.

Still, knowing the experts often get it wrong, gives a certain edge against a range of problems which can be solved by just knowing the real answers.

Now let's get onto the thing about the mice. It's only a small clue, but one which has shed new light on the problem of how to prove the "we think in words" theory is false.

When people talk about those little furry rodents, vermin, those wee tim'rous beasties, they know exactly what they are talking about. Someone might say "I saw a mouse last week", and they might add "I think that hole in the floorboards might be a mouse hole", and someone might say "I saw a mouse yesterday, and another mouse today. I think you should get a cat, as you have got a problem of the place being infested with MICE!". See, it's just one of those "strong" plurals, one mouse plus another mouse, equals MICE!

Now, let's move on to a kind of computer pointing-device. That's also known as a "mouse". It was so called because the shape is in some models similar to a stylised shape of a mouse, and the cable is imagined to be like the tail of the mouse, so... "mouse" it is.

One computer has a mouse on it, and another one has a different type of mouse, and it might be a serial mouse or a PS2 mouse or a USB mouse, etc, and you can get people talking about these things. Plug a mouse into that computer, and another mouse into that one, and if you have more than one mouse you have... and suddenly, just for a moment, the person almost says "mouses"! Sometimes they correct themselves just in time to avoid saying the word and say "mice" instead, but you can sometimes see the gap where they make the correction. That's interesting!

The fact is, people know after the fact that the plural has got to be "mice", not "mouses", and if it had been the little furry rodents it would have been no problem, but the plural of the computer peripheral mouse is so rarely used, it hasn't got anything remembered for it. If people actually thought in words, it would be instantly "mice", but it's not! Clearly what's going on is that the person is thinking in concepts, and has a concept of a computer mouse which is then being translated into the word "mouse" when talking about it. If called upon to make it a plural, the automatic plural-making routine is called which tries to just put an S on the end, making it computer "mouses". Realising this doesn't sound right, a second attempt is made and it becomes "mice", but there is a gap sometimes. In contrast, the rodent mouse has an entirely different concept, and although this also translates into the word "mouse" which sounds the same, it's being generated by a different concept, and the word already has a known plural which has been in there since childhood: "mice".

You don't need to agree with me about it. It's just an interesting observation. I'm sure there are some fascinating psychological experiments which can be done on this sort of thing.

Other associated ideas: Schizophrenia, Mad Resources, RATS: You're never more than 20ft from a Rat (wrong), a cornered rat goes for your throat (wrong), Gerbils - the alternative office shredder, Shareware Inventions, Misconceptions , the idea that we dream in black and white, How to Clean a Mouse, Electric Hamsterand Tail was digitally added to tailless cat, and to see the whole "computer mouse / furry rodent" idea carried to an extraordinary extent see the blue mouse advertising esure Insurance! Also, if you have a mouse on your computer, how about having a hamster as well?! This electric hamster plugs into the USB port and is by Paramount Zone. Keeps up with your keyboard typing speed, presumably to make a philosophical point about working in an office and being in the rat race. I haven't the gall to ask them if they've got Linux drivers for it.