Video Ergo Cogito: Visual Education and Analogical Thinking
Social and Behavioral Sciences
For more than a decade, educators and media critics have been arguing that we are on the threshold of a new age of visual thinking (e.g., Pittman, 1990). Their reasoning: young people's minds are now being molded from the earliest years by intense exposure to television and other visual media; consequently, the young people of today are part of a new 'visual generation.' This is a widely accepted claim, and there are some data that seem to support it. For example, recent findings indicate that, over the past decade, young adults in the 18-24 age group have exhibited a pronounced increase in visual-arts involvement (Zill & Robinson, 1995). However, there is very little systematic theoretical work on the following basic question: if young people are indeed acquiring visually-oriented habits of thought from their encounters with visual media, what exactly do these habits of thought look like? To put this differently: if there is a visual intelligence, what mental skills does it consist of? This study is an attempt to give a partial answer to this question. Specifically, the study takes a close look at one particular type of mental skill that seems to play a major role in people's uses of visual media—namely, analogical thinking. Consider, for example, a recent music video called Take a Bow, which portrays a sexual encounter between Madonna and a matador. This video contains a lengthy sequence in which the editing takes us back and forth between two scenes: on the one hand, Madonna and the matador having sex; on the other hand, the matador fighting a bull. This form of parallel editing is clearly intended as an analogy: the viewer is meant to see various strands of similarity between the passionate doings in one scene and the violent ritual in the other.