absolute coordinates, embodied cognition and Guugu Yimithirr

Oh that was absolutely fascinating!  The cardinal directions thing was quite mindblowing to me.  I had always wondered, “Why can’t we just refer to things by their REAL direction?”   I find I can’t always tell you what street I’m on [I’m terrible with street navigation] yet I always know whether I’m traveling north, south, east or west and which direction home is, because I have a dreadful fear of getting lost… and I know that, if I know the cardinal direction where home is… I can always get there, eventually, even if I have to traverse a number of strange roads.

I can’t do what they do…. but I’d be curious to try now.  I probably learned cardinal directions from Boy Scouts and it sunk in for me – right now, I’m facing West – my house is north of me – I’m on the porch that’s on the south side of the house.  In my mind, I know the trajectory of the sun, and I always seek out the north side of buildings, because I like to know where the shady spots are when I get out of the car.

Yet, I have trouble with my left and right.  Always did.

Hm. I will look more into these people.  I found an article that questioned just how lacking their sense of relative direction is; apparently they used hand-gestures to combine their sense of relative space along with their absolute cardinal sense; which makes a little more sense to me.  It means they are more aware of their territory in terms of quandrants than we are, but they do use a local frame of reference as well, but only as much as they need to get the listener from where they are at present to mentally envision the “over there”.  In short, they can handle relative and absolute positioning simultaneously, something we would have more trouble with.

Still, quite fascinating and I will read up more on these people.  I enjoy embodied cognition viewpoints; it’s at an early stage, compared to computational theories of mind and such, but it has great potential to expand our way of looking at the world.

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