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 Post subject: Re: Visualization
Post #21 Posted: Thu Mar 01, 2018 9:53 am 
Oza

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I'm sceptical about the sort of visualisation that seems to be the one talked about here - seeing something concrete in your mind's eye.

Surely the goal is to get chunks into your subconscious, that is your neural network. It seems highly unlikely that the brain stores these chunks as images. I have no idea how they are stored but I strongly suspect they are in something like a JPEG's compressed pixel format which can be unpacked into an image (rather slowly, I expect) by some decompression algorithm.

Of course, trying to visualise a chunk may be a good way for some people to send strong signals to the subconscious that this is something you do want to compress and store (others may use words, sounds or associations, etc). But that doesn't mean there is necessarily any correlation of efficiency between forming an image in the mind and storing it. It may work for you but other ways may work better if you could learn them.

In fact, it may hardly work at all. There is a famous psychology experiment by de Groot cited endlessly in chess books which showed that chess masters did much better than amateurs in reconstructing positions shown to them and then hidden. The explanation was that the masters saw chunks, which resided in their subconscious. I think it's often said they could visualise the positions, but I suspect in reality they were just unpacking coded chunks. The amateurs had no or few chunks in memory so had to stare intently at the board and try to force themselves to remember it, and I suspect that is the only place where visualisation came in. It's a sort of default option if you're up a gum tree. But it didn't work very well for the amateurs.

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Post #22 Posted: Thu Mar 01, 2018 10:03 am 
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I'm sceptical about the sort of visualisation that seems to be the one talked about here - seeing something concrete in your mind's eye.

I do not see things in my mind's eye at all, and yet am able to "visualize" in both chess and go, so I certainly agree with you that visualization as it applies to lookahead in games is a different beast. I think that people have been using the term "visualization" here mostly to mean "accurate lookahead" in general - at least I have.

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In fact, it may hardly work at all. There is a famous psychology experiment by de Groot cited endlessly in chess books which showed that chess masters did much better than amateurs in reconstructing positions shown to them and then hidden. The explanation was that the masters saw chunks, which resided in their subconscious. I think it's often said they could visualise the positions, but I suspect in reality they were just unpacking coded chunks. The amateurs had no or few chunks in memory so had to stare intently at the board and try to force themselves to remember it, and I suspect that is the only place where visualisation came in. It's a sort of default option if you're up a gum tree. But it didn't work very well for the amateurs.

Indeed, studies have shown that masters are much better than amateurs at reconstructing real chess positions but are hardly, if at all, better at reconstructing random configurations of pieces.


Last edited by dfan on Thu Mar 01, 2018 10:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #23 Posted: Thu Mar 01, 2018 10:10 am 
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A video of GM Patrick Wolff doing a couple of these chess reconstruction exercises and talking about his thought process is here.

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 Post subject: Re: Visualization
Post #24 Posted: Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:03 pm 
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@OP:

playing lots of games, reviewing every game I play, looking at many pro games, doing tsumegu regulary, playing around on the go board aka studying go every day, ...

I for one do not "visualize" the stones, the stones are not placed on the empty places of the go board in my brain while I ponder variations, it more feels like: I play here, he plays there ... nonetheless I ponder about whole sequences of plays but there are no stones before my eyes in my brain, just (invisible) tagged places ;-)

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Post #25 Posted: Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:40 pm 
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dfan wrote:
I do not see things in my mind's eye at all,
and yet am able to "visualize" in both chess and go,
Hi dfan,
Could you elaborate what you mean by the first part ?
Does it mean, when you close your eyes --
  • You cannot visualize anything, any shapes or images, at all ? Say, a circle;
  • Then how can you recognize any shapes ? Like faces, animals, letters, words, etc. ?!
  • In your dreams, you have no visual components at all ? What about sounds, speeds, gravity, touch, smells, sense of direction, etc. (i.e. all physics) in your dreams ?

Thanks.
Gomoto wrote:
I for one do not "visualize" the stones, the stones are not placed on the empty places of the go board in my brain while I ponder variations, it more feels like: I play here, he plays there ...
Hi Gomoto, same questions as above! Could you elaborate how you read in Go ?!

Fascinating.

Some years ago I was chatting with someone online, and they said, one day, they asked their parents, "Do you hear music in your head ?" And the answer was No !
I was so surprised, like I am now, with dfan's and Gomoto's descriptions.

:study:

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Post #26 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 5:23 am 
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EdLee wrote:
dfan wrote:
I do not see things in my mind's eye at all,
and yet am able to "visualize" in both chess and go,
Hi dfan,
Could you elaborate what you mean by the first part ?
Does it mean, when you close your eyes --

You cannot visualize anything, any shapes or images, at all ? Say, a circle;

Correct. Sometimes I can sort of begin to see things when I drift off to sleep.

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Then how can you recognize any shapes ? Like faces, animals, letters, words, etc. ?!

Generating images is different from recognizing images.

As another example, I can draw quite well when there is a source in front of me but I'm completely hopeless when told to draw something from scratch without a visual reference.

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In your dreams, you have no visual components at all ? What about sounds, speeds, gravity, touch, smells, sense of direction, etc. (i.e. all physics) in your dreams ?

I see in my dreams.

I wrote about my experiences a long time ago here. Things have not changed except for the fact that more is understood about it (back in 1999 I don't think there was even a name for it - now it is called aphantasia). If you're interested in other experiences there are 175 responses to this later blog post of mine.

I do just fine without visualization and in fact I like to think that one of the reasons I am very good at a lot of math and physics, including geometrical thinking, is that my body has developed really great coping mechanisms for it. Brains are great!

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Post #27 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 5:49 am 
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I can see the stones in black and white in my brain if I try to do it. But it is much more demanding and there is no benefit for my reading in go. I think it is much more effective for me when I think about the sequences, without actually building the images of the physical stones in my brain. I think I just imagine the shapes of the stones (a row of three, an empty triangle, a tigermouth, ... but also only as a "invisible" representation of this shapes not the actual physical shapes)

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Post #28 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 6:47 am 
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I'm still unclear on how you're supposed to read if you can't or have trouble seeing images at all in your brain (I don't quite have aphantasia, but the first time I was able to make an image in my head was when I was twelve and I thought that was what hallucination was :lol: ). If you're not reading by placing stones in your head, what are you actually doing? I understand reading out general stuff with "hane, then jump, then" etc etc, but how do you hold the previous moves in your head while you're reading further ahead, especially in something like a complicated fight? Is it like having a list in front of you that you read from? But if you can't see at all, do you have to repeat the list over and over to "see" the previous moves?

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Post #29 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 7:02 am 
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Mostly I try to imagine things in non-visual ways, like knowing the shapes of strings of stones, counting liberties, etc.

There are definitely chunks where you can group a bunch of moves together in a flow and pretty much know what the outcome is going to be, then come back and check move by move if you have to (e.g., squeezes).

I definitely have trouble imagining a variation and then backing up a bit and taking another branch (I generally have to start again from the root of the tree every time), but I think this is difficult for lots of people.

I used to think that my lack of visualization was really holding me back in games like chess and go, but if that were true I would be much better than my peers in correspondence games where it is not an issue, and I'm not.

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Post #30 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 7:10 am 
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I read out a chunk of the problem and usually only store the consquences for the next chunk not the whole chunk. This is quite error prone (shortage of liberties, etc ...). If I want to recheck a chunk I more or less have to go through the partial sequence step by step again (I will do this very fast, but mostly still step by step).

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Post #31 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 7:56 am 
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kasai wrote:
I'm still unclear on how you're supposed to read if you can't or have trouble seeing images at all in your brain (I don't quite have aphantasia, but the first time I was able to make an image in my head was when I was twelve and I thought that was what hallucination was :lol: ). If you're not reading by placing stones in your head, what are you actually doing? I understand reading out general stuff with "hane, then jump, then" etc etc, but how do you hold the previous moves in your head while you're reading further ahead, especially in something like a complicated fight? Is it like having a list in front of you that you read from? But if you can't see at all, do you have to repeat the list over and over to "see" the previous moves?


I can't really see stones in my mind, it's more that my mind creates an image of what seems pertinent. Here is an example of what I'm talking about:

Instead of "seeing" this:
Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$B
$$ +-----------+
$$ | . . . . . |
$$ | . O O O . |
$$ | . O X X . |
$$ | O . O X . |
$$ | . . O O . |
$$ +-----------+[/go]

I see something like this:
Click Here To Show Diagram Code
[go]$$B
$$ +-----------+
$$ | . . . . . |
$$ | . ? ? ? . |
$$ | . ? , X T |
$$ | . ? ? X T |
$$ | . . ? ? . |
$$ +-----------+[/go]


I am a fairly weak player, but I do know a few things about go, so to some certain extent, I can make sense of a position. As with the examples of the strong chess players who can recreate a whole board position because it makes sense to them, certain elements of a go position make sense to me, and these are the things that I can "see." One thing that helps me see what might happen (read) is to simply count the liberties of the stones involved. This way, when I imagine a play in that area, knowing how the liberty count is affected substitutes for having to see it happen visually.

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 Post subject: Re: Visualization
Post #32 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 8:37 am 
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kasai wrote:
I'm still unclear on how you're supposed to read if you can't or have trouble seeing images at all in your brain (I don't quite have aphantasia, but the first time I was able to make an image in my head was when I was twelve and I thought that was what hallucination was :lol: ). If you're not reading by placing stones in your head, what are you actually doing? I understand reading out general stuff with "hane, then jump, then" etc etc, but how do you hold the previous moves in your head while you're reading further ahead, especially in something like a complicated fight? Is it like having a list in front of you that you read from? But if you can't see at all, do you have to repeat the list over and over to "see" the previous moves?


Don't worry, be happy! :D

Conscious visualization may help, but it is not particularly important to reading. One reason that I mentioned the exercise with imagining the starting and ending positions is that I found such an approach helpful in bridge. In bridge, the cards do not move from hand to hand, but are removed as they are played. In go, stones are added, unless they are captured. The necessary visualizations are similar. In neither exercise are the intermediate stages visualized. :)

In forming the conscious visual image of our surroundings that we perceive, the brain forms at least 18 separate images, none of which we are conscious. (When I was studying this kind of thing, 18 had been identified. Maybe more have been found since then.) Most of what the brain does is unconscious. Thank goodness! Otherwise things might be quite confusing. ;) Just because you don't consciously visualize intermediate positions in reading does not mean that they have no representations (images) in your brain, or that you do not make use of them. Just because you don't see yourself placing stones in your head ( ;)) does not mean that your brain is not doing that. Your brain is quite capable of doing parallel processing of go positions, even if you can only be conscious of one line of play at a time. :) Do not imagine that your conscious reading is doing most of the work.

As for consciously reading each line of play from the beginning, Kotov says don't do it, but research indicates that chess grandmasters do that, at least some of the time. Doing so may be helpful in a complicated fight. :)

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Post #33 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 10:00 am 
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Conscious visualization may help, but it is not particularly important to reading. One reason that I mentioned the exercise with imagining the starting and ending positions is that I found such an approach helpful in bridge


I'd like to hear some detail on that, please. I think Ialso mentioned that someone recommended to me that a way of learning a piece of music was to start at the end. It doesn't work for me, but I suspect that's because I'm lazy or sloppy - and I also suspect that that is the same problem most amateurs have with reading.

We all agree that pure calculation is hard. We all agree that "tricks" are needed to cut the workload. Chunking is one trick we all use (though it's not much of a trick if we don't do the grunt work).

But using the final position is very probably, in my estimation, also a major trick we could make use of. The problem with reading in go - at least superficially - is that we don't know what the final position is.

However, we can override the process by using strategy. We look at the position first in purely strategic terms and decide what we want or need to do. That becomes the final position, and so we tailor (i.e. prune) our reading to reach that goal.

That's ridiculously obvious, isn't it? Except that most of us can be sloppy and lazy and we can behave ridiculously in two self-defeating ways.

One is that we play too many fast games and so have no time to make the relevant strategic decisions. We are flying blind.

The other is that we do too many tsumego problems. With these (unless you make use of hints) there is no very often clear way of determining the final position (we do learn to spot likely ishinoshitas but for the most part tsumegos are just a jumbled mass of stones). In contrast, tesuji problems usually do have a definable final position, on top of which these are much more likely than tsumegos to cater to solutions called for by strategic analysis. And of course many tsumegos use tesujis.

I have an inkling that the hegemony of tsumego is due partly to the emotive words "life" and "death" but also to the fact that in the past so many newspapers offered them not as a way to train go players but as a recreation in lieu of crosswords or sudokus. (Would you really study crosswords if you want to be a writer, or sudokus if you want to be a mathematician?)

If that line of reasoning makes sense, the recipe for success is (1) to play slower games, using the extra time for strategic thinking before calculating, and (2) to practise the specifics of calculation by doing tesuji problems in (much greater) preference to tsumego problems.

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Post #34 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 10:19 am 
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Hi Dan, Gomoto,

Thanks. Still fascinating to me. :study:

Dan, that you can see ( and hear and feel all the usual sensations ) in your dreams seems to mean you can subconsciously see, but cannot consciously see, in your mind's eye ? That the neural circuitry to visualize is there, but you cannot access it consciously, but only ( at least ) in your dreams... ?

Gomoto, I still don't quite understand your reading process.
The "invisible" representations remain a mystery, to me.

Curiosity questions:
Dan, at what age did you start Go ( and chess ) ?
Gomoto, at what age did you start Go ? ( Can you see in your dreams ? )

Thanks.

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Post #35 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 10:41 am 
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In forming the conscious visual image of our surroundings that we perceive, the brain forms at least 18 separate images, none of which we are conscious.
Hi Bill, how did they ( the neurobiologists ? ) figure out that there are these separate subconscious images ? By MRI ? Do they also know what they look like ?

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Post #36 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 11:08 am 
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John Fairbairn wrote:
I'd like to hear some detail on that, please. I think I also mentioned that someone recommended to me that a way of learning a piece of music was to start at the end. It doesn't work for me, but I suspect that's because I'm lazy or sloppy - and I also suspect that that is the same problem most amateurs have with reading.

I am a big fan of starting at the end when memorizing a piece of music, although I'm not sure if the reason is transferable to go. The big advantage in my opinion is that you can always play the amount of the piece that you have learned to a definitive conclusion, rather than petering out as your recollection fades, so you always play with confidence.

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The other is that we do too many tsumego problems. With these (unless you make use of hints) there is no very often clear way of determining the final position (we do learn to spot likely ishinoshitas but for the most part tsumegos are just a jumbled mass of stones). In contrast, tesuji problems usually do have a definable final position, on top of which these are much more likely than tsumegos to cater to solutions called for by strategic analysis. And of course many tsumegos use tesujis.

I heartily agree. I didn't get around to saying in an earlier response that I think there are two very different types of reading, the tesuji-ish situations where moves tend to have real semantic meaning and the tsumego-ish situations where it's pure calculation and you just have to confirm by brute force that every variation leads to a good result. The latter are very difficult for me.

Of course, as you learn more about go, some tsumego techniques turn into chunks and you learn to consider them more semantically. But at that point you start doing more difficult tsumego problems, and the situation continues. :)

In general I feel that my over-the-board strength has been improved more from doing tesuji problems and easy tsumego problems than from doing hard tsumego problems.

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Post #37 Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 11:13 am 
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EdLee wrote:
Dan, that you can see ( and hear and feel all the usual sensations ) in your dreams seems to mean you can subconsciously see, but cannot consciously see, in your mind's eye ? That the neural circuitry to visualize is there, but you cannot access it consciously, but only ( at least ) in your dreams... ?

I guess? Once I figured out that other people could visualize, I spent a while trying to "exercise" my mind's eye, thinking that maybe I could build up my conscious visualization, but nothing worked.

Quote:
Dan, at what age did you start Go ( and chess ) ?

I started playing chess when I was 3, and was pretty serious about it until about the age of 8, at which time I mostly put it aside until I was in my 20s.

I read a book about go when I was a kid, and had a set I did a little experimenting on, but didn't start seriously playing or studying until college.

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Post #38 Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 5:41 pm 
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I started playing go again after a pretty long break. I realized how much trouble I have reading and happened to read this thread. After thinking about it, researching things, and talking to people, I realized that I think differently than do most people: I have no capacity to visualize anything. I now understand for the first time (in adulthood) that I'm "aphantasic" and that other people are capable of mental visualization. I can "hear" an imaginary conversation but cannot "see" or interact with an imaginary image. I can't "see" my family members, for instance, and could describe them only based on whatever abstract ideas I remember about them.

Among other things, I'm trying to figure out what's possible for me with go as a result of this. When I "read," I look at the board state as it actually exists. If I play a hypothetical move, I have to think consciously about whether the empty intersection on the board is a black stone or a white stone. With each subsequent move, I have to reevaluate each intersection and remember what is or is not a stone. "Reading" a multiple-move sequence requires mechanistic assessment of each relevant—actually empty—intersection of the board. It seems that this type of reading is not viable for real improvement (I'm 9k-10k or so).

I enjoy playing go and like figuring things out. I'm attracted to the (hopeless) quest of understanding and to the mathematical beauty of the game. But my reading limitations concern me. While I could just play games and not worry about it, what makes me enjoy go is the process of understanding at least some small part of what's going on. My level of reading seems to make that impossible in real games.

My question is this: have other people been able to develop and improve the kind of mechanistic reading that I'm talking about here? Or do you need to have some ability to activate the "visual" circuitry in your brain to be able to play at a competent level?


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Post #39 Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:10 pm 
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Hi denizen, Thanks for sharing.
I'm curious about your dreams: are they in complete darkness ?
That is, zero visual elements in your dreams, but other senses OK: audio, smell, touch, gravity, acceleration, sense of direction, location ( heights), happiness, and other emotions, etc.

Like Dan...

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Post #40 Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 6:51 pm 
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I never remember any visual sensation of my dreams at all. I might wake up with some emotion based on thinking that the dream was real, but I can't remember what I "saw" during the dream.

From my research about aphanthasia, some of us see images during dreams. The ability to see an image during a dream is different than the conscious ability to activate the visual circuitry (apparently). I'm sure I also "see" things during dreams but I have no recollection of that.

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