The Universe of Discourse

Mon, 04 Mar 2024

Children and adults see in very different ways

I was often struck with this thought when my kids were smaller. We would be looking at some object, let's say a bollard.

The kid sees the actual bollard, as it actually appears, and in detail! She sees its shape and texture, how the paint is chipped and mildewed, whether it is straight or crooked.

I don't usually see any of those things. I see the bollard abstractly, more as an idea of a “bollard” than as an actual physical object. But instead I see what it is for, and what it is made of, and how it was made and why, and by whom, all sorts of things that are completely invisible to the child.

The kid might mention that someone was standing by the crooked bollard, and I'd be mystified. I wouldn't have realized there was a crooked bollard. If I imagined the bollards in my head, I would have imagined them all straight and identical. But kids notice stuff like that.

Instead, I might have mentioned that someone was standing by the new bollard, because I remembered a couple of years back when one of them was falling apart and Rich demolished it and put in a new one. The kid can't see any of that stuff.

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