Extra Credit Talk Friday @ 1pm Gateway transit building Rm 524 (AB)
Trahumara “Whorfian” prediction (that language used affects in some way thought processes)
1.) Discrimination between colors with different names FASTER in RVF (right visual field)
2.) Discrimination between colors with same name slower in RVF
3.) Laterality effect disappear with verbal task
This is determined by laterality of the brain and where language/speech information is processed.
Language is found in the left hemisphere of the brain. The faster you are, the lower your reaction time
in the graph of the Tarahumara experiment. Second prediction would all be labeled as Green by English
speakers, although one of them is visually different. Language is tricking you even though visually one of
them may be an A and one a B. Your language is only in your right hemisphere, can only trick you if
information goes to your language hemisphere first. Basically if the oddball has same color name, it is
within category (lexical), you will be slower when it is presented in the right visual field as opposed to
the left visual hemisphere. Third prediction is based on the idea that brain can only do one language
task at the same time. Stacking up a bunch of assumptions; if you ask someone to do this, to find the
oddball color swatch and it is between categories, between green and blue, the right hemisphere
advantage only happens if someone doesn’t make you do another language task, the left vs right visual
field will disappear. The reaction time slows down significantly. Information has to cross the collosum
highway from one hemisphere of the brain to another. There are patients who have this cut because
they have neurological problems…information visual stimuli presented in the right visual field goes to left
hemisphere and it just gets stuck there and vice versa. Between vs within category distinction matters
with these patients especially.
English has a tense, a part of grammar that can indicate that something is counter to fact. Not all fluent
spekaers of English has mastered; the English subjunctive. Chinese has no subjunctive tense.
Having a different name helps with post-factual perception (at the decision level, not perceptual level)
You can’t tell whether it is a strong version or a weak version, it is post perceptual. It isn’t that we have
the labels for things, attributes, but that we can take symbols for things and we have rules about the
order in which these symbols are, and that can change the meaning (another word for grammar). This is
something no non-human animal can do. This is syntax. If we found that grammar of a language
affected people the way people process the world, thought about it, that would be amazing.
English subjunctive: for things that aren’t true: If I were Kermit the Frog, I would be green
Chinese: no subjunctive tense
Bloom: Thus, Chinese can’t think counterfactually because they do not have the subjunctive tense. He
did some experiments to prove this. A few sentences that contained the subjunctive and then asked
students whether or not X was true. When he gave this test in English to American college students they
got 98% correct, when he gave it to Taiwanese version, they got 7% correct.
Au: Performance reflects the quality of translation She took Bloom’s stories and translated them into good Cantonese. These translations were given to
Chinese students and had one of her siblings whose English was not that great, translate the document
into English. The subjunctive is hard. The result was not great in English, it did not get the subtleties.
This translation was given to students at Harvard, and they did very badly, about 10% correct. Her
conclusion was that the Chinese can think in counterfactually.
See Videos on tense-less language and behavior:
Linguistic determinism and PC talk:
Implicit assumption of PC talk: Words shape/mold thinking. That the use of these words wil shape your
view of that person. In some sense, the belief in linguistic relativism that language affects though