Memory and Cognition Lecture 9
Language Cont’d & Challenges in Problem Solving/Features (and Constraints) of Expertise
Wernicke’s Aphasia: You have no trouble speaking, but you cannot understand speech! Patients who
have this pattern of difficulty all had damage among the LEFT SUPERIOR TEMPORAL LOBE. You
need Wernicke’s area to read! These people have a LACK OF AWARENESS of their problem! This
aphasia is characterized by…
Fluent (but Nonsensical) Output: “Word salad.” Considered fluent in the sense that patients can still
speak, but when they speak it is nonsense and in severe cases everything they say cannot be understood. It
is as if the words are being mixed up or thrown into a bowl and produced randomly at will. Prosody is
intact. Ex: if you listened to someone with Wernicke’s Aphasia speak German (or a language you don’t
know,) they would sound completely normal. Their tone would change and fluctuate as they speak, and
they would seem like they are speaking normally. But if you spoke/understood German THEN you would
realize that it makes no sense!
Poor Comprehension: Wernicke’s area is a critical part of the brain for DECODING LANGUAGE INTO
MEANING. This is true not just for hearing something and seeing sense of it, but SEEING something and
making sense of it (like seeing language, AKA reading, or understanding sign language!) To some
degree, your ability to understand vocal language is impaired. Your ability to read is impaired. Your
ability to understand sign gestures would be impaired. A PROBLEM DECODING LANGUAGE INTO
MEANING, again. Not really a problem reading, it’s making sense of/understanding the meaning behind
what you are seeing with your eyes (the words on the page.)
Paraphasias: Language mistakes. Wernicke’s Aphasia has BOTH of the below paraphasias;
Semantic Paraphasia: You say the wrong word (a language mistake,) but it isn’t totally random! It relates
in meaning (semantics) to what you intended to say. Ex: You mean to say “spoon”, but you say “fork.”
They’re related terms (both cutlery.)
Phonemic Paraphasia: The way that phonemes are combined is cluttered or mixed up, so the output is a
word that is incorrect or not a valid word in your language. Ex of a minor one is saying “scoon” instead of
Global Aphasia: Having BOTH Wernicke’s Aphasia AND Broca’s Aphasia. Can occur mainly due to a
Alexia: Inability to read DUE TO BRAIN INJURY (not the same as being illiterate and/or not having
learned to read yet.) You have damage to the bridge (CORPUS CALLOSUM) as well as LEFT VISUAL
CORTEX. Imagine having the word “PICNIC” directly in front of you. PIC is on the left visual field so it
crosses over into the right side of your brain, and NIC is on the right visual field so it crosses over into the
left side of your brain (because the eyes are cross-wired to the brain.) PIC, which is now in the right brain,
must cross the corpus callosum—or the bridge in your brain connecting the hemispheres—in order to get
to Wernicke’s area on the left hemisphere (because Wernicke’s area and the left hemisphere are what help
you read.) If your “brain bridge” or corpus callosum is severed or damage, PIC cannot travel from the
right side of the brain to the left in order for you to read it, so you would only be able to read NIC. If the
left visual cortex was ALSO damaged then you wouldn’t be able to read NIC either because you wouldn’t
be able to see it in the first place (since it was in your right visual field and this cross-wires to your left-
visual cortex.) This is called ALEXIA. Damage to both the corpus callosum AND left visual field. -YOU CAN STILL WRITE WITH ALEXIA, YOU SIMPLY CANNOT READ ANYTHING YOU
WRITE. The inability to write due to brain damage is AGRAPHIA. So if you had Alexia WITH Agraphia
you would not be able to read OR write due to brain damage (usually caused by a massive stroke.)
But What about the Right Hemisphere? What happens when you damage the right hemisphere, and not
the left? You can have DISCOURSE PROCESSING (“getting the gist”) and SARCASM and
PRAGMATICS. Ex of discourse processing: you went to see a movie and your friend asks what it was
about. You have to select the “key/hot bits” from the story and retell it in a short summary so your friend
gets the gist/general idea of the movie. This requires an extraction process! You must “pull out” the major
features of the movie from your mind and sandwich them together to create a narrative for your friend.
“Pulling the forest from the trees.” In other words, giving small pieces in order to show the big picture.
With right hemisphere damage, you will be able to process details fine, but trying to extract these details
(to tell your friend what the movie was about) is impaired!
-People with right hemisphere damage take things LITERALLY. They cannot understand/appreciate
sarcasm and pragmatics. This can have interpersonal consequences, because we tend to use sarcasm and
metaphor and the like in everyday conversation, so if you cannot understand these facets of language then
you may have trouble when talking with friends/peers.
The World of Problem-Solving: “The act of finding ways to deal with problems.” The structure of
problems is very important to us solving those problems!
Problem Solving Examples: A difficult division problem! You are given numbers to divide and you
must determine whether there will be a remainder or not (does it divide cleanly without excess?)
1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 008 divided by 9.
You may be tempted to say that YES, there will be a remainder, because the huge number seems even due
to all the zeros, and 9 doesn’t go into an even number cleanly. However, if you remove all the zeros you
are left with 18 divided by 9, which is 2. This is a clean divide.
Another example is the nine-dot problem. You have nine dots arranged like this:
O O O
O O O
O O O
You have to cross out all the lines using 4 CONTINUOUS strokes. How do you do it? This seems so
tricky, since you can’t bend your lines, the strokes must be continuous, and you can only make 4 strokes
(usually leaving one single dot uncrossed,) but the solution is actually simple…You have to extend your
strokes BEYOND the dots, and make a sort of “bow-and-arrow” pattern with your strokes.
-These examples show that we have trouble thinking outside the box, and this can be in part due to how
the instructions of these games/problems were presented to us. To use the nine-dot-problem as an
example, nobody told you that you could extend your strokes beyond the dots, and so you assumed you
couldn’t and thus created a constraint in your mind that stopped you from figuring out the solution to the
problem! This is rigidity. This rigidity is a HUMAN PHENOMENON (meaning you can test for it in
complex cultures like Western society or “simpler” cultures like Ecuador and you’ll find that the people
in both cultures are equally as rigid, and it applies to all humans.)
Insight: That “ah-ha!” feeling when you find the way to solve a problem. However, not all problems
require insight to solve them. “Feeling of warmth” is your feeling that you’re getting closer to solving the problem! This is non-insight, where you gradually come to understand the problem enough to find the
solution. Insight is the immediate “I got it!” moment, and you don’t have a lot of feeling of warmth
leading up to your solution, just RIGHT at the moment you get how to solve the problem!
Hints May Lead to Insight: Giving someone a subtle (or unsubtle) hint on how to solve something can
help lead them to that “ah-ha!” moment faster than if you just leave them to struggle on the