Thinking or cognition; the processes that underlie the mental manipulation of
knowledge, images and ideas, often in an attempt to reach a goal, such as solving a
Not possible to measure thinking directly.
Thinking increases your ability to survive because you can act on your knowledge in
precise, systematic and purposeful ways.
Single greatest tool for thinking: language
Language importantly influences the way we think about and view our world.
Does Language Determine Thought?
Linguistic relativity hypothesis proposes that language determines thought. Words and
structures of a cultures language determine the perceptions and thoughts of members of
that culture. Example - Hopi tribe language has no past tense verbs, therefore they may
have difficulty thinking about the past.
Cultural Evidence Eleanor Rosch Dani tribe. Contains only two basic colour terms: mola for
bright warm hues, and mili for darker colder hues.
Rosch interpreted her results as evidence that English speakers and speakers of Dani
perceive colour in very similar ways. Colour perception appears to be universal, depending
more on the physiology of the visual system than on the vocabulary of the perceiver.
Linguistic differences across cultures do not cause dramatic differences in the operation of
basic perceptual processes, such as colour perception. Evidence is less clear when it comes
to the operation of higher level perceptual and cognitive processes.
Different cultures place value on different sorts of things, and each culture develops
vocabularies to communicate subtle distinctions in those things perceived as important.
Perception and memory depend on prior knowledge and people often use words to
summarize and represent prior knowledge.
Language in the form of inner voice also plays important roles in more abstract thinking.
Language is a tool of human thought. In some cases language can interfere with non-
linguistic processes. Jonathen Schooler when people verbally describe hard to describe
things, their performance on subsequent judgment tasks involving those things is
Gendered connotations secretaries are seen as women, when The secretary hates HIS
boss, is used it causes confusion.
The Structure of Language Grammar - the rules or procedures of language that allow the communicator to combine
arbitrary symbols in an infinite number of ways to convey meaning; includes the rules of
phonology, syntax and semantics.
(1) phonology- the rules for combining sounds to make words
(2) syntax - the rules for combining words to make sentences
(3) semantics the rules regarding the meanings of words and combinations of words.
We use our knowledge about semantics to pick the appropriate words to express
thoughts and to infer connections between words and other information in memory.
Phonemes and Morphemes language has hierarchical structure: A fairly small set of simple
sounds can be combined in various ways to make thousands of words, and words can be
combined to make sentences.
Phonemes - the smallest significant, difference-making sound units in speech. For
example the letter e maps onto one phoneme in the word head and a different phoneme
in the word heat.
English speakers use about 40
Keep and cool these two different sounds are perceived as a single phoneme. In
English if they sound the same they are part of one phoneme.
The challenge in learning a new language is mastering the phonology of that language. It
is hard to learn to pronounce differences that you cannot hear.
Morphemes - the smallest units of language that carry meaning (words, prefixes, suffixes).
Cool has one morpheme, uncool has two. The root word cool, and the prefix un. The
grammar of a language dictates the acceptable order of morphemes within a word.
The average speaker of English knows and uses somewhere between 50 000 and 80
Words to Sentences the higher levels of the language hierarchy are words, phrases and
sentences. Words combine to form phrases, phrases combine to form sentences. The meaning of
a sentence depends on how the words are organized.
Surface and Deep Structure
Noam Chomsky is the most important linguist of recent times. He distinguished
between the surface structure of a sentence and its more deep structure.
Surface structure - the literal ordering of words in a sentence.
Deep structure - the underlying representation of meaning in a sentence.
A single surface structure can have two different deep structures.
According to Chomsky, language production requires the transformation of deep
structure into an acceptable surface structure.
Steven Pinker hundreds of millions of trillions of thinkable thoughts exist.Language Comprehension
Sounds are presented quickly, there are no well defined pauses between words, word
sounds have different meanings, language contains many metaphors.
Language is full of ambiguity, but we resolve this ambiguity without awareness.
Example: Theyre shooting stars one context means you can see shooting stars in the
sky, or they are physically shooting movie actors.
Pragmatic Rules pragmatics is used to describe how practical knowledge is used to comprehend
the intentions of speakers and to produce appropriate responses.
Example Could you close the window? literal interpretation: the person is asking your
ability to physically close the window. However, the speaker is asking a request, not your
ability. If you answer explaining that you do have the physical ability you are being
Pragmatic guidelines: Good speakers follow these to facilitate effective communication Be
informative, Tell the truth, be relevant, be clear.
If you choose to answer a question literally, you are violating the rule of being relevant.
Most language researchers are convinced that babies are g