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Chapter 9

Psychology 1000 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9: Lewis Terman, Intellectual Disability, Motor Coordination

Course Code
PSYCH 1000
John Campbell

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Chapter 9 – Thought, Language, and Intelligence
The Nature and Structure of Language
Language – a system of symbols and rules for combining these symbols in ways that can produce an almost infinite
number of possible messages and meanings
Three critical properties of language:
Symbolic: Uses sounds, written signs, or gestures to refer to objects, events, ideas, and feelings
Displacement – capacity of language to represent objects and conditions that aren’t physically present
Structure: Has rules that govern how symbols can be combined to create meaningful communication units
Generative: Symbols can be combined to generate an almost infinite number of messages
Language Structure
Surface structure – consists of the way symbols are combined within a given language
Syntax – the rules for the combination of symbols
Deep structure – refers to the underlying meaning of the combined symbols
Semantics – the rules for connecting the symbols to what they represent
Example: “Flying planes can be dangerous.” (surface)
Deep 1: Planes are dangerous
Deep 2: Piloting a plan is dangerous
Noam Chomsky: Transformational grammar
Rules transform meaning of the deep structure to sequence of the surface structure
Sentence Phrases Words Morphemes Phonemes
Phonemes – smallest units of sound recognized as separate in a given language
Morphemes – smallest units of meaning in a language
Include base words, prefixes, suffixes, etc.
Various forms of humor based on language:
Phonological ambiguity – confusion of sounds
Lexical ambiguity – confusion or double meaning of words
Syntactic ambiguity – confusion of structure
Semantic ambiguity – confusion of meaning
Children progress from phonological and lexical humor to syntactic and semantic
Acquiring a Language
Biological Foundations
Several facts suggest biological basis for language acquisition
Human children, despite limited thinking skills, begin to master language at early life without formal instruction
Between 1-3 months: infants vocalize entire range of phonemes found in world’s languages (cooing)
By 2 months, infacts show phoneme discrimination
About six months: infants begin to make sounds of their native tongue and to discard those of other languages
Linguists believe there exists a critical period between infancy and puberty when language is most easily learned
Can children form language without hearing others speak?
Wild children – no
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Isolated children – maybe
Lack adult models for language (e.g. deaf kids with parents who don’t use sign language) – maybe
Can develop signs with rudimentary syntax
Other animals - no
Sex differences:
Men who suffer left hemisphere strokes are more likely than women to show severe aphasic symptoms (disruption
in speech comprehension and/or production)
Suggests that women may share more language function with right hemisphere
Social Learning Processes
Motherese – high pitched intonation used by parents to converse with infants
B.F. Skinner developed operant conditioning explanation for language acquisition
Children’s language development is strongly governed by adults’ reinforcing appropriate language and non-
reinforcing of inappropriate verbalization
Children learn much too fast
Parents typically do not correct grammar as much as “truth value
Telegraphic speech – two word sentences uttered during second year of life that consist of a noun and verb (e.g.
“Want cookie”)
Bilingualism: Learning a Second Language
Learned best and spoken most fluently when learned during critical period of childhood
If both languages are learned at early age, they often function in the same brain region
Linguistic Influences on Thinking
Empiricists – thought is a mental image
Behaviourists – thought is a motor action
Linguistic relativity hypothesis – language not only influences, but also determines what we are capable of thinking
Multiple studies have disproved the determination part
Modern view is that language can influence how we think, how efficiently we categorize our experiences, and how
much detail we attend to in our daily life experience
Language also influences how well we think in certain domains
English children consistently score lower than Asian children in mathematical skills due to words and symbols used
in each language to represent numbers
Chinese uses easier system to learn numbers (11 = “ten one”)
English speakers must use more complex system (11 = “eleven”)
Propositional thought – a form of linguistically based thought that expresses a statement in subject-predicate thought
Imaginal thought – a form of thinking that uses images that can be from any sense modality
Motoric thought – mental representations of motor movements
Concepts and Propositions
Propositions – statements that express facts
Consist of concepts combined in a particular way
Typically, one concept is a subject, another is a predicate
Concepts – basic units of semantic memory (mental categories into which we place objects, activities, abstractions,
and events that have essential features in common)
Prototypes – most typical and familiar members of a class that defines a concept
Use of prototypes is most elementary method of forming concepts
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