Psychology 3130A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Negative-Feedback Amplifier, Elizabeth Loftus, Mental Model

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Chapter 5: Language and thought
This chapter will examine the interaction between language and thinking
Animals communicate
o E.g. honey bees dance in order to communicate where you can find honey
Unlike human language, communication in these non human species is limited and direct
o Bees dance have one function: signal location of food
o African grey parrot can learn to mimic language of humans, but not using human language to cary
conversation
Great apes, and specifically bonobos and orangutuans, known to be able to learn complex symbol systems
No hua ouiatio ad laguage-like ehaiour is used priaril to egage i diret ouiatio or as
a response to an external stimuli
o Is’t tied to thikig i the a that hua laguage is
In this way, human language is unique and remarkable
Do we think in language?
The influential, dual-system approach (also known as the default0interventionist approach) is built on the idea that
non-conscious or intuitive processes drive many thinking behaviours, and these often need to be overridden by
conscious, linguistically influenced thought
Box 5.1
Some apes have learned to use a communication system very close to a simple natural language that might be seen in
humans
Kanzi (male bonobo), Koko (female lowland gorilla) Kanzi learned to communicate from observing his mom as she
was being trained on a symbolic keyboard communication system
o Estimated he has vocab and syntax comparable to a human toddler, and continues to acquire new phrases,
concepts and uses for language
Koko communications via sign language, shown to express emotion through it
Strongest criticism is despite clear cognitive sophistication, vast majority of their communication is not arbitrary and
productive, but consists of direct requests and responses
More criticism concerns relationship between trainer and animal
o Many of Kokos successes could be result of interpretation of teacher
What is language
Charles Hockett described 13 characteristics of human languages
o All features of human language that suggest a unique and highly evolved system designed for communication
with others and also with self (e.g. thinking)
Language is a behaviour that has total feedback
o Whatever you say you can also hear
o Receive feedback directly related to what you say
According to Hockett, this is necessary for human thinking
Language is also productive
o Can express an infinite number of things and ideas; can be achieved in finite system
13 design features
Hockett
vocal/auditory channel (transfer between vocal and auditory apparatus); broadcast transmission/directional
reception (signal can be sent out in many directions, but perceived in one direction); rapid fading, transitoriness
(verbal signal fades quickly); interchangeability (speaker of a language can reproduce any message they can
understand); total feedback (speaker hears everything they say); specialization (vocal apparatus used in speech is
specialized for speech production); semanticity (language has semantic content); arbitrariness (signal need not refer
to a physical characteristics); discreteness (language is composed of a discrete, finite set of units); displacement;
productivity (produce infinite set of ideas); traditional transmission (language is transmitted by traditional teaching,
learning, and observation); duality of patterning (small number of meaningless units combined to produce meaning)
arbitrary: not need to be correspondence between sound of word and idea it expressed
Understanding language as cognition
challenge of understanding language as a cognitive behaviour is trying to understand how humans are able to
produce language such an idea can be converted into sound and perceived by another and converted back into an
idea
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