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Chapter Nine – Language and Thinking.docx

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Psychology 1000
Mark Cole

Chapter Nine – Language - Humans communicate more efficiently and think better than animals do Mental Representations – include images, ideas, concepts, and principles - In forms of language, thinking, reasoning, and problem solving Language – consists if symbols and rules for combining these symbols in ways that can generate an infinite number of possible messages - Thinking, reasoning, and problem solving involve language - These cognitive processes build on the large store of knowledge that resides in memory and they provide us with intelligent behaviour Adaptive Functions of Language - Human thought and behaviour depend on more than physical structure of the brain - The use of language evolved as people gathered to form larger social units - The development of language made it easier for humans to adapt to environmental demands - Humans evolved into highly social creatures who need to communicate with one another (physical characters allow them to do so) - We can share thoughts, feelings, goals, intentions, desires, needs and memories with one another - Language is also a powerful learning mechanism Properties of Language - Foreign language may seem incomprehensive to us, but that is because we don’t hear certain sounds of other languages that they do Language is Symbolic and Structured - Language uses sounds, written characters, or other symbols to represent objects, events, ideas, feelings, and actions - Language is arbitrary because the word “dog” does not look like an actual dog, but it has meaning that we all understand and can identify what a dog is based off the word - Grammar – set of riles that dictate how symbols can be combined to create meaningful units of communication o Even if we cant verbalize the grammar rules, we still are consciously aware of them - New words and new phrases need to conform to the basic rules of that language Language Conveys Meaning - People use their learnt symbols and words to transfer mental representations to other peoples minds - Semantics – the meaning of words and sentences - We know when someone uses an expression to not interpret it literally (“ Finding a needle in a haystack”) Language is Generative and Permits Displacement - Generativity – symbols of language can be combined to generate an infinite number of messages that have novel meaning - We are able to understand sentences, regardless whether they make sense or not - Displacement – language allows us to communicate about events and objects that are not physically present - We can discuss the past and the future, as well as people, objects, and events that currently exist The Structure of Language Surface Structure – symbols that are used and their order they are used in - Rules of ordering words properly Deep Structure – the underlying meaning of the combined symbols (semantics) - Everyday, when we read or hear speech, we are moving from the surface structure to deep structure - Some sentences may have two deep structures (or meanings) Hierarchical Structure of Language - Phoneme – the smallest unit of speech sound in a language that can signal a difference in meaning - No language uses all of the same sounds and vary in phonemes - Phonemes have no inherent meaning, but they alter meaning when combined with other elements - Morphemes – phonemes are combined into morphemes, which are the smallest unit of meaning in a language (stuff of which word are formed) - In every language, rules determine how phonemes can be combined into morphemes - Discourse – sentences are combined into paragraphs, articles, books, conversations, etc Understanding and Producing Language The Role of Bottom-Up Processing - Your brain must recognize and interpret patters of stimuli that create hand signs or tactile patters (such as Braille), which are detected by your sensory systems - Bottom-up processing – individual elements of a stimulus are analyzed and combined to form a unified perception o Use phonemes to create morphemes o We analyze the different elements and send that info to other cell groups that lead us to perceive these patters as letters o We then recognize words directly by perceiving the visual patters or indirectly by translating the visual patters into auditory codes The Role of Top-Down Processing - Top-down processing – sensory info is interpreted in light of existing knowledge, concepts, ideas, and expectations o How our unconscious expectations shape what we visually perceive o Language involves this process by nature because words go off existing knowledge that are stored in our long-term memory (basic rules, etc) - Speech Segmentation – perceiving where each word in a spoken sentence beings and ends o We use several cues to tell when one spoken word ends and another begins Pragmatics: The Social Context of Language - When asked a question, such as “Do you have a watch,” we are able to understand that the person does not actually care if we have a watch, but rather wants to know the time of day - It takes more than having a vocabulary and arranging words grammatically to understand language and communicate effectively with others - Pragmatics – a knowledge of the practical aspects of using language o Helps us understand what other people are really saying and helps you make sure that other people are understanding what you are communicating o Also depend on social context (tone, etc) Language Functions, the Brain, and Sex Differences - Language functions are distributed in many areas of the brain - Broca’s Area – located in the left hemisphere’s frontal lobe and is involved in word production and articulation - Wernicke’s Area – in the rear portion of the temporal lobe and is involved in speech comprehension - Aphasia – if the broca’s area or wernicke’s area are damaged, they will suffer an impairment in speech comprehension and/or production that can be permanent or temporary - Cortex – visual area is involved in recognizing written words Acquiring a First Language - Children begin to master language early in life without any formal instruction - Language acquisition represents the development of a biologically primed process within a social learning environment - Infants can perceive the entire range of phonemes found in the world’s languages (6 to 12 months old) - They will discriminate only those sounds that are specific to their native tongue as they get older (learning only the main language spoken around them) - Language Acquisition Device – innate biological mechanism that contains the general grammatical rules common to all languages (noun phrases and very phrases) - Universal grammar becomes calibrated to the grammar and syntax of ones native tongue Social Learning Processes - Parents teach their children words by pointing out objects and naming them, by reading aloud and responding to their questions - Skinner thought that children’s language development was strongly governed by adult’s positive reinforcement of appropriate language and nonreinforcement or correction of inappropriate verbalization - Parents corrections focus primarily on the truth value (deep structure) and less on the grammar - Social learning is crucial to language acquisition and the internal play between biological and environmental factors - Language acquisition support system – represent factors in the social environment that facilitate the learning of a language Development Timetable and Sensitive Periods - Language acquisition proceeds according to a developmental time-table that is common to all cultures - Speech development develops as vocabulary increases and sentences become more grammatically correct - In 5 years a creature can create a non-verbal understanding and produce a complex language - A study of children in the wild were able to come up with their own, grammatically correct, language - However, language deprived children past puberty are unable to acquire normal language skills - Deaf-children who learn sign language before puberty develop normal linguistic and cognitive abilities Bilingualism: Learning a Second Language - A second language is learned best and spoken most fluently when it is learned during the sensitive period of childhood - After age 7, mastery of a language becomes progressively more difficult - Children learning two languages will being to differentiate them by age 2 and will no-longer mix them up - Bilingual speakers scored as well as monolinguals on performance tests and they show superior cognitive processing when compared to those who only know one language - Bilingual children better understand symbols and perform better on perceptual tasks that require them to inhibit attention to an irrelevant feature and pay attention to another one Linguistic Influences on Thinking Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis – language not only influences but also determines what we are capable of thinking (not always true) - New Guinea only have two words for colours, splitting the light and dark colours, but were still able to identify between colours - Canadian participants were able to split the colours into their separate names, but none-the-less, New Guinea was still able to divide the colours - Most psycholinguists do not agree with the linguistic relativity hypothesis (by Whorf) Chapter Nine – Thinking Lundemo is a patient with epilepsy who had electrodes attached to his head to measure his brain wave activity and patters of intensity when he was controlling a video game telepathically o He was able to use his electric mind over the electronic matter to control the curser o Several brain regions became most active when his thought moved the cursor left, right, up, and down - Conscious thought arises from the unified activity of different brain areas - The specific brain regions varies as different movements and different thoughts occur - Thoughts exist as neural patterns of activity Propositional Thought – form of verbal sentences that we say or hear in our minds - Example: “I’m hungry” Imaginal Thought – images that we can see, hear, or feel in our mind Motoric Thought – mental representations of motor movements - Example: throwing something Concepts and Propositions Propositions – statements that express ideas - Consist of concepts combined in a particular way (two concepts linked by a verb) Concepts – basic units of semantic memory/ mental categories where we place things that have common features - Can be acquired through explicit instruction or by our own observations of similarities and differences - Many are difficult to define explicitly (such as defining vegetables as a whole) P
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