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Chapter 9

Chapter 9- Language & Thinking

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Psychology 1000
Shauna Burke

Chapter 9: Language & Thinking 1 • mental representation: images, ideas, concepts, principles Language • language: symbols & rules for combining these symbols in ways that can generate an infinite number of possible messages & meanings • psycholinguistics: scientific study of psychological aspects of language Adaptive Functions of Language: • present form: 50,000 years ago • evolution: more socially oriented lifestyles • survival problems: need to create divisions of labour and cooperative social systems, to develop social customs & communicate thoughts, pass on knowledge Properties of Language: • properties: symbols, structure, meaning, generatively, displacement Language Is Symbolic & Structured: uses sounds, written characters, other system of symbols to represent objects, events, ideas, • feelings & actions • arbitrary: ex. “dog” french: chien (does not sound like it) • grammar: set of rules that dictate how symbols can be combined to create meaningful units of communication • syntax: order of words; ex. ‘Bananas have sale for I’(not correct) Language Conveys Meaning: • semantics: meaning of words & sentences; ex. ‘I nailed the test’- not literally Language Is Generative & Permits Displacement: Chapter 9: Language & Thinking 2 • generativity: symbols of language can be combined to generate an infinite number of messages that have novel meaning Surface Structure & Deep Structure: • surface structure: symbols that are used & their order • deep structure: underlying meaning of combined symbols Hierarchical Structure of Language: • phoneme: smallest unit of speech sound in language that can signal a difference in meaning; ex. vowel & consonant sounds • morpheme: smallest unit of meaning in language; ex. dog, log, ball • English language: 40 phonemes, 100,000 morpheme • discourse: sentences are combined into paragraphs, articles, books, etc. Role of Bottom-Up Processing: • individual elements of stimulus are analyzed & combined to form unified perception • phonemes - > morphemes; combo of morphemes to form words • brain: 1. analyze basic elements (contours, angles of lines), 2. feed info to other cell groups that lead to perceive patterns as letters Role of Top-Down Processing: • sensory info is interpreted in light of existing knowledge, concepts, ideas & expectations • ex. Bead Store - > people saw ‘Bread store’ • speech segmentation: perceiving where each word within a spoken sentence begins & ends • Irwin Pollack & J.M. Pickett (1964): recorded convos of 4 uni students - > availability of context made job of identifying individual words easier Pragmatics: The Social Context of Language: • knowledge of practical aspects of using language Chapter 9: Language & Thinking 3 • ex. call friends house, parent picks up, ‘Is Bill there?’parent: ‘hang on’not • ex. sending email to professor=more formal than sending text to friend Language Functions, the Brain, and Sex Differences: • Broca’s area: left hemisphere; word production & articulation • Wernicke’s area: speech comprehension - > aphasia: damage in one or both areas • Susan Rossell (2002): men=greater left hemisphere action; women=both left & right hemispheres Acquiring a First Language: Biological Foundations: • adult languages have underlying structural characteristics • language acquisition: unfolding of a biologically primed process within social learning environment • language acquisition device (LAD): innate biological mechanism, contains general grammatical rules common to all languages; ex. noun & verb phrases arranged in particular ways Social Learning Process: • child-directed speech: high pitched intonation • B.F. Skinner (1957): children’s language development is strongly governed by adults’positive reinforcement of appropriate language & non-reinforcement or correction of inappropriate verbalizations • language acquisition support system (LASS): factors in social environment that facilitate learning of language Developmental Timetable & Sensitive Periods: • reflexive crying - > cooing, babbling, one word utterances - > Chapter 9: Language & Thinking 4 • telegraphic speech: consist of noun & verb w/ non-essential words left out in telegraph message; ex. want cookie - > additional words added Table 9.1 (pg. 324) • Bilingualism: Learning a Second Language: • best learned during sensitive period of childhood • language=any age; mastery of syntax/grammar depends on early acquisition • children differentiate b/w 2 languages at age 2 • perform better on perceptual tasks that require to inhibit attention to another feature; ex. red & blue squares • greater flexibility in thinking & better performance on standardized intelligence tests Is Earlier Better? • “age of acquisition” can easily be confounded w/ “years of exposure and practice” • Elisa Newport (1989), David Birdsong & Michele Molis (2001) • sensitive (rather than critical) period for learning a second language that extends through mid- adolescence Linguistic Influences on Thinking: • linguistic relativity hypothesis: (Benjamin Lee Whorf): language not only influences but determines what we are capable of thinking Eleanor Rush: studied Dani of New Guinea- only 2 colour words in language (bright/warm vs • dark/cool) • psycholinguistics: language can influence how we think, categorize info, attend to daily experiences; colour perceptions, decisions we make, conclusions we draw • contain & maintain stereotypes how well we think in certain domains; ex. English-speaking vsAsian on math- base-10 mode • Thinking Thought, Brain & Mind: Chapter 9: Language & Thinking 5 • Tristan Lundemo: patient w/ epilepsy- video game study • brain regions & connecting circuits that are active at any instant, a particular subset becomes joined in unified activity that is strong enough to become conscious thought or perception • propositional thought: expresses proposition or statement; ex. ‘I am hungry’ • imaginal thought: images that we can see, hear, or feel in mind • motoric thought: mental representations of motor movements; ex. throwing object Concepts & Propositions: • proposition: statements that express ideas • concept: basic unit of semantic memory- mental categories into which we place objects, activities, abstractions & events that have essential features in common • many concepts are hard to define explicitly; ex. define vegetable=hard, naming examples=easy • prototype:
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