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Thinking and

Language

Chapter 10
modified 12/2015

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Thinking
Thinking, or cognition, refers to a process that
involves knowing, understanding,
remembering, and communicating.

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Cognition – Crash course
video

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Cognitive Psychologists
Thinking involves a number of mental
activities, which are listed below. Cognitive
psychologists study these in great detail.
1.
2.
3.
4.

Concepts
Problem solving
Decision making
Judgment formation
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Concept
The mental grouping of similar objects, events, ideas, or
people. There are a variety of chairs but their common
features define the concept of a chair.

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Category Hierarchies

We organize concepts into category hierarchies.

Courtesy of Christine Brune

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Development of Concepts
We form some concepts with definitions. For
example, a triangle has three sides. Mostly, we
form concepts with mental images or typical
examples (prototypes). For example, a robin is
a prototype of a bird, but a penguin is not.
J. Messerschmidt/ The Picture Cube

Daniel J. Cox/ Getty Images

Triangle (definition)

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Bird (mental image)

Categories
Once we place an item in a category, our
memory shifts toward the category prototype.
Courtesy of Oliver Corneille

A computer generated face that was 70 percent
Caucasian led people to classify it as Caucasian.
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Strategies
for
arriving at
solutions
include:

trial and
error

Problem Solving
Problem solving refers to the thinking we do in
order to answer a complex question or to figure
out how to resolve an unfavorable situation.
Trial and error involves trying various possible solutions,
and if that fails, trying others.
When it’s useful: perfecting an invention like the
light bulb by trying a thousand filaments
When it fails: when there is a clear solution but trial
and error might miss it forever

algorithms

An algorithm is a step by step strategy for solving a
problem, methodically leading to a specific solution.

heuristics

A heuristic is a short-cut, step-saving thinking strategy
or principle which generates a solution quickly (but
possibly in error).

insight

Insight refers to a sudden realization, a leap forward
in thinking, that leads to a solution.

Problem Solving
There are two ways to solve problems:
Algorithms: Methodical, logical rules or procedures
that guarantee solving a particular problem.

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Algorithms
Algorithms, which are very time consuming,
exhaust all possibilities before arriving at a
solution. Computers use algorithms.

SPLOYOCHYG
If we were to unscramble these letters to form a word
using an algorithmic approach, we would face
907,208 possibilities.
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Heuristics

B2M Productions/Digital Version/Getty Images

Heuristics are simple,
thinking strategies
that allow us to make
judgments and solve
problems efficiently.
Heuristics are less
time consuming, but
more error-prone than
algorithms.

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Clarifying Problem Solving Examples
To findthe
a apple
Where’s
specific
juice?
Do I item
look in
on every
a
supermarket
shelf in the store, or do I
search where there is
similar stuff?

Trial and
error
Algorithms

Heuristics

Wander around a
supermarket randomly
to find it.

Create a
methodical path to
make sure you
check every single
aisle.
Check only related
aisles.

Heuristics
Heuristics make it easier for us to use simple
principles to arrive at solutions to problems.

SPLOYOCHYG
SS
PY
L
Y
H
GY
Y
LO
O
YO
OC
C
HG
P
CH
LO
Put a Y at the end, and see if the word
begins to make sense.

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To solve a word jumble,

you can try a heuristic.

The problem with using trial and error to solve a word jumble is
that there are 782,200 (10!/(2!*2!)) different ways to combine
those letters. At least with the algorithm method, you are sure
to get through them all without counting any of them twice.
However, it would help to use shortcuts/heuristics to reduce the
options we need to try, such as:
1. putting a “Y” at the end.
2. thinking about where the other “Y” could go.
3. trying the “H” preceded by “C” and “S” and “P” before trying
other combinations.
4. speculating that with so few vowels, the “O”s will probably not
be together.

1. C L O O Y S P H Y G

SS
PY
P
LO
YO
HGY
CH
OC
LO

Trial and Error vs. Algorithms
To solve a word jumble, you can use:
Trial and error--randomly trying different
combinations in no particular order
An algorithm (below)--carefully checking every
single combination beginning with the letter “C”
before moving on to a different starting letter.

1. C L O O Y S P H Y G
2. C O L O Y S P H Y G

3. C O O L Y S P H Y G…

Algorithms: Not Just Thoroughness
A father and a son are currently 40 and 10; when will the
son be half the father’s age?
It might be tempting to use trial and error, but algebra
gives us an algorithm, a single, certain, systematic path
to the answer:

x = ½ (x + 30)
2x = x + 30
x = 30
Answer: when the son is 30, the
father will be is 60.

Insight
Insight involves a
sudden novel
realization of a
solution to a problem.
Humans and animals
have insight.

Grande using boxes to
obtain food

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Insight: The “Aha” Moment
Insight and the Brain
Insight refers to a
sudden realization,
a leap forward in
thinking, that leads
to a solution.
We say “aha” and
feel a sense of
satisfaction when an
answer seems to
pop into our minds.
We also may laugh;
joke punchlines rely
on sudden insight.

In one study, participants monitored by
fMRI and EEG were asked, “which word
will form a compound word with the
words pine, crab, and sauce?”
What the brains did along with the
“aha!” of getting the answer:

1. extra frontal lobe
activity
2. experiencing the
“aha!” moment and
stating the answer
3. a burst of activity in
right temporal lobe
(shown here)

Obstacles to Effective
Problem Solving
There are certain tendencies in human
cognition which make it more difficult to find
correct solutions to problems
.

Confirmation
bias

Fixation/
mental set
Heuristics

(which help solve problems
quickly but can lead to
mistaken conclusions)

Confirmation Bias
 Confirmation bias refers to our
tendency to search for
information which confirms our
current theory, disregarding
contradictory evidence.
 Natural tendency: “If I’m right,
then fact “C” will confirm my
theory. I must look for fact “C.”
 Scientific practice: “If I’m right,
then fact “D” will disprove or
at least disconfirm my theory. I
must search for fact “D.”

Studying Confirmation Bias:
Peter Wason’s Selection Test
1.He gave the sequence of
numbers “2, 4, 6.”
2.He asked students to guess
his rule, and ask him whether
other certain numbers fit the
rule.
The problem was not the
students’ theory, but their
strategy. If you think the rule is
“even numbers,” what numbers
would you need to ask him
about to TEST whether they
CONFIRM your theory?

Obstacles in Solving Problems
Confirmation Bias: A tendency to search for
information that confirms a personal bias.

2–4–6
Rule: Any ascending series of numbers. 1 – 2 – 3 would
comply. Ss had difficulty figuring out the rule due to a
confirmation bias (Wason, 1960).

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Confirmation Bias Test
You are given the cards below, that have a letter
on one side and a numeral on the other side.
Claim: if a card has a vowel on one side, then it
has an odd number on the other side.

Which two cards would you turn over to find out if the
claim is true?

Answer
 Flipping over the A could confirm or disprove the claim.
 Flipping over the D tells us nothing; we have no claim about
cards with consonants on one side.
 Flipping over the 6 is crucial, but often missed because even
numbers are not mentioned in the claim; if there is a vowel on
the other side, then the claim is not true, because flipping it back
over, there is NOT an odd number on the other side of the vowel.
 Flipping over the 7 is a chance to confirm the claim, but it
cannot be used to really test the claim (goal is to TEST the claim,
not CONFIRM it); if there is a consonant on the other side, then
the card is irrelevant, because we have no claim about cards
with consonants, only a claim about cards with vowels.
 So…. the answer is the first and third cards. WHY?.......
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“If a card has a vowel on one side, then it
has an odd number on the other side.”
 …Because the only way to falsify an “if X, then
Y” statement (“if vowel, then even number”) is
by finding an instance of “X and not Y” (“vowel
and even number”).
 we have to both verify it and test if for falsity.
 To verify it is true, you turn over the A card.
 To test if it’s false, you turn over the 6 card
(there could be a vowel on the other side of
an even numbered card, which would prove it
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false).

Other Problem-Solving Habits
Mental set
The tendency to
approach problems using
a mindset (procedures
and methods) that has
worked previously.

Fixation
The tendency to get
stuck in one way of
thinking; an inability
to see a problem from
a new perspective.

Mental Set

A tendency to approach a problem in a
particular way, especially if that way was
successful in the past.

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Mental Set: Demonstration
• What is next in these sequences?

O, T, T, F, F, ___, ___,
O,T,T,F,F, S, S (numbers)
J, F, M, A, M, ___, ___,
J,F,M,A,M, J, J (months)
S, M, T, N, U, ___, ___,
S,M,T,N,U,O,V,P,W,Q,X,R
W, I, N, I, T, ___?

W, I, N, I, T, S ?

If you are “primed” to use a certain problem-solving
strategy, you can form a mental set that makes it harder
to solve a new, similar problem.
What is the last one?

Answer to previous slide

 The last one might be seen as another sequence, when it’s just
the first initials of the first bullet point.

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Fixation

The Matchstick
Problem: How would
you arrange six
matches to form four
equilateral triangles?

From “Problem Solving” by M. Scheerer. Copyright © 1963 by
Scientific American, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Fixation: An inability to see a problem from a
fresh perspective. This impedes problem
solving. Two examples of fixation are mental set
and functional fixedness.

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Fixation
When people struggle with this,
what fixation is going on?
Hint: what assumption might be
fixed in their minds?
This type of fixation has been called

functional fixedness. The assumption
which makes this problem difficult is
thinking that the problem must be
solved in two dimensions when it is in
fact 3.

Our mental set, perhaps from our past
experiences with matchsticks, assumes we
are arranging them in two dimensions.

The Nine-dot Problem
Use four
straight lines to
connect the
nine dots. If you
already know
the solution, let
others figure it
out.

The Nine-dot Problem: Solution

Solving this
requires escaping
fixation by
thinking outside
the box. Literally.

The Nine-dot Problem

Can you use only THREE straight lines to
connect these nine dots?

Functional Fixedness
A tendency to think only of the familiar
functions of an object.

?

Problem: Tie the two ropes together.
Use a screw driver, cotton balls and a matchbox.

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Functional Fixedness

Use the screwdriver as a weight, and tie it to the end of
one rope. Swing it toward the other rope to tie the knot.

?

The inability to think of the screwdriver as a weight is
functional fixedness.

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Making Decision & Forming
Judgments
Each day we make hundreds of judgments and
decisions based on our intuition, seldom using
systematic reasoning.

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Intuition
 The human cognitive style of
making judgments and
decisions is more efficient than
logical.
 The quick-acting, automatic
source of ideas we use instead
of careful reasoning is known
as intuition.
 Using intuition to make a
decision has some downsides,
as we’ll soon see, but it also
has some benefits.

Making Quick Judgments and
Decisions
As with problem-solving, there
are mental habits which make
intuition-style judgments
simpler and quicker, but may
lead to errors:
1.the availability heuristic
2.overconfidence
3.belief perseverance
4.framing
All of these habits enable us
to quickly make hundreds of
small “gut” decisions each day
without bothering with
systematic reasoning.

Using and Misusing Heuristics

Two kinds of heuristics, representative
heuristics and availability heuristics, have been
identified by cognitive psychologists.

Courtesy of Greymeyer Award, University
of Louisville and Daniel Kahneman

Courtesy of Greymeyer Award, University
of Louisville and the Tversky family

Amos Tversky

Daniel Kahneman

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Representativeness Heuristic

Judging the likelihood of things or objects in
terms of how well they seem to represent,
or match, a particular prototype.
If you meet a slim, short, man who wears
Probability
person
is a do
truck
driver
far
glasses
and that
likesthat
poetry,
what
you
thinkishis
greater than
an ivy
league professor just because
profession
would
be?
there are more truck drivers than such professors.
An Ivy league professor or a truck driver?
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The Availability Heuristic
We use the availability
heuristic when we estimate
the likelihood of an event
based on how much it
stands out in our mind, that
is, how much it’s available
as a mental reference.
Example: thinking that winning at
a slot machine is likely because
we vividly recall the times we’ve
won before (thanks to bells, lights,
and flowing coins)

The Availability Heuristic

Why does our availability heuristic lead us astray?
How is retrieval facilitated?
Whatever increases the ease of retrieving information
increases its perceived availability.
1. How recently we have heard about the event.
2. How distinct it is.
3. How correct it is.

The Overconfidence Error

Overconfidence in
judgments refers to our
tendency to be more
confident than correct.

Examples:
thinking you can put
off work and still get
it done well

We overestimate the
accuracy of our
estimates, predictions,
and knowledge.

thinking you have
test material
mastered when you
scan it and it feels
familiar.

Overconfidence
Intuitive heuristics, confirmation of beliefs, and the
inclination to explain failures increase our overconfidence.
At a stock market, both
the seller and the buyer
may be confident about
their decisions on a
stock.
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Exaggerated Fear
The opposite of having
overconfidence is
having an exaggerated
fear about what may
happen. Such fears may
be unfounded.
AP/ Wide World Photos

The 9/11 attacks led to a
decline in air travel due
to fear.
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Weighted Attention:
Why We Fear the Wrong Things
The availability heuristic misleads us about whether a
plane ride or a motorcycle ride is more dangerous.

Of the many experiences available to us in forming
our judgments, we tend to give more weight to some
experiences than others.
We know of both plane crashes and motorcycle
crashes, but the plane crashes scare us more, and
stand out more in the news and in memory.
Why do some dangers stand out more?
Perhaps biology or natural selection predisposes us to
fear heights, lack of control, and confinement… all of
which are part of our image of a plane ride.

Framing Decisions
Decisions and judgments may be significantly affected
depending upon how an issue is framed.

Example: What is the best way to market
ground beef — as 25% fat or 75% lean?

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Ends pg. 406

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Belief Bias
The tendency of one’s preexisting beliefs to
distort logical reasoning by making invalid
conclusions.
God is love.
Love is blind
Ray Charles is blind.
Ray Charles is God.
Anonymous graffiti

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Belief Perseverance
Belief perseverance is the tendency to cling to
our beliefs in the face of contrary evidence.
If you see that a country is hostile, you are likely
to interpret their ambiguous actions as a sign of
hostility (Jervis, 1985).

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Belief
Perseverance
Error

Overcoming
Belief
Perseverance

“My mind is made up; do not
 You can’t cure someone else of
confuse me with the facts.”
belief perseverance. Just telling
Belief perseverance is the
someone the “right”
tendency to hold onto our
information won’t override it;
beliefs when facing contrary
people facing opposing
evidence.
information tend to become
We interpret information in a
MORE polarized in their beliefs.
way that fits our beliefs. We
 Instead, watch for this in
might claim that the new
yourself. Take opposing views
information is wrong, biased,
and information seriously,
or just “doesn’t make sense.”
always assuming that you could
Stereotypes are maintained
be wrong.
by this error; people often
disregard examples
contradicting stereotypes by
treating the new information
as merely an exception, and
not a challenge to the rule.

Intuition
How to use it
well
 We have seen that
in complex
situations, it helps
to use careful
reasoning to avoid
mistakes made by
intuitive judgments.
 However, research
supports the idea
that sometimes we
need to let our
unconscious mind
do some work.
 Incubation refers to
the power of taking
a break from careful
thinking, even to
“sleep on it,” to
allow leaps in
cognition.

How it may
have been
adaptive

When it’s
effective

 Intuition is effective
when it is a product
of expertise built up
 Judging quickly
from trial and error;
what to eat and
this hones one’s
what might kill us
judgment to the
might have helped
point of being more
our ancestors
accurate than logical
survive long
analysis.
enough to
 Examples: knowing
reproduce.
the sex of a chick,
 The times that our
making a diagnosis,
intuition was
speed chess,
incorrect may not
quarterback
have been fatal; if
decisions
humans avoided
 The mind’s ability to
all red plants
judge a situation
instead of
from experience is
poisonous berries,
more efficient than
they might have
any step-by-step
been hungry, but
analysis.
still alive.

Perils & Powers of Intuition
Intuition may be perilous if unchecked, but
may also be extremely efficient and adaptive.

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Perils & Powers of Intuition

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Ends pg. 409

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Language
Language, our spoken, written, or gestured work, is the
way we communicate meaning to ourselves and others.

M. & E. Bernheim/ Woodfin Camp & Associates

Language transmits culture.

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Uses of Language

We can hear about and
understand phenomena we
have never experienced.

We can connect to people far
away.

We can make plans and have
others carry them out.

We can know what another
person is thinking more directly
than just by observing their
behavior.

We can store information.

What is language made of?
Phonemes are the smallest
units of sound (vowels and
consonants).
Morphemes are the units
of meaning, i.e. words and
meaningful parts of words
such as suffixes, prefixes).
Grammar refers to the
rules for using words,
including semantics,
definitions, connotations,
and syntax (how the order
of words makes meaning).

Language Structure
Phonemes: The smallest distinct sound unit in a
spoken language. For example:
bat, has three phonemes b · a · t
chat, has three phonemes ch · a · t

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Language Structure
Morpheme: The smallest unit that carries a
meaning. It may be a word or part of a word.
For example:
Milk = milk
Pumpkin = pump . kin
Unforgettable = un · for · get · table
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Structuring Language
Phonemes

Basic sounds (about 40) … ea, sh.

Morphemes

Smallest meaningful units (100,000)
… un, for.

Words

Meaningful units (290,500) … meat,
pumpkin.

Phrase

Composed of two or more words
(326,000) … meat eater.

Sentence

Composed of many words (infinite)
… She opened the jewelry box.
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Grammar
Grammar is the system of rules in a language that
enable us to communicate with and understand others.

Grammar

Semantics

Syntax

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Semantics
Semantics is the set of rules by which we derive
meaning from morphemes, words, and
sentences. For example:
Semantic rule tells us that adding –ed to the
word laugh means that it happened in the past.

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Syntax
Syntax consists of the rules for combining
words into grammatically sensible sentences.
For example:
In English, syntactical rule says that adjectives
come before nouns; white house. In Spanish, it is
reversed; casa blanca.

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How do we learn language?

Language Development
Language Development is an Amazing
Process
 We acquire the use of 10 new words per
day (on average) between ages 2 and 18.
 Children learn the basic grammar of
language before they can add 2 + 2.
 Most kids can recall words and meanings,
and assemble words into sentences, while
simultaneously following social rules for
speaking and listening.

abbreviate
absorbent
accept
access
accessible
accessory
acoustics
accumulate
adjust
aerial
affects
alien
allotment
allotted
already
altercation
amass
amendment
amorous
ancestor
anecdote
angular
anonymous
antidote
antique

Language Development

Time Life Pictures/ Getty Images

Children learn their
native languages much
before learning to add
2+2.
We learn, on average
(after age 1), 3,500 words
a year, amassing 60,000
words by the time we
graduate from high
school.

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How do we learn language?

Language Talents and Stages
Age (months)

Talent/Behavior/Stage

0-4 months Receptive language: associating sounds with facial
In fantis
movements, and recognizing when sounds are broken
(“not speaking”) into words
4 months

Productive language: babbling in multilingual sounds
and gestures

10 months

Babbling sounds more like the parents’/household’s
language

12 months

One-word stage: understanding and beginning to say
many nouns

“telegraphic”/tweet speech: adding verbs,
18-24 months Two-word,
and making sentences but missing words (“See bird!
Ree book? Go park!”)

24+ months,
2+ years

Speaking full sentences and understanding complex
sentences

When do we learn language?
Babbling Stage:
Beginning at 4 months,
the infant
spontaneously utters
various sounds, like ahgoo. Babbling is not
imitation of adult
speech.

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Babbling with subtitles
http://youtu.be/bOxNukTawJs

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When do we learn language?
One-Word Stage: Beginning at or around his first
birthday, a child starts to speak one word at a
time and is able to make family members
understand him. The word doggy may mean look
at the dog out there.

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When do we learn language?

Two-Word Stage: Before the 2nd year a child
starts to speak in two-word sentences. This
form of speech is called telegraphic speech
because the child speaks like a telegram: “Go
car,” means I would like to go for a ride in the car.

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When do we learn language?

Longer phrases: After telegraphic speech,
children begin uttering longer phrases (Mommy
get ball) with syntactical sense, and by early
elementary school they are employing humor.
You never starve in the desert because of all the
sand-which-is there.
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Explaining Language Development

1. Operant Learning: Skinner (1957, 1985)
believed that language development may be
explained on the basis of learning principles
such as association, imitation, and
reinforcement.

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Explaining Language Development

2. Inborn Universal Grammar: Chomsky (1959,
1987) opposed Skinner’s ideas and suggested
that the rate of language acquisition is so fast
that it cannot be explained through learning
principles, and thus most of it is inborn.

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Explaining Language
Development
3. Statistical Learning and Critical Periods:
Well before our first birthday, our brains are
discerning word breaks by statistically
analyzing which syllables in hap-py-ba-by go
together. These statistical analyses are
learned during critical periods of child
development.

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David Hume Kennerly/ Getty Images

Michael Newman/ Photo Edit, Inc.

Eye of Science/ Photo Researchers, Inc.

Genes, Brain, & Language
Genes design the mechanisms for a
language, and experience modifies the brain.

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Critical Periods

According to one study with
immigrants, beginning a
language later made it harder to
learn the pronunciation and the
grammar of the second
language.

It is important to begin
appropriate language
exposure/education early so that
language centers of the brain
continue to develop.

Language might never develop if
not begun by age seven.

Deaf and
Blind Children
Deaf and blind children can use
complex adapted languages by
using other senses that are
heightened.
Sign language has the syntax,
grammar, and complex
meaning of any spoken
language.
“Blindness cuts people off from
things; deafness cuts people off
from people.”—Helen Keller
What happens if a deaf infant’s
parents don’t use sign
language?
Hint: critical period

Brain Damage and Language
Aphasia: an impairment in
the ability to produce or
understand language,
usually caused by damage
to the brain

Broca’s area, in the
left temporal lobe
Damage to Broca’s area leads to
difficulty in putting words
together in sentences or even
speaking single words, although
a person can sing a song.

Examples of aphasia: having
the ability to speak but not
read, to produce words in song
but not in conversation, and to
speak but not repeat; or
producing words in jumbled
order

Wernicke’s area, left
temporal lobe

Damage to Wernicke’s area leads
to difficulty comprehending
speech and producing coherent
speech (not easily monitoring
one’s own speech to make sure it
makes sense).

Language and the Brain

How to read a word, steps 1 to 5

Remember: language
functions are divided in the

brain.

End pg. 417

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Language & Thinking
Language and thinking intricately intertwine.

Rubber Ball/ Almay

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Language Influencing Thought
Linguistic
determinism:
the idea that
our specific
language
determines
how we think
 For example, Benjamin Whorf (1897-1941)
proposed that because the Hopi do not
have past tense forms for verbs, it is hard for
them to think about the past.
 Can you think about something that you do
not have a name for? If so, does that
disprove linguistic determinism?

Language’s Influence on Thought
Does language shape emotions or reflect them?
Speaking in Japanese provides many extra words for interpersonal
emotions such as sympathy and empathy, which Americans might have
trouble differentiating.
Speaking English gives us many words for self-focused emotions, such
as sadness.
Do language differences shape personality differences?
Bilingual people appear to have different personality profiles when
describing themselves in different languages.
“Learn a new language and get a new soul.”--Czech proverb.

Color Perception
We use our native language to
classify and to remember
colors. Different languages may
vary in where they put the
separation between “blue” and
“green,” or they may not have
separate words for these
colors.
Which squares are green?
teal? blue?

Word Power

Increasing word power pays its dividends. It
pays for speakers and deaf individuals who learn
sign language.

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Linguistic Determinism Questioned
Although people from Papua New Guinea do
not use our words for colors and shapes, they
still perceive them as we do (Rosch, 1974).

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Languages Improve Thinking
The Bilingual Advantage

People who are bilingual have numerous
brain connections and neural networks.

They also have a hidden talent, the ability to
suppress one language while learning
another.

This ability tends to go along with other forms
of executive control, such as resisting
distraction and inhibiting impulses.

Thinking in Images
To a large extent thinking is language-based.
When alone, we may talk to ourselves. However,
we also think in images.

We don’t think in words, when:
1. When we open the hot water tap.

2. When we are riding our bicycle.
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Images and Brain
Imagining a physical activity activates the same brain
regions as when actually performing the activity.

Jean Duffy Decety, September 2003

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Language and Thinking
Traffic runs both ways between language and
thinking.

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Animals & Language

Do animals have a language?

Honey bees communicate by dancing. The dance
moves clearly indicate the direction of the nectar.

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Do Other Species Think?
If thinking consists of
understanding concepts, including
words, numbers, and qualities,
then...
many creatures can memorize
the names of many objects.
Parrots can speak the names.
birds can sort objects by shape,
color, and type.
Alex the African parrot could add
numbers, and answer complex
questions such as “what color
bigger”? [“Tell me the color of the
object that is the bigger of these
two.”]

Do Other Species Think?

If thinking consists of solving
problems with insight, devising
behaviors that were not trained
or rewarded, and putting
strategies together in new
combinations, then...
chimpanzees do not say, “Aha,”
but one showed sudden leaps in
problem-solving. After putting
down a short stick that could
not reach a fruit, he jumped up
suddenly to use that short stick
to reach a longer stick.

Do Animals Think?
Common cognitive skills
in humans and apes
include the following:

Concept formation.
Insight
Problem Solving
Culture
Mind?

William Munoz

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

African grey parrot assorts red
blocks from green balls.

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Insight
Chimpanzees show insightful behavior when
solving problems.

Sultan uses sticks to get food.

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Problem Solving

Courtesy of Jennifer Byrne, c/o Richard Byrne,
Department of Psychology, University of St. Andrews, Scotland

Apes are famous,
much like us, for
solving problems.

95

Chimpanzee fishing for ants.

Animal Culture
Animals display customs and culture that are
learned and transmitted over generations.
Michael Nichols/ National Geographic Society

Copyright Amanda K Coakes

Dolphins using sponges as
forging tools.

Chimpanzee mother using and
teaching a young how to use
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a stone hammer.

Mental States
Can animals infer mental states in themselves
and others?
To some extent. Chimps and orangutans (and
dolphins) used mirrors to inspect themselves
when a researcher put paint spots on their faces
or bodies.

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Do Animals Exhibit Language?
There is no doubt that
animals communicate.

Copyright Baus/ Kreslowski

Vervet monkeys,
whales and even honey
bees communicate
with members of their
species and other
species.
Rico (collie) has a
200-word vocabulary

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The Case of Apes
Chimps do not have a vocal apparatus for
human-like speech (Hayes & Hayes,1951).
Therefore, Gardner and Gardner (1969) used
American Sign Language (ASL) to train
Washoe, a chimp, who learned 182 signs by the
age of 32.

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Gestured Communication
Animals, like humans, exhibit communication
through gestures. It is possible that vocal speech
developed from gestures during the course of
evolution.

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Sign Language
American Sign Language (ASL) is
instrumental in teaching chimpanzees a
form of communication.

Paul Fusco/ Magnum Photos

When asked, this chimpanzee uses
a sign to say it is a baby.

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Computer Assisted Language
Others have shown that bonobo pygmy chimpanzees can
develop even greater vocabularies and perhaps semantic
nuances in learning a language (Savage-Rumbaugh,
1991). Kanzi and Panbanish developed vocabulary for
hundreds of words and phrases.

Copyright of Great Ape Trust of Iowa

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Criticism
1.
2.

3.
4.

Apes acquire their limited vocabularies with a
great deal of difficulty, unlike children who
develop vocabularies at amazing rates.
Chimpanzees can make signs to receive a
reward, just as a pigeon who pecks at the key
receives a reward. However, pigeons have not
learned a language.
Chimpanzees use signs meaningfully but lack
syntax.
Presented with ambiguous information, people
tend to see what they want to see.
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Conclusions
If we say that animals can use meaningful
sequences of signs to communicate a capability
for language, our understanding would be
naive… Steven Pinker (1995) concludes, “chimps
do not develop language.”

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