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Chapter 10: Thinking and Language 385-417
Thinking About Thinking
Thinking about thinking is called metacognition. Cognition – the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, remembering, and communicating. Concept / prototype / schema – all words that define a primary way we think. We simplify things and ideas into categories such as chair, bird, nice, evil, etc.
Another aspect of thinking involves being able to solve problems and cope with new situations. We achieve this in one of three ways: Algorithm – using a logical procedure that guarantees solving a problem. For example, walking up and down every aisle of the grocery story to find the eggs.
Heuristic – a simple thinking strategy that allows us to make judgments and solve problems quickly. Using heuristics is usually faster but less accurate than algorithms. Example: A person looking in the Dairy section of the grocery store for milk.
Insight – A sudden and often novel realization of the solution to a problem. Insights are most likely caused by the activation of several neural networks and memories of a particular topic in an order that allows for them to creatively associate and produce new ideas.
The key to human achievement?
Insights and solving problems have an emotional response – they make us happy or feel satisfaction. It is possible that much of humor is explained in the same way, we laugh when a story has a double meaning or unexpected ending. Reaching a new understanding or perspective makes people happy or laugh.
Jokes that create humor through new insights or perspectives
A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls 911. He gasps to the operator: “My Friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure your friend is dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy’s voice comes back on the line: “OK, now what?”
Obstacles to Problem Solving
Sometimes the way we think hurts our ability to solve problems. Here are two examples: Confirmation Bias – Refers to people’s tendency to search for information that confirms one’s preconceptions or ideas. Example: You are dating someone and in love with them. Every time they do something you like you notice and reassure yourself they are the one for you, when they do something that you might normally not like, you don’t mind or don’t notice.
Confirmation Bias test
Experiment: Can you find out the pattern to this three number sequence? 2-4-6 Write 3 other sequences of numbers with the same rule Write down what the rule is for extra credit
Fixation is the inability to see a problem from a fresh perspective. Demonstration Cut 6 equal length strips of paper out. Arrange the six strips of paper to make 4 equilateral triangles.
People use methods that have been successful in the past to solve new problems. (a function of reinforcement and conditioning) A mental set is the tendency to approach a problem in a particular way, especially a way that has been successful in the past but may or may not be helpful in solving a new problem. Functional Fixedness – the tendency to think of things only in terms of their useful functions, can cause issues problem solving.
Example: Looking everywhere for a screwdriver to screw a screw in when you could have used your fingers and a dime.
Making Decisions, Forming Judgments
Using intuition and heuristics to solve problems saves time and usually helps us out a great deal. However, they are prone to mistakes as well. Two of the most common are: Representativeness heuristic – Judging the likelihood of things in terms of how well they fit a prototype while possibly ignoring other information.
Problems with Heuristics
Example: You are told about a person who is short, slim, and likes to read poetry. Is this person more likely to be a professor at an Ivy League University or a Truck Driver?
Information ignored: How many truck drivers vs. Ivy League professors who teach poetry there are.
The Availability Heuristic
Estimating the likelihood of events with based on their availability in memory. Example people who are more afraid of dying in a plane crash after 9/11 than a car accident. Even though plane hijackings are extremely rare and car accidents are very common.
Example: Casinos make use of the availability heuristic, out of hundreds of slot machines in a casino they blink and buzz and bells and lights go off whenever there is a win and stay silent when people lose. This creates the illusion of people winning all the time when in reality they are losing.
Overconfidence is the tendency to overestimate the accuracy of our knowledge and judgments. Statistics show that people are way more confident in their ability to know information than their actual knowledge. The most confident people are not the most accurate.
Overconfidence does have an adaptive value. Studies show that people who are overconfident live more happily, find it easier to make tough decisions, seem more credible, and when given prompt and clear feedback on their predictions can learn to from their mistakes. Experience is the most important to learning.
Framing is the way an issue is posed and can significantly affect how we judge a situation. Example. Which meat would you rather buy meat that is 75% fat free or meat that is 25% fat? Example. Retail stores will mark up their items and then offer “sales.” This makes it appear that you are saving money when in actuality other stores may sell the same item at the sale price year round.
The tendency for one’s pre-existing beliefs to distort logical reasoning, by making invalid conclusions seem valid, or valid conclusions seem invalid.
Belief Bias Examples
Premise 1: Democrats support free speech Premise 2: Dictators are not democrats Conclusion: Dictators do not support free speech Is the same logic as: Premise 1: Robins have feathers Premise 2: Chickens are not robins Conclusion: Chickens do not have feathers
Belief Perseverance - the tendency for people to cling to our beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Example: Two groups of people are asked to consider if risk takers or cautious people make better fire fighters. One group is shown evidence that risk takers make better fire fighters and the other that cautious people make better fire fighters.
Then both groups are told that the evidence was fabricated. The result was most of the group members STILL thought that their theory was the right one even though they had been told the evidence was made up because their explanations, such as, “risk takers are more brave” still seemed to have logic to them.
Belief Perseverance does not make it impossible to change our minds but it does mean that once a belief is formed and justified it take more compelling evidence to change our belief than it did to create it. What effect might this have on society?
AI is the pursuit of making machines think like humans. The ultimate goal being to find a “unified theory of cognition.” Computers can calculate very fast but most calculations are linear, not parallel as in humans. Computers can do math faster than humans but cannot do some simple human tasks like distinguish a cat from a dog, distinguish if the work “line” is being used to mean a rope or a social come-on or experience or show emotion. Artificial Intelligence makes us ask the question what is “human” or consciousness.
We learned that “framing” is very important in cognition. Language frames a huge part of our cognition and defines our ability to think in some ways.
Phoneme – in spoken language the smallest distinctive sound unit. Morpheme – In language the smallest unit that carries meaning (a word or part of a word such as a prefix) Grammar – a system of rules that enables people to communicate with each other Semantics – set of rules from which we derive meaning from morphemes, words, and sentences.
Syntax – rules on building sentences in a language. Example, in English adjectives come before nouns as in White House, in Spanish it’s the opposite, Casa Blanca All language is extremely complex. People do not speak wrongly, they only speak different dialects. The rules governing “Ebonics” are just as complex as those governing “English.”
Children learn language in the way its structured, they first learn the simple sounds then meanings, finally they can form words and then sentences etc. Babbling Stage – begins at 3 to 4 months where infants randomly generate phonemes of all languages, at about 10 months they will start babbling sounds in their native language.
One word Stage – from about 1 to 2 years old infants speak mostly using single words. Two word / Telegraphic stage – where infants use 2 words mostly nouns and verbs such as “Go car.” Our minds are wide open to language up till about age 7 if you have not developed a language during that time you will NEVER learn a language very well. This is why people nearly always speak their “native” language better than their second language.
How language shapes thinking
Linguistic Determination – A theory by Benjamin Lee Whorf that says language determines the way we think Many people report that bilingual people often have a different sense of self depending on what language they are using. On personality tests bilingual people often score as having different personalities depending on what language they take the test in.
Does building vocabulary build consciousness? Grammar/use of words concepts Russian: Formal, informal “you” Do you understand? Ponimayete Ponimaesh?
Thinking without language
When you wake up in the morning and turn the water on in the bathroom sink, what direction do you turn the faucet? Did you answer that question with words or did you picture it in your head? Mental rehearsal – Figure skating, throwing darts examples
Do animals think?
Chimpanzee’s using tools Honeybee’s Dance 6 million dollar question: Is this true language or is it operant learning that does not indicate true consciousness?
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