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Chapter 8 Cognition and Language

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Title: Chapter 8 Cognition and Language


1
Chapter 8Cognition and Language
2
Cognition and Language
  • Cognition refers to thinking, gaining knowledge,
    and dealing with knowledge.
  • Language is intimately related to the activities
    of cognition. It is a system of arbitrary symbols
    that can be combined to create an infinite number
    of meaningful statements.

3
Module 8.1
  • Thinking and Mental Processes

4
Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive psychologists study how people think,
    acquire knowledge, what they know, what they
    imagine and how they solve problems.
  • Cognitive psychology uses a variety of methods to
    measure mental processes and test theories about
    what we know and how we know it.

5
Categorization
  • The formation of categories or concepts is one of
    the primary ways that we organize information
    about our world.
  • In general we categorize people, objects or
    events together when they have important
    qualities in common.
  • There are a number of ways to categorize.

6
Categorization
  • Prototypes
  • A prototype is a familiar or typical example of a
    category.
  • By using prototypes, we decide whether or not an
    object belongs in a category by determining how
    well it resembles the prototypical members of the
    category

7
Categorization
  • Prototypes
  • We use ROSE as the prototypical flower.
  • Daisy and tulip resemble it closely enough that
    you would quickly agree that they belong in the
    same category.
  • What about the corpse flower which has a
    blossom that is not colorful and a terrible
    fragrance? Although you would also classify it as
    a flower, you would pause because it doesnt
    resemble the prototype in some important ways.

8
Categorization
  • Prototypes
  • The prototype approach suggests that membership
    is a category may be a matter of degrees, not a
    yes-or-no question.
  • Prototypes are harder to apply to compound
    categories.
  • We can discuss a category without having an
    existing example of its members.
  • Try to think of a prototypical rare insect.
  • Do we require a prototype to discuss or think
    about extinct amphibians?

9
(a)
(b)
  • Figure 8.1
  • (a) A much-abridged chart of the current
    scientific classification of the animal kingdom.
    (b) An alleged listing from an ancient Chinese
    encyclopediaactually the product of someones
    imagination (Rosch, 1978). The point is that some
    methods of categorizing are better than others.

10
Categorization
  • Cross-Cultural Studies of Concepts
  • We tend to assume that everyone in the world
    forms categories the same way, but this is not
    correct.
  • Words for colors vary among world languages.
  • People probably see colors the same way, but we
    dont know if red in one language is the same
    red as in English. It could be a variation of
    red (orange-red.)
  • The Dani people of New Zealand have no words for
    colors at all just light and dark.

11
  • Figure 8.2
  • Elizabeth Rosch Heider asked people to look at a
    color sample, such as one of these, remember it
    for 30 seconds, and then pick it out from an
    array of 160 choices. Her hypothesis was that
    people would remember more accurately the focal
    colors than the boundary or internominal colors.

12
Categorization
  • Conceptual networks
  • Thinking about something usually means relating
    it to a network of related concepts.
  • Its difficult to think about something by
    itself.
  • We have a hierarchy in mind of categories and
    subcategories.
  • The upper levels of the hierarchy are the more
    common, broadly shared characteristics.
  • The lower levels are the more distinctive or
    special characteristics.
  • This simplifies the process of classifying.

13
CONCEPT CHECK
  • Which question takes longer to answer
  • Do astronauts travel in spaceships?
  • Do astronauts sometimes get traffic tickets?

The first one is a more distinct feature and
should be easier to answer (although both are
true.)
14
Categorization
  • Conceptual networks
  • When you hear about one concept, the other
    concepts that you associate with it are also
    primed or activated.
  • This process is called spreading activation.
  • If you hear the word car you think of drive
    or road. What do you think of when you hear the
    word school?

15
  • Figure 8.4
  • According to one explanation, the word Armstrong
    and the ideas astronaut, first person on the
    moon, and famous sayings all activate the linked
    saying One small step for a man . . . Even the
    word Louis contributes because both Louis
    Armstrong and Neil Armstrong were famous people.

16
Attention
  • Preattentive and attentive processes
  • It is generally true that a feature or object
    that is unusual or different will get your
    attention quickly, while one that is surrounded
    by similar objects will require a long and
    patient search.
  • Finding an unusual feature or figure relies on a
    preattentive process, a procedure for extracting
    information automatically or simultaneously
    across a large portion of the visual field.
  • Finding a typical feature or figure requires an
    attentive process, a procedure that considers
    only one part of the visual field at a time.

17
  • Figure 8.5
  • Demonstration of preattentive processes Find the
    vertical line in each part. Most people find it
    about equally fast in both parts.

18
  • Figure 8.6
  • Demonstration of attentive processes Find the
    pentagon pointing down in each part. Most people
    take longer to find it in part b.

19
Attention
  • Preattentive and attentive processes
  • The Stroop effect is another example of the
    difference between preattentive and attentive
    processes.
  • Although it is difficult to explain, it seems
    that reading for most of us is an automatic and
    preattentive process.
  • Being asked to refrain from reading and name the
    colors instead makes substantive demands on
    attention.

20
  • Figure 8.7
  • Read (left to right) the color of the ink in each
    part. Try to ignore the words themselves. Your
    difficulty on the lowest part illustrates the
    Stroop effect.

21
Attention
  • Shifting attention
  • Many routine tasks that we perform require little
    attention.
  • When we intentionally shift our attention to a
    particular stimulus, we often lose attention to
    everything else.
  • Negative priming occurs when we attend to one
    thing and deliberately ignore another. We may
    briefly find it hard to identify the previously
    ignored stimulus.

22
Attention
  • Shifting attention
  • A related effect is the attentional blink.
  • During a brief time after perceiving one
    stimulus, it is difficult to attend to something
    else.
  • Effects such as these are of crucial importance
    in both the trivial activity of playing a video
    game, and potentially life-and-death situations
    such as flying an airplane or operating other
    complex machinery.

23
  • FIGURE 8.9
  • Each gauge represents a measurement of a
    different variable in a machine, such as an
    airplane. The top row shows one way of presenting
    the information. The operator must check each
    gauge one at a time to find out whether the
    reading is within the safe range for that
    variable. The bottom row shows the information
    represented in a way that is easier to read. The
    safe range for each variable is rotated to the
    same visual position. At a glance the operator
    can detect any reading outside the safe zone.

24
Mental Imagery
  • Sometimes people will report that they have no
    trouble creating a mental picture of an object or
    location, but still they cannot answer questions
    about it correctly when those questions are based
    on the mental image.
  • Our mental images are frequently wrong in many of
    their details.

25
Mental Imagery
  • Which city is farther north, Seattle, WA or
    Montreal, in the province of Quebec, Canada?

Seattle is farther north, but our cognitive maps
are biased by this heuristic - Canada is north
of the US, therefore all its cities are north of
all of ours.
26
  • Figure 8.12
  • Logical versus actual location of Reno and Los
    Angeles. Most people imagine that Los Angeles is
    farther west because California is west of Nevada.

27
Mental Imagery
  • Cognitive Maps
  • A mental image of a spatial arrangement is called
    a cognitive map.
  • Cognitive maps (at least versions that are drawn
    by research subjects) tend to exhibit interesting
    patterns of error.
  • Cognitive maps highlight some details, distort
    some, and omit some details altogether.

28
Mental Processes
  • Many of these findings we have described are
    based on research involving self-report of
    subjects concerning their mental processes.
  • Remember that conclusions based on such findings
    are tentative.
  • We strengthen them by performing many studies,
    using different methods, and looking for
    consistent results.

29
Module 8.2
  • Problem-solving, Expertise, and Error

30
Expertise
  • People vary in their performance on
    problem-solving and decision-making tasks.
  • Those whose abilities are particularly advanced
    we refer to as experts. Expert performance goes
    a step beyond what is typically expected in
    completion of a task.

31
Expertise
  • Practice effects
  • Our first inclination is to attribute expert
    abilities to special, inborn talents.
  • Studies show that expert abilities are most often
    the result of practice.
  • Those who show advanced abilities in an activity
    usually begin learning it at a younger age and
    spend more time in concentrated practice.
  • The rule-of-thumb is that developing expertise
    takes about 10 years of concentrated practice.

32
Expertise
  • Expert Pattern Recognition
  • Experts are especially good at looking at
    patterns and recognizing important features
    quickly.
  • This talent is most evident when we consider a
    demanding visuospatial game such as chess.
  • It is true however that in many other activities,
    from bird watching to reading PET scans, that
    pattern recognition is a key skill possessed by
    experts.

33
Problem-Solving
  • The 4 phases of problem-solving
  • Understanding the problem
  • Generating one or more hypotheses
  • Testing the hypotheses
  • Checking the result

34
  • Figure 8.15
  • The four steps to solving a problem.

35
Problem-Solving
  • Algorithms
  • When a problem is well defined, we can apply an
    algorithm to solve it.
  • An algorithm is a mechanical, repetitive,
    step-by-step procedure for arriving at the
    solution to a problem.
  • Mathematics is a field of knowledge made up
    primarily of algorithmic problem solving.
  • The steps for programming your VCR also comprise
    an algorithm. Do you know it?

36
Problem-Solving
  • Heuristics
  • Many problems that we face are too ill defined
    for the use of any algorithm.
  • An example of such a problem would be What
    career would be best for me?
  • For less well defined problems we apply
    heuristics. Heuristics are strategies for
    simplifying a problem or guiding an
    investigation.

37
Problem-Solving
  • Insight
  • Using insight to solve a problem differs from
    using algorithms.
  • Most people can look at a mathematical problem
    and accurately gauge whether or not they would be
    able to solve it.
  • Insight strategies are used in cases where we
    have no idea whether or not we would be able to
    solve the problem.
  • Insight solutions often seem to be arrived at
    suddenly.

38
Problem-Solving
  • Insight
  • It is probably the case that we work on insight
    problems without realizing that we are doing so.
  • We are making use of the information that we have
    already stored related to the problem.
  • Even when subjects in insight problem-solving
    studies claim to have no confidence in their
    abilities to arrive at the solution, they do so a
    majority of the time.

39
  • Figure 8.19
  • (a) Draw the trajectory of water as it flows out
    of a coiled garden hose. (b) Draw the trajectory
    of a bullet as it leaves a coiled gun barrel.

40
  • Figure 8.18
  • What is wrong with this perpetual motion machine?

41
Problem-Solving
  • The Characteristics of Creativity
  • Creativity is not the same as expertise.
  • Creative individuals tend to be less consistent
    in the quality of their output that are experts.
  • You are probably aware of this variation in the
    collected work of your favorite musician, for
    example.

42
Problem-Solving
  • The Characteristics of Creativity
  • Here are some of the characteristics held in
    common by creative individuals
  • Nonconformity
  • Risk-taking
  • Willingness to tolerate rejection
  • Openness to new experience
  • At least a moderate level of intelligence
  • It is important to keep in mind though that this
    creativity is usually restricted to one area or a
    related set of areas that the creative person
    knows well.

43
Problem-Solving
  • The Characteristics of Creativity
  • Some other similarities among creative people,
    based on the work of Howard Gardner
  • An atmosphere of moderate tension, and a sense
    that change was necessary.
  • Sufficient background to feel confident in
    knowledge of the area and its problems.
  • At least one mentor or friend who provided advice
    or encouragement.
  • A high level of commitment to the work,
    sacrificing any possibility of a well-rounded
    life.

44
Problem-Solving
  • Common Errors of Human Cognition
  • Critical thinking involves using our considerable
    ability to evaluate our own thinking (called
    metacognition) to carefully evaluate for and
    against any conclusion.
  • All thinkers make these errors, and monitoring
    our cognition can be a demanding activity, but
    the clarity and knowledge that we can achieve by
    doing so makes the effort well worth it.

45
Problem-Solving
  • Common Errors of Human Cognition
  • Overconfidence is our belief that our answers are
    more accurate than they actually are.
  • We tend to be overconfident about our answers to
    difficult questions.
  • We are underconfident about our answers to easy
    questions, because statistically it is hard to be
    overconfident about answers that are entirely
    correct.

46
  • Figure 8.22
  • At the beginning of a semester, undergraduates in
    an advanced psychology course estimated their
    probable semester grade. Students with low,
    medium, or high grade- point averages generally
    predicted that they would get an A or a B. The
    best students were slightly overpredicting their
    success the worst students were greatly
    overpredicting. (Based on data of Prohaska, 1994)

47
Problem-Solving
  • Common Errors of Human Cognition
  • People are also overconfident about their
    accomplishments.
  • Ahead of the fact, we will overestimate the
    quality of our predicted performance.
  • After the fact, we will overestimate the quality
    of our past performance.
  • Research studies of ordinary people and experts
    are consistent in supporting these tendencies.

48
  • Figure 8.24
  • You are provided with a candle, a box of matches,
    some thumbtacks, and a tiny piece of string. What
    is the best way, using no other equipment, to
    attach the candle to a wall?

49
Problem-Solving
  • Common Errors of Human Cognition
  • Sometimes we commit to an explanation or
    hypothesis before we have all the available
    information on the problem.
  • Premature commitment to a hypothesis can lead us
    to fail to consider other plausible possibilities
    and fail to arrive at the correct answer.
  • Functional fixedness is one special case of
    premature commitment.
  • It is the tendency to adhere to a single approach
    to a problem or a single way to use an item.

50
Problem-Solving
  • Common Errors of Human Cognition
  • The representativeness heuristic is the tendency
    to assume that if an item is similar to members
    of a particular category, it is also a member of
    the category.
  • If it looks like a duck.
  • It is better to make these judgments in light of
    the available base-rate information, that is, the
    data about the frequency or probability of a
    given item or event.
  • People tend to use only the representativeness
    heuristic and fail to consider the frequency data.

51
Problem-Solving
  • Common Errors of Human Cognition
  • The availability heuristic is the strategy of
    assuming that how easily one can remember
    examples of an event is an indicator of how
    common that event actually is.
  • For example, it is easier to think of examples of
    people dying from car crashes than from stomach
    cancer, so you assume that you are more likely to
    die in a car crash.
  • You are somewhat more likely to die from stomach
    cancer. The actual base rate of digestive cancer
    is the higher one.

52
  • Table 8.1
  • The Representativeness Heuristic and the
    Availability Heuristic

53
Problem-Solving
  • Common Errors of Human Cognition
  • The way a question is framed or presented can
    also influence the way in which we answer it.
  • The tendency to answer a question differently
    when it is phrased differently is called the
    framing effect.
  • This effect is important to keep in mind for
    those who need to persuade.

54
  • Figure 8.25
  • When Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman (1981)
    offered these choices to more than 150 people,
    72 chose A over B, and 78 chose D over C.
    However, plan A is exactly the same as plan C
    (200 live, 400 die), and plan B is exactly the
    same as plan D. Why then did so many people
    choose both A and D? The reason, according to
    Tversky and Kahneman, is that most people avoid
    taking a risk when a question is phrased in terms
    of gain, but they are willing to accept a risk
    when the question is phrased in terms of loss.

55
CONCEPT CHECK
  • 50 of all military personnel prefer to watch TV
    talk shows, but only 10 of all middle-aged
    people do. So more watchers of TV talk shows are
    military personnel.
  • What information would you need to assess the
    accuracy of this statement?

The base rates How many military personnel are
there? How many middle-aged people?
56
  • My friend gives me a crystal and says if I wear
    it everyday I will remain healthy. I wear it and
    remain healthy. So I conclude that the crystal is
    causing me to remain healthy.
  • What do you think?

Premature commitment to the hypothesis There are
many other reasons that I might remain healthy.
57
Problem-Solving
  • Common Errors of Human Cognition
  • If you spend 70.00 on tickets to an event, but
    you feel sick and miserable on the evening of
    that event would you go anyway?
  • If you were given tickets to the same event, but
    you felt sick and miserable on the evening of the
    event, would you go anyway?
  • People are more likely to go if they have spent
    their own money. This is the sunk cost effect.
  • The sunk cost effect is our tendency to do
    something that wed otherwise choose not to do,
    just because we spent the money to do it.

58
Problem-Solving
  • The Psychology of Gambling
  • Gambling has been a common behavior in all world
    cultures throughout history.
  • There are identifiable patterns of thought that
    promote this behavior.

59
Problem-Solving
  • The Psychology of Gambling
  • We tend to overestimate our control over chance
    outcomes.
  • Giving people the illusion of control increases
    their willingness to gamble.
  • We feel more likely to win the lottery when we
    choose our own ticket and numbers than when
    someone just gives us a ticket.

60
Problem-Solving
  • The Psychology of Gambling
  • We appear to have an affinity for picking a slim
    chance of a big gain over a sure but small
    profit.
  • The low probability of winning may be part of the
    appeal.
  • People report more pleasure from a surprising
    gain than from one that was expected.

61
  • Table 8.2
  • Expected Winnings on a 1 Decco Ticket (a
    California Lottery Game)

62
Problem-Solving
  • The Psychology of Gambling
  • As we learned earlier, schedules of reinforcement
    are used to keep a desired behavior going after
    its been learned.
  • Gambling is very similar to variable-ratio
    reinforcement an unpredictable number of
    responses eventually lead to reinforcement.
  • State lottery commissions and casino owners make
    sure that spectacular wins are well publicized so
    that vicarious reinforcement (social learning)
    will occur with thousands of other potential
    gamblers.

63
Problem-Solving
  • The Psychology of Gambling
  • The availability heuristic also plays a role in
    perpetuating gambling. Combined with vicarious
    reinforcement, its a powerful motivator to start
    and continue.
  • The need to boost up self-esteem by beating an
    opponent, by winning motivates continuation
    when the gambler has been losing, even to the
    point of making wild and foolish bets in some
    cases.

64
Successful and Unsuccessful Problem-Solving
  • We have examined some of our strengths
    (creativity and expertise) and weaknesses (poorly
    constructed heuristics and gambling) in
    problem-solving.
  • Learning about the strengths and weaknesses of
    our decision-making is a big step towards
    improving the quality of our problem-solving
    processes.

65
Module 8.3
  • Language

66
Language
  • As far as we can tell, although many species can
    communicate by exchanging signals, only human
    languages can truly be called productive.
  • Humans can express new ideas through language.

67
Language
  • Animal languages are comprised of prepackaged
    messages.
  • Human languages communicate a deep structure, the
    intended meaning of the words.
  • Almost any human language provides enough
    vocabulary and grammatical variation that the
    deep structures can be converted into many
    differently arranged statements that still
    represent the same idea.
  • Linguist Noam Chomsky called this quality of
    language transformational grammar.

68
  • Figure 8.28
  • According to transformational grammar, we can
    transform a sentence with a given surface
    structure into any of several other sentences
    with different surface structures. All of them
    represent the same deep structure, which is the
    underlying logic of the sentence.

69
Language
  • This flexibility and creativity that our language
    provides can also get us in trouble.
  • While picnicking in the meadow we saw hawks with
    our binoculars.
  • Hawks have excellent eyesight and dont need
    binoculars.
  • Seriously though, if we are not careful about our
    use of transformational grammar, our intended
    meaning may be unclear or as in this case,
    ambiguous.

70
Animal Language
  • One of the first examples of an animal using
    human language was Washoe the chimp, raised by
    psychologists.
  • Through conditioning by researchers Washoe
    developed an impressive vocabulary of 100 signs.
  • But Washoe used these signs almost exclusively to
    make requests.
  • She rarely used them to describe things or make
    new, original statements.

71
Animal Language
  • Bonobo chimpanzees show more facility with human
    sign language.
  • They can refer to objects that they are not
    requesting, they can describe past events and
    respond well to spoken requests.
  • It is not entirely clear whether Bonobos are a
    particularly bright species of great ape, or
    whether the training was somewhat better than
    that which Washoe received.
  • The Bonobos were exposed to human language very
    early in life, and received a great deal of
    observational exposure to humans using the signs.

72
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Language and General Intelligence
  • Psychologists are trying to determine whether our
    intelligence has caused our development of
    language.
  • Some highly intelligent species of animal do not
    develop a flexible language.
  • People with Williams syndrome have general
    cognitive abilities classified in the IQ range
    associated with mental retardation, but have
    excellent facility with language.
  • It appears that language ability is not
    synonymous with intelligence.

73
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Language Learning as a Specialized Capacity
  • Psychologists divide into two broad camps
    regarding human language learning.
  • Nativists, such as Chomsky and Steven Pinker,
    believe that humans are born with a built-in,
    brain based mechanism for learning language.
  • They refer to this as a language acquisition
    device or a language instinct.

74
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Language Learning as a Specialized Capacity
  • The basis for the nativist view of language
    learning is the poverty of stimulus argument.
  • This argument states that children do not
    encounter enough information in the environment
    to learn or infer grammar, so they must be born
    with the knowledge.

75
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Language Learning as a Specialized Capacity
  • The information that children get may not be so
    sparse though in almost all world cultures
    parents make special concessions to infant
    understanding in speech by using parentese, a
    slow and high-pitched method of communication
    that may enhance early language learning.
  • But even very young infants do start picking up
    language rules very early, extracting a great
    deal of information from what they hear.

76
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Language and the Human Brain
  • Studies of the brain using persons with brain
    damage and modern imaging techniques have allowed
    us to identify two areas vital for the processing
    and production of language.

77
  • Figure 8.31
  • Brain damage that produces major deficits in
    language usually includes the left-hemisphere
    areas shown here. However, the deficits are
    severe only if the damage is more extensive,
    including these areas but extending to others as
    well. Many areas of the human brain contribute to
    language comprehension and production.

78
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Language and the Human Brain
  • Brocas area is vital for using and understanding
    grammatical devices prepositions, conjunctions,
    prefixes, suffixes, and the like.
  • Wernickes area appears to be important for
    naming objects and comprehending language.
  • People with damage to these areas develop
    aphasias a term for various inabilities to
    process or use language.
  • Language production and processing activates very
    widespread areas of the brain.

79
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Stages of Language Development
  • There is impressive evidence of the universality
    of stages of language learning, including
    identical stages of productive and receptive
    language in young children of all world cultures,
    young hearing impaired children, and hearing
    children of deaf parents who are learning both
    sign and spoken language.

80
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Stages of Language Development Productive
  • Cooing and random vocalizations 3 months
  • Distinct babbling 6 months
  • Jargon (babbling with speech inflections) 10
    months
  • Holographic speech (one word sentences) 12 to
    15 months

81
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Stages of Language Development Productive
  • Telegraphic speech (two word sentences) 24
    months
  • Simple if grammatically uneven sentences 30
    months
  • Large (1000 word) vocabulary and better sentences
    3 years
  • Close to adult facility with speech 4 years

82
  • Table 8.3
  • Stages of Language Development

83
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Children Exposed to No Language
  • Children who do not receive much early exposure
    to language do not develop a language of their
    own nor do they learn human language well after
    starting regular exposure.
  • The early lives of such children are unknown so
    it is hard to know with any certainty if lack of
    exposure is the only culprit.

84
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Children Exposed to No Language
  • Some deaf children who do not receive exposure to
    sign language invent their own sign languages,
    which increase in complexity as they mature.
  • The unique sign languages of these children have
    some interesting similarities (subject object
    specifications for example.)

85
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Children Exposed to Two Languages
  • Some children grow up in a bilingual environment,
    receiving roughly equal exposure to two different
    languages.
  • These children learn both languages equally well.
  • If exposure to the second language begins early
    in life, the representation and storage of the
    languages in the brain is identical.

86
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Children Exposed to Two Languages
  • Although exposure to two or more languages can
    slow down the overall process of acquisition, it
    bestows some long-term cognitive benefits as
    well.
  • Adults who were raised in bilingual environments
    show an enhanced degree of cognitive flexibility
    in understanding that there are many ways to say
    the same thing.
  • There are many practical advantages in being able
    to communicate with speakers of other languages.

87
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Understanding Language
  • Language production and comprehension can be a
    very complex task.
  • A good reader reads simple sentences quickly and
    complex or ambiguous sentences slowly.
  • Even a simple word is broken down into a sequence
    of sounds that change depending on the
    arrangement of those sounds.

88
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Understanding Language
  • Readers and speakers of all languages must be
    aware of the assumptions that underlie the use of
    language. The same word may have more than one
    meaning, for example, and context must be
    considered in order to correctly use and
    comprehend that word.
  • The use of negatives in a language adds further
    complexity and possibility of erroneous
    production by the speaker/writer or erroneous
    reception by the listener/reader.

89
  • Figure 8.34
  • Most students preferred Kool-Aid made with sugar
    labeled sugar instead of sugar labeled not
    cyanide, even though they had placed the labels
    themselves. Evidently, people do not fully
    believe the word not. (Based on results of
    Rozin, Markwith, Ross, 1990)

90
  • Figure 8.35
  • A student watches either a word or a single
    letter flashed on a screen. An interfering
    pattern is then flashed on the screen and the
    student is asked, Which was presented C or J?
    More students were able to identify the letter
    correctly when it was part of a word.

91
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Reading
  • Context is almost always important in
    interpreting the parts of language
  • The word-superiority effect refers to the fact
    that people are generally better at recognizing
    individual letters when they are a part of a word
    rather than when they are standing alone or with
    a nonsense cluster.

92
  • Figure 8.36
  • Students performed better at identifying an
    indicated letter when they focused on an entire
    word (a) than on a single letter in a designated
    spot among random letters (b).

93
  • Figure 8.37
  • According to one version of the connectionist
    model, a visual stimulus activates certain letter
    units, some more strongly than others. Those
    letter units then activate a word unit, which in
    turn strengthens the letter units that compose
    it. For this reason we recognize a whole word
    more easily than we recognize a single letter.

94
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • How we move our eyes across a page or surface
    while the parts of the words in part influence
    reading
  • Phonemes are units of sound single letters or
    combinations of letters.
  • Morphemes are units of meaning usually
    syllables or words.

95
  • Figure 8.39
  • The word shamelessness has nine phonemes (units
    of sound) and three morphemes (units of meaning).

96
CONCEPT CHECK
  • How many phonemes comprise the word doggedly?
    How many morphemes?

It has five phonemes do-g-g-ed-ly. It has
three morphemes.
97
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Reading
  • Human eyes move steadily when we are following a
    moving object, but our eyes alternate between
    brief stationary periods and periods of quick
    movement when we are reading, which makes the eye
    movements of reading rather jerky
  • Fixations are the periods when your eyes are
    stationary.
  • Saccades are the quick eye movements that take
    your gaze from one fixation point to another. You
    are virtually blind during the saccades.

98
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Reading
  • Why?
  • The parietal cortex may signal the primary visual
    cortex to shut down activity briefly during the
    saccades.
  • Your brain may automatically direct you to attend
    to the distinct stimulus at the end of each
    saccade and ignore the blur that you sense during
    each saccade.

99
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Reading
  • We are seeing during the fixations and not during
    the saccades.
  • This is all happening very, very quickly. Most
    readers have four fixations per second, in
    between which saccades occur lasting 25-50
    milliseconds.

100
Human Specializations for Learning Language
  • Speedreaders
  • Speedreaders have briefer fixations and backtrack
    less frequently than do average adult readers.
  • With practice some people can double or triple
    their reading speed with normal comprehension.
  • Some of the more extraordinary claims of
    speedreaders remain untestable for example, the
    claim that some can read between 5000 and 10,000
    words per minute.
  • It is likely that these readers are fixating on
    some words and guessing at the rest.
  • Speedreaders who know that they are going to be
    tested on the details of what they have read are
    observed to slow down substantially.

101
Language
  • It is still unclear why other species have not
    evolved this incredibly useful skill of flexible
    and productive language.
  • It is a large-scale adaptation of humankind that
    has given us tremendous power in the natural
    world.
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