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Title: Chapter 8: Language and Thought

Chapter 8 Language and Thought
The Cognitive Revolution
  • 19th Century focus on the mind
  • Introspection
  • Behaviorist focus on overt responses
  • arguments regarding incomplete picture of human
  • Empirical study of cognition 1956 conference
  • Simon and Newell first computer program
    simulating human problem solving
  • Chomsky new model that changed the study of
  • Miller famous paper arguing for the 7 plus or
    minus two capacity of STM

Language Turning Thoughts into Words
  • Cognitive science has since grown into a robust,
    interdisciplinary field focusing on language,
    problem solving, decision-making, and reasoning

Language Turning Thoughts into Words
  • Properties of Language
  • Symbolic people use spoken sounds and written
    words to represent objects, actions, events, and
  • Semantic meaningful
  • Generative a limited number of symbols can be
    combined in an infinite number of ways to
    generate novel messages
  • Structured there are rules that govern
    arrangement of words into phrases and sentences

The Hierarchical Structure of Language
  • Basic sounds are combined into units with
    meaning, which are combined into words, which are
    combined into phrases, which are combined into
  • Phonemes smallest speech units
  • 100 possible, English about 40
  • Morphemes smallest unit of meaning
  • 50,000 in English, root words, prefixes, suffixes
  • Semantics meaning of words and word
  • Objects and actions to which words refer
  • Syntax a system of rules for arranging words
    into sentences
  • Different rules for different languages
  • (Verb or subject first in a sentence?)

Language Development Milestones
  • Initial vocalizations similar across languages
  • Crying, cooing, babbling (of all phonemes.)
  • 6 months babbling sounds begin to resemble
    surrounding language
  • 1 year first word
  • similar cross-culturally usually dada, mama,
    papa, etc
  • While few words are spoken (expressive language)
    at this stage, research indicates that very young
    children may actually understand (receptive
    language) more language than they can produce.

Language DevelopmentMilestones Continued
  • 18-24 months vocabulary spurt, slow acquisition
    of new words suddenly spurts
  • fast mapping process by which children map a
    word onto an underlying concept after only one
  • Toddlers often make errors in using new words.
    Overextensions occur when a child incorrectly
    uses a word to describe a wider set of objects or
    actions than it is meant tousing the word ball
    for anything round

Language DevelopmentMilestones Continued
  • End of second year children begin combining
    words to produce meaningful sentences
  • These sentences are characterized as telegraphic,
    because they resemble telegrams, consisting
    mainly of content words, with articles,
    prepositions, and other less critical words
    omittedex., Give doll,"
  • Researchers study the language of young children
    by calculating the MLU (mean length of
    utterance), the average length of their spoken
    statements (measured in morphemes).

Language DevelopmentMilestones Continued
  • End of third year complex ideas, plural, past
  • Overregularization generalizing grammatical
    rules incorrectly to irregular cases where they
    do not applyhe goed home, for example.
  • Years 4-5 Largest strides in developing language

Table 8.2 Overview of Typical Language
BilingualismLearning More Than One Language
  • Research findings
  • Smaller vocabularies in one language, combined
    vocabularies average
  • Higher scores for middle-class bilingual subjects
    on cognitive flexibility, analytical reasoning,
    selective attention, and metalinguistic awareness
  • Slight disadvantage in terms of language
    processing speed
  • 2nd languages more easily acquired early in life
  • Greater acculturation facilitates acquisition
  • Acculturation is the degree to which a person is
    socially and psychologically integrated into a
    new culture

Figure 8.4 Age and second language learning
Can Animals Develop Language?
  • Researchers have attempted to teach language to a
    variety of animals, but the most success has been
    shown with chimpanzees.
  • Dolphins, sea lions, parrots, chimpanzees
  • One of the biggest problems in teaching human
    language to non-human animals is that the vocal
    apparatus is not the same
  • American Sign Language

Can Animals Develop Language?
  • Allen and Beatrice Gardner (1969)
  • Chimpanzee - Washoe
  • 160 word vocabulary, combining them into simple
    sentences, but showing little evidence of
    mastering the rules of language

Can Animals Develop Language?
  • Sue Savage-Rumbaugh
  • Bonobo chimpanzee Kanzi
  • geometric symbols that represent words on a
    computer-monitored keyboard
  • the star pupil, has taught his younger sister
    much that he has learned about this system. Kanzi
    has acquired hundreds of words and has used them
    in thousands of combinations, many apparently
    spontaneous and rule governed
  • his receptive language appears much more
    developed, as he was able to carry out 72 of 660
    spoken requests such as Pour the Coke in the

Theories of Language Acquisition
  • Behaviorist
  • Skinner
  • B.F. Skinner from the Behaviorist School
  • Baby may imitate a parent.
  • If they are reinforced they keep saying the word.
  • If they are punished, they stop saying the word.

Theories of Language Acquisition
  • Nativist
  • Chomsky
  • assert that humans have an innate capacity to
    learn the rules of language
  • Language Acquisition Device (LAD) facilitates
    language development.
  • We learn language too quickly for it to be
    through reinforcement and punishment.

Theories of Language Acquisition
  • Interactionist hold that biology and experience
    both make important contributions
  • Cognitive asserts that language development is
    an important aspect of more general cognitive
    development, depending, like all development, on
    both maturation and experience.
  • Social communication interpersonal communication
    has functional value and emphasizes the social
    context in which language evolves.

Figure 8.5 Interactionist theories of language
Theories of Language Acquisition
  • Emergentist theories
  • neural circuits supporting language are not
  • rather emerge gradually in response to learning
    experiences via incremental changes in
    connectionist networks

Whorfs Linguistic Relativity
  • The idea that language determines the way we
  • The Hopi tribe has no past tense in their
    language, so Whorf says they rarely think of the

Problem Solving Types of Problems
  • Greeno (1978) three basic classes
  • Problems of inducing structure
  • Series completion and analogy problems
  • where people are required to discover relations
    among numbers, words, symbols, or ideas
  • Problems of arrangement
  • String problem and Anagrams
  • where people arrange the parts of a problem in a
    way that satisfies some criterion. These types
    of problems are often solved by insight, a sudden
    discovery of the correct solution following
    incorrect attempts based primarily on trial and

Problem Solving Types of Problems
  • Problems of transformation
  • involve carrying out a sequence of
    transformations in order to reach a specific goal
  • Hobbits and orcs problem
  • Water jar problem

Figure 8.6 Six standard problems used in studies
of problem solving
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Effective Problem Solving
  • Well defined vs. ill defined problems
  • Problems vary in the degree to which they are
    well defined, where the initial state, the goal
    state, and the constraints are clearly specified
  • most problems in the real world are ill-defined,
    that is, one or more elements among the initial
    state, the goal state, and the constraints are
    incompletely or unclearly specified.

Effective Problem Solving
  • Barriers to effective problem solving
  • getting bogged down in Irrelevant Information
  • Functional Fixedness the tendency to perceive an
    item only in terms of its most common use
  • Mental Set people persist in using
    problem-solving strategies that have worked in
    the past
  • Unnecessary Constraints assuming unnecessary
    constraints on the problem

Figure 8.12 The tower of Hanoi problem
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Approaches to Problem Solving
  • Algorithms
  • A rule that guarantees the right solution to a
  • Usually by using a formula.
  • They work but are sometimes impractical.

Guess my phone number using an algorithm.
  • 000-000-0000
  • 000-000-0001
  • 000-000-0002
  • 000-000-0003
  • 000-000-0004
  • Algorithms are slow, but eventually accurate.
    Computers use algorithms

Approaches to Problem Solving
  • Heuristics
  • Shortcuts, guiding principles or rules of thumb
    used in solving problems no guaranteed success
  • Forming subgoals allows one to solve part of the
  • Working backward works well for a problem that
    has a specified end point
  • Searching for analogies involves using a
    solution to a previous problem to solve a current

  • Who would you trust to baby sit your child?
  • Your answer is based on your heuristic of their

Figure 8.16 Representing the bird and train
  • The caravan of a wealthy desert dweller is
    approaching an oasis after a long, hot day. He
    says to two of his lieutenant, To the one of you
    whose horse gets to the oasis last, Ill give
    this camel laden with gold. Immediately they both
    stop. By the time the rear guard of the caravan
    reaches the two lieutenants, they have dismounted
    their horses and each is waiting on the sand for
    the other to become so hot and thirsty that
    getting to the oasis cannot be resisted. Finally,
    they tell the guard their dilemma and ask for
    help. He says two words to them, whereupon the
    lieutenants jump onto the horses and race toward
    the oasis. What did the guard tell them?

Switch Horses!
Culture, Cognitive Style,and Problem Solving
  • Some cultures foster field dependence, a reliance
    on external frames of reference.
  • Others foster field independence, reliance on
    internal frames of reference.
  • People who are field independent tend to analyze
    and restructure problems more than those who are
    field dependent.
  • Western cultures inspire field independence
  • Cultural influence based in ecological demands
    the necessary survival skills in a culture

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Culture, Cognitive Style,and Problem Solving
  • Holistic vs. analytic cognitive styles
  • Nisbett and colleagues (2001) argue that people
    from East Asian cultures display a holistic
    cognitive style focusing on context and
    relationships among elements in a field (wholes).
  • People from Western cultures show an analytic
    cognitive style focusing on objects and their
    properties rather than context (parts).
  • Nisbett argues that field-dependence/
    independence is just one facet of a broader
    preference for holistic vs. analytic thinking

Decision MakingEvaluating Alternatives and
Making Choices
  • Simon (1957) theory of bounded rationality
  • holds that human decision making strategies are
    simplistic and often yield irrational results
  • Making Choices
  • Additive strategies used to make choices by
    rating the attributes of each alternative and
    selecting the alternative with most desirable
  • Elimination by aspects making choices by
    gradually eliminating unattractive alternatives

Decision MakingEvaluating Alternatives and
Making Choices
  • Making Choices (cont.)
  • Research shows that people tend to use additive
    strategies when decisions involve relatively few
    options that need to be evaluated on only a few
  • They shift to elimination by aspects when more
    options and factors are added to a decision
    making task
  • Research shows that people will often pursue
    useless information that will not alter their
    decisions when making choices

Decision MakingEvaluating Alternatives and
Making Choices
  • Risky decision making making choices under
    conditions of uncertainty
  • Expected value involves what you stand to gain
  • Subjective utility what an outcome is personally
    worth to an individualinsurance and sense of
  • Subjective probability involves personal
    estimates of probabilitiesoften quite inaccurate

Table 8.3 Application of the additive model to
choosing an apartment
Heuristics in Judging Probabilities
  • The availability heuristic involves basing the
    estimated probability of an event on the ease
    with which relevant instances come to mind
  • estimate divorce rate by recalling number of
    divorces among your friends parents

Availability Heuristic
  • Estimating the likelihood of events based on
    their availability in our memory.

Although diseases kill many more people than
accidents, it has been shown that people will
judge accidents and diseases to be equally fatal.
This is because accidents are more dramatic and
are often written up in the paper or seen on the
news on TV., and are more available in memory
than diseases.
  • If it comes to mind easily (maybe a vivid event)
    we presume it is common.

Representativeness Heuristic
Below is Linda. She loves books and hates loud
noises. Is Linda a librarian or a beautician?
  • A rule of thumb for judging the likelihood of
    things in terms of how well they match our
  • Can cause us to ignore important information.

Heuristics in Judging Probabilities
  • The conjunction fallacy occurs when people
    estimate that the odds of two uncertain events
    happening together are greater than the odds of
    either event happening alone
  • this also appears to be due to the powerful
    nature of the representativeness heuristic
  • The alternative outcomes effect occurs when
    peoples belief about whether an outcome will
    occur changes, depending on how alternative
    outcomes are distributed
  • even though the summed probability of the
    alternative outcomes is held constant.

Figure 8.18 The conjunction fallacy
Understanding Pitfalls in ReasoningAbout
  • The gamblers fallacy the belief that the odds
    of a chance event increase if the event hasnt
    occurred recently
  • Overestimating the improbable describes how
    people tend to greatly overestimate the
    likelihood of dramatic, vivid, but infrequent,
    events that receive heavy media coverage
  • Confirmation bias tendency to seek information
    that supports ones decisions and beliefs, while
    ignoring disconfirming information

Understanding Pitfalls in ReasoningAbout
  • Belief perseverance the tendency to hang onto
    beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence
  • The overconfidence effect the tendency for
    people to put too much faith in their estimates,
    beliefs, and decisions, even when they should
    know better
  • Framing how decision issues are posed or how
    choices are structured
  • People often allow a decision to be shaped by
    context or by the language in which it is

Belief Perseverance
  • Clinging to your initial conceptions after the
    basis on which they were formed has been

All Cowboys fans who still believe that this is
their year are suffering from belief perseverance.
  • The tendency to be more confident than correct.
  • To overestimate the accuracy of your beliefs and

Considering overconfidence do you want to risk
1 million dollars on an audience poll?
  • 90 of the population will be saved with this
  • 10 of the population will die despite this
  • You should not drink more than two drinks per
  • You should not drink more than 730 drinks a year.
  • The way a problem is presented can drastically
    affect the way we view it.

Evolutionary Analyses Flaws in Decision Making
and Fast and Frugal Heuristics
  • While research shows that human decision making
    is replete with bias and error, evolutionary
    psychologists argue that this is due to the
    laboratory tasks used to measure it.
  • They argue that traditional decision research has
    imposed an unrealistic standard in that questions
    are asked in ways that have nothing to do with
    the adaptive problems that humans have evolved to

Evolutionary Analyses Flaws in Decision Making
and Fast and Frugal Heuristics
  • Cosmides and Tooby (1996)
  • argue that human decision making emerged to solve
    adaptive problems
  • such as finding food, shelter, and mates and
    dealing with allies and enemies
  • many reasoning errors disappear when problems are
    presented in ways that resemble the type of input
    humans would have processed in ancient times
  • Unrealistic standard of rationality
  • Problem solving research based on contrived,
    artificial problems

Evolutionary Analyses Flaws in Decision Making
and Fast and Frugal Heuristics
  • Gigerenzer (2000)
  • argues that humans do not have the time,
    resources, or capacities to gather all
    information, consider all alternatives, calculate
    all probabilities and risks, and then make the
    statistically optimal decision
  • Instead, they use the fast and frugal route,
    making quick, one-reason decisions which yield
    inferences that are often just as accurate as
    much more elaborate and time-consuming strategies
  • Less than perfect but adaptive