chapter 8: language and thought

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The Cognitive Revolution. 19th Century focus on the mindIntrospectionBehaviorist focus on overt responses arguments regarding incomplete picture of human functioningEmpirical study of cognition - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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1. Chapter 8: Language and Thought

2. When psychology first emerged as an independent science, the focus was on the mind. Yet introspective methods yielded unreliable results. The behaviorist focus on overt responses was empirically more sound, yet theorists argued that it provided an incomplete picture of human functioning. Renegade theorists continued to study cognition, the mental processes involved in acquiring knowledge. 3 major advances in this empirical study were reported at a scientific conference in 1956, a watershed in the history of psychology. Simon and Newell described the first computer program simulating human problem solving, Noam Chomsky outlined a new model that changed the study of language, and George Miller presented his famous paper arguing for the 7 plus or minus two capacity of STM. Cognitive science has since grown into a robust, interdisciplinary field focusing on language, problem solving, decision-making, and reasoning. When psychology first emerged as an independent science, the focus was on the mind. Yet introspective methods yielded unreliable results. The behaviorist focus on overt responses was empirically more sound, yet theorists argued that it provided an incomplete picture of human functioning. Renegade theorists continued to study cognition, the mental processes involved in acquiring knowledge. 3 major advances in this empirical study were reported at a scientific conference in 1956, a watershed in the history of psychology. Simon and Newell described the first computer program simulating human problem solving, Noam Chomsky outlined a new model that changed the study of language, and George Miller presented his famous paper arguing for the 7 plus or minus two capacity of STM. Cognitive science has since grown into a robust, interdisciplinary field focusing on language, problem solving, decision-making, and reasoning.

3. Language: Turning Thoughts into Words Properties of Language Symbolic Semantic Generative Structured Language is defined as consisting of symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combining those symbols, that can be used to generate an infinite variety of messages. Language is symbolic, that is, people use spoken sounds and written words to represent objects, actions, events, and ideas. It is semantic, or meaningful. It is generative, that is, a limited number of symbols can be combined in an infinite number of ways to generate novel messages. It is structured; there are rules that govern arrangement of words into phrases and sentences.Language is defined as consisting of symbols that convey meaning, plus rules for combining those symbols, that can be used to generate an infinite variety of messages. Language is symbolic, that is, people use spoken sounds and written words to represent objects, actions, events, and ideas. It is semantic, or meaningful. It is generative, that is, a limited number of symbols can be combined in an infinite number of ways to generate novel messages. It is structured; there are rules that govern arrangement of words into phrases and sentences.

4. The Hierarchical Structure of Language 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 combinations Objects and actions to which words refer Syntax = a system of rules for arranging words into sentences Different rules for different languages Basic sounds are combined into units with meaning, which are combined into words, which are combined into phrases, which are combined into sentences. Phonemes are the smallest units of speech. Research indicates that there are about 100 possible phonemes, but most languages use between 20-80, English about 40. Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning in a language, consisting of root words, prefixes, and suffixes. S has meaning beyond being a letter (pluralization). Semantics refer to the meaning of words and word combinations. Learning semantics involves learning the variety of objects and actions to which words refer. Syntax is a system of rules for arranging words into sentences. Different languages have different rules. (Verb or subject first in a sentence?) Basic sounds are combined into units with meaning, which are combined into words, which are combined into phrases, which are combined into sentences. Phonemes are the smallest units of speech. Research indicates that there are about 100 possible phonemes, but most languages use between 20-80, English about 40. Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning in a language, consisting of root words, prefixes, and suffixes. S has meaning beyond being a letter (pluralization). Semantics refer to the meaning of words and word combinations. Learning semantics involves learning the variety of objects and actions to which words refer. Syntax is a system of rules for arranging words into sentences. Different languages have different rules. (Verb or subject first in a sentence?)

5. Language Development: Milestones Initial vocalizations similar across languages Crying, cooing, babbling 6 months – babbling sounds begin to resemble surrounding language 1 year – first word similar cross-culturally – words for parents receptive vs. expressive language Infant vocalizations are initially similar across languages, involving all phonemes. Infants cry, coo, and make repetitive babbling vocalizations of all phonemes. By the age of 6 months, the babbling sounds being to resemble those of the infants’ surrounding language. By the time an infant is 12 months of age, the first word is typically spoken, usually dada, mama, papa, etc. This is similar across cultures. 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. Infant vocalizations are initially similar across languages, involving all phonemes. Infants cry, coo, and make repetitive babbling vocalizations of all phonemes. By the age of 6 months, the babbling sounds being to resemble those of the infants’ surrounding language. By the time an infant is 12 months of age, the first word is typically spoken, usually dada, mama, papa, etc. This is similar across cultures. 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.

7. Language Development:Milestones Continued 18-24 months – vocabulary spurt fast mapping over and underextensions End of second year – combine words Telegraphic speech Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) End of third year – complex ideas, plural, past tense Overregularization At about the age of 18-24 months, the previously very slow acquisition of new words suddenly spurts. This proceeds at a dizzying pace, by the first grade the average child has a vocabulary of approx. 10,000 words, by the 5th grade, 40,000. Some 2-year-olds learn as many as 20 new words a week. Fast mapping is the process by which children map a word onto an underlying concept after only one exposure. 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 to…using the word ball for anything round. Underextensions occur when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a narrower set of objects or actions than it is meant to…using the word doll only to refer to a favorite doll. By the end of the 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 omitted…ex., “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). By the end of the third year, children can express complex ideas; however, they continue to make mistakes such as overregularizing…generalizing grammatical rules incorrectly to irregular cases where they do not apply…”he goed home,” for example. At about the age of 18-24 months, the previously very slow acquisition of new words suddenly spurts. This proceeds at a dizzying pace, by the first grade the average child has a vocabulary of approx. 10,000 words, by the 5th grade, 40,000. Some 2-year-olds learn as many as 20 new words a week. Fast mapping is the process by which children map a word onto an underlying concept after only one exposure. 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 to…using the word ball for anything round. Underextensions occur when a child incorrectly uses a word to describe a narrower set of objects or actions than it is meant to…using the word doll only to refer to a favorite doll. By the end of the 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 omitted…ex., “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). By the end of the third year, children can express complex ideas; however, they continue to make mistakes such as overregularizing…generalizing grammatical rules incorrectly to irregular cases where they do not apply…”he goed home,” for example.

8. Bilingualism:Learning 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 Does learning two languages simultaneously cause problems? There is little empirical evidence that learning two languages has a negative effect on language development. Research findings are summarized on this slide. Acculturation is the degree to which a person is socially and psychologically integrated into a new culture.Does learning two languages simultaneously cause problems? There is little empirical evidence that learning two languages has a negative effect on language development. Research findings are summarized on this slide. Acculturation is the degree to which a person is socially and psychologically integrated into a new culture.

10. Can Animals Develop Language? Dolphins, sea lions, parrots, chimpanzees Vocal apparatus issue American Sign Language Allen and Beatrice Gardner (1969) Chimpanzee - Washoe 160 word vocabulary Sue Savage-Rumbaugh Bonobo chimpanzee - Kanzi Symbols Receptive language – 72% of 660 requests Researchers have attempted to teach language to a variety of animals, but the most success has been shown with chimpanzees. One of the biggest problems in teaching human language to non-human animals is that the vocal apparatus is not the same. Researchers, therefore, began to use ASL with chimpanzees. The Gardners were successful at teaching a chimpanzee, Washoe, to use ASL. In fact, Washoe developed a vocabulary of about 160 words, combining them into simple sentences, but showing little evidence of mastering the rules of language. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and colleagues have reported striking advances with the bonobo pygmy chimpanzees. These bonobos have been trained to use geometric symbols that represent words on a computer-monitored keyboard. Kanzi, 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. In addition, 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 lemonade." Still, chimps by no means approach the language facility of a human toddler, suggesting an evolutionary basis for human language development.Researchers have attempted to teach language to a variety of animals, but the most success has been shown with chimpanzees. One of the biggest problems in teaching human language to non-human animals is that the vocal apparatus is not the same. Researchers, therefore, began to use ASL with chimpanzees. The Gardners were successful at teaching a chimpanzee, Washoe, to use ASL. In fact, Washoe developed a vocabulary of about 160 words, combining them into simple sentences, but showing little evidence of mastering the rules of language. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and colleagues have reported striking advances with the bonobo pygmy chimpanzees. These bonobos have been trained to use geometric symbols that represent words on a computer-monitored keyboard. Kanzi, 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. In addition, 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 lemonade." Still, chimps by no means approach the language facility of a human toddler, suggesting an evolutionary basis for human language development.

11. Theories of Language Acquisition Behaviorist Skinner learning of specific verbal responses Nativist Chomsky learning the rules of language Language Acquisition Device (LAD) Interactionist Cognitive, social communication, and emergentist theories According to Skinner and the behaviorists, children acquire language through conditioning and imitation. Nativist theorists, led by Noam Chomsky, assert that humans have an innate capacity to learn the rules of language, an LAD, which facilitates language development. Interactionist theories hold that biology and experience both make important contributions. Two prominent interactionist theories are the cognitive and social communication theories. Cognitive theory asserts that language development is an important aspect of more general cognitive development, depending, like all development, on both maturation and experience. Social communication theory holds that interpersonal communication has functional value and emphasizes the social context in which language evolves. Emergentist theories hold that neural circuits supporting language are not prewired, but rather emerge gradually in response to learning experiences via incremental changes in connectionist networks.According to Skinner and the behaviorists, children acquire language through conditioning and imitation. Nativist theorists, led by Noam Chomsky, assert that humans have an innate capacity to learn the rules of language, an LAD, which facilitates language development. Interactionist theories hold that biology and experience both make important contributions. Two prominent interactionist theories are the cognitive and social communication theories. Cognitive theory asserts that language development is an important aspect of more general cognitive development, depending, like all development, on both maturation and experience. Social communication theory holds that interpersonal communication has functional value and emphasizes the social context in which language evolves. Emergentist theories hold that neural circuits supporting language are not prewired, but rather emerge gradually in response to learning experiences via incremental changes in connectionist networks.

13. Problem Solving: Types of Problems Greeno (1978) – three basic classes Problems of inducing structure Series completion and analogy problems Problems of arrangement String problem and Anagrams Often solved through insight Problems of transformation Hobbits and orcs problem Water jar problem Jim Greeno, 1978, proposed that there are 3 basic types of problems: Problems of inducing structure – where people are required to discover relations among numbers, words, symbols, or ideas. Problems of arrangement – 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 error. Problems of transformation – involve carrying out a sequence of transformations in order to reach a specific goal. Examples of each of these are depicted in the following slides.Jim Greeno, 1978, proposed that there are 3 basic types of problems: Problems of inducing structure – where people are required to discover relations among numbers, words, symbols, or ideas. Problems of arrangement – 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 error. Problems of transformation – involve carrying out a sequence of transformations in order to reach a specific goal. Examples of each of these are depicted in the following slides.

15. Effective Problem Solving Well defined vs. ill defined problems Barriers to effective problem solving: Irrelevant Information Functional Fixedness Mental Set Unnecessary Constraints 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. Common barriers to problem solving include getting bogged down in irrelevant information; functional fixedness, which is the tendency to perceive an item only in terms of its most common use; mental set, which exists when people persist in using problem-solving strategies that have worked in the past; and assuming unnecessary constraints on the problem, as in the 9 dots problem and the matchstick problem depicted on the following slides. 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. Common barriers to problem solving include getting bogged down in irrelevant information; functional fixedness, which is the tendency to perceive an item only in terms of its most common use; mental set, which exists when people persist in using problem-solving strategies that have worked in the past; and assuming unnecessary constraints on the problem, as in the 9 dots problem and the matchstick problem depicted on the following slides.

17. Approaches to Problem Solving Algorithms Systematic trial-and-error Guaranteed solution Heuristics Shortcuts No guaranteed solution Forming subgoals Working backward Searching for analogies Changing the representation of a problem An algorithm is a methodical, step-by-step procedure for trying all possible alternatives in searching for a solution to a problem…guarantees a solution. Heuristics are guiding principles or “rules of thumb” used in solving problems…don’t guarantee success. Formulating subgoals allows one to solve part of the problem, therefore moving toward success. 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 one. The following figure depicts the representation of a problem heuristic.An algorithm is a methodical, step-by-step procedure for trying all possible alternatives in searching for a solution to a problem…guarantees a solution. Heuristics are guiding principles or “rules of thumb” used in solving problems…don’t guarantee success. Formulating subgoals allows one to solve part of the problem, therefore moving toward success. 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 one. The following figure depicts the representation of a problem heuristic.

19. Culture, Cognitive Style,and Problem Solving Field dependence – relying on external frames of reference Field independence – relying on internal frames of reference Western cultures inspire field independence Cultural influence based in ecological demands Holistic vs. analytic cognitive styles Some cultures, because of ecological demands (the necessary survival skills in a culture), 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. 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, alternatively, show an analytic cognitive style – focusing on objects and their properties rather than context (parts). While research shows that people from Eastern cultures are more field-dependent than those from Western cultures, Nisbett argues that field-dependence/independence is just one facet of a broader preference for holistic vs. analytic thinking.Some cultures, because of ecological demands (the necessary survival skills in a culture), 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. 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, alternatively, show an analytic cognitive style – focusing on objects and their properties rather than context (parts). While research shows that people from Eastern cultures are more field-dependent than those from Western cultures, Nisbett argues that field-dependence/independence is just one facet of a broader preference for holistic vs. analytic thinking.

20. Decision Making:Evaluating Alternatives and Making Choices Simon (1957) – theory of bounded rationality Making Choices Additive strategies Elimination by aspects Risky decision making Expected value Subjective utility Subjective probability Simon’s theory of bounded rationality holds that human decision making strategies are simplistic and often yield irrational results. Additive decision models are used to make choices by rating the attributes of each alternative and selecting the alternative with most desirable attributes. Elimination by aspects involves making choices by gradually eliminating unattractive alternatives. Research shows that people tend to use additive strategies when decisions involve relatively few options that need to be evaluated on only a few attributes, but 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. Risky decision making involves making choices under conditions of uncertainty. Expected value involves what you stand to gain…subjective utility and subjective probability help explain why people engage in activities that violate expected value. Subjective utility represents what an outcome is personally worth to an individual…insurance and sense of security. Subjective probability involves personal estimates of probabilities…often quite inaccurate.Simon’s theory of bounded rationality holds that human decision making strategies are simplistic and often yield irrational results. Additive decision models are used to make choices by rating the attributes of each alternative and selecting the alternative with most desirable attributes. Elimination by aspects involves making choices by gradually eliminating unattractive alternatives. Research shows that people tend to use additive strategies when decisions involve relatively few options that need to be evaluated on only a few attributes, but 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. Risky decision making involves making choices under conditions of uncertainty. Expected value involves what you stand to gain…subjective utility and subjective probability help explain why people engage in activities that violate expected value. Subjective utility represents what an outcome is personally worth to an individual…insurance and sense of security. Subjective probability involves personal estimates of probabilities…often quite inaccurate.

22. Heuristics in Judging Probabilities The availability heuristic The representativeness heuristic The tendency to ignore base rates The conjunction fallacy The alternative outcomes effect 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. The representativeness heuristic involves basing the estimated probability of an event on how similar it is to the typical prototype of that event…this plays into the tendency to ignore base rates...guessing that Steve is a librarian because he looks like a librarian, even though you know that salespeople greatly outnumber librarians in the population. 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.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. The representativeness heuristic involves basing the estimated probability of an event on how similar it is to the typical prototype of that event…this plays into the tendency to ignore base rates...guessing that Steve is a librarian because he looks like a librarian, even though you know that salespeople greatly outnumber librarians in the population. 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.

24. Understanding Pitfalls in ReasoningAbout Decisions The gambler’s fallacy Overestimating the improbable Confirmation bias and belief perseverance The overconfidence effect Framing The gambler’s fallacy is the belief that the odds of a chance event increase if the event hasn’t 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 is the tendency to seek information that supports one’s decisions and beliefs, while ignoring disconfirming information. Belief perseverance is the tendency to hang onto beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence. The overconfidence effect is the tendency for people to put too much faith in their estimates, beliefs, and decisions, even when they should know better. Framing refers to 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 presented.The gambler’s fallacy is the belief that the odds of a chance event increase if the event hasn’t 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 is the tendency to seek information that supports one’s decisions and beliefs, while ignoring disconfirming information. Belief perseverance is the tendency to hang onto beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence. The overconfidence effect is the tendency for people to put too much faith in their estimates, beliefs, and decisions, even when they should know better. Framing refers to 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 presented.

25. Evolutionary Analyses: Flaws in Decision Making and Fast and Frugal Heuristics Cosmides and Tooby (1996) Unrealistic standard of rationality Decision making evolved to handle real-world adaptive problems Problem solving research based on contrived, artificial problems Gigerenzer (2000) Quick and dirty heuristics Less than perfect but adaptive 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 solve. Cosmides and Tooby argue that human decision making emerged to solve adaptive problems such as finding food, shelter, and mates and dealing with allies and enemies. Consistent with this theory, many reasoning errors disappear when problems are presented in ways that resemble the type of input humans would have processed in ancient times. 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.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 solve. Cosmides and Tooby argue that human decision making emerged to solve adaptive problems such as finding food, shelter, and mates and dealing with allies and enemies. Consistent with this theory, many reasoning errors disappear when problems are presented in ways that resemble the type of input humans would have processed in ancient times. 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.

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