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Chapter 8 Language and Thought. The Cognitive Revolution. 19th Century focus on the mind Introspection Behaviorist focus on overt responses incomplete Empirical study of cognition – 1956 conference Simon and Newell – problem solving Chomsky – new model of language Miller – memory.

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Chapter 8 Language and Thought

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Chapter 8Language and Thought

The Cognitive Revolution

  • 19th Century focus on the mind

    • Introspection

  • Behaviorist focus on overt responses incomplete

  • Empirical study of cognition – 1956 conference

    • Simon and Newell – problem solving

    • Chomsky – new model of language

    • Miller – memory

Language: Turning Thoughts into Words

  • Properties of Language

    • Symbolic

    • Semantic

    • Generative

    • Structured

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

Figure 8.1

An analysis of a simple English sentence. As this example shows, verbal language has a hierarchical structure. At the base of the hierarchy are the phonemes, which are units of vocal sound that do not, in themselves, have meaning. The smallest units of meaning in a language are morphemes, which include not only root words but such meaning-carrying units as the past tense suffix ed and the plural s. Complex rules of syntax govern how the words constructed from morphemes may be combined into phrases, and phrases into meaningful statements, or sentences.

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

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

Figure 8.2

The vocabulary spurt. Children typically acquire their first 10–15 words very slowly, but they soon go through a vocabulary spurt—a period during which they rapidly acquire many new words. The vocabulary spurt usually begins at around 18–24 months, but children vary, as these graphs of three toddlers’ vocabulary growth show. (Adapted from Goldfield & Reznick, 1990)

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

    • Second languages more easily acquired early in life

    • Greater acculturation facilitates acquisition

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

Theories of Language Acquisition

  • Behaviorist

    • Skinner

      • learning of specific verbal responses

  • Nativist

    • Chomsky

      • learning the rules of language

      • Language Acquisition Device (LAD)

  • Interactionist

    • Cognitive and Social communication theories



Figure 8.5

Interactionist theories of language acquisition. The interactionist view is that nature and nurture are both important to language acquisition. Maturation is thought to drive language development directly and to influence it indirectly by fostering cognitive development. Meanwhile, verbal exchanges between parents and others are also thought to play a critical role in molding language skills. The complex interrelations depicted here shed some light on why there is room for extensive debate about the crucial factors in language acquisition.

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

Figure 8.6

Six standard problems used in studies of problem solving. Try solving the problems and identifying which class each belongs to before reading further. The problems can be classified as follows. The analogy problems and series completion problems are problems of inducing structure. The solutions for the analogy problems are Buy and Patient. The solutions for the series completion problems are 4 and E.

(continued) The string problem and the anagram problems are problems of arrangement. To solve the string problem, attach the screwdriver to one string and set it swinging as a pendulum. Hold the other string and catch the swinging screwdriver. Then you need only untie the screwdriver and tie the strings together. The solutions for the anagram problems are WATER and JOKER. The hobbits and orcs problem and the water jar problem are problems of transformation. The solutions for these problems are outlined in Figures 8.7 and 8.8.

Figure 8.7

Solution to the hobbits and orcs problem. This problem is difficult because it is necessary to temporarily work “away” from the goal, which frustrates a straightforward approach.

Figure 8.8

The method for solving the water jar problem. The formula is B – A – 2C.

Effective Problem Solving

  • Well defined vs ill defined problems

  • Barriers to effective problem solving:

    • Irrelevant information

    • Functional fixedness

    • Mental Set

    • Unnecessary Constraints

Figure 8.10

The nine-dot problem. Without lifting your pencil from the paper, draw no more than four lines that will cross through all nine dots. For possible solutions, see Figure 8.14.

Figure 8.11

The matchstick problem. Move two matches to form four equal squares. For possible solutions, see Figure 8.15.

Figure 8.14

Two solutions to the nine-dot problem. The key to solving the problem is to recognize that nothing in the problem statement forbids going outside the imaginary boundary surrounding the dots.

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

Figure 8.16

Representing the bird and train problem. The typical inclination is to envision this problem spatially, as shown here. However, this representation makes the problem much more difficult than it really is.

Culture, Cognitive Style, and Problem Solving

  • Field dependence – relying on external frames of reference

  • Focus on the total context

  • Field independence – relying on internal frames of reference

  • Focus on specific features

  • Western cultures inspire field independence

  • Cultural influence based in ecological demands

Decision Making: Evaluating Alternatives and Making Choices

  • Simon (1957) – theory of bounded rationality

  • Making Choices

  • Additive strategies

    • Compensatory decision models

    • Noncompensatory decision models

  • Risky decision making

    • Expected value

    • Subjective utility

    • Subjective probability

  • Heuristics in Judging Probabilities

    • The availability heuristic

    • The representativeness heuristic

    • The tendency to ignore base rates

    • The conjunction fallacy

    • The alternative outcomes effect

    Understanding Pitfalls in Reasoning About Decisions

    • The gambler’s fallacy

    • The law of small numbers

    • Overestimating the improbable

    • Confirmation bias and belief perseverance

    • The overconfidence effect

    • Framing

    Figure 8.21

    Confirmation bias and belief perseverance. Confirmation bias is a two-pronged process in which people react favorably to information that supports their beliefs and unfavorably to information that is inconsistent with their beliefs. The latter process leads to belief perseverance—the tendency to cling to beliefs in spite of exposure to contradictory evidence.

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