Cognitive ProcessesPSY 334 Chapter 13 – Individual Differences in Cognition June 6, 2003
Primates & Language Nim Chimpsky Roger Fouts and Washoe Noam Chomsky
Neural Evidence • Studying language acquisition may not settle the question. • Some people with aphasias are impaired forming irregular past tenses, others regular past tenses (Broca’s area). • PET imaging shows activity in Broca’s area only when processing regular past tenses. • Only regular verbs may be rule-based.
Language is Not Taught • Children are not directly taught language • No feedback about their errors. • Learning is inductive – infer acceptable utterances from experience. • How do they avoid being misled by wrong sentences they hear? • Motherese use is uncorrelated with language development. • Language develops under adversity too.
Critical Period • Do young children learn a second language faster? • Controlling for amounts and types of exposure and motivation, older children (11+) learn faster than younger ones. • However, mastery of the fine points, speaking without an accent, depends on learning at a younger age. • It is better to learn a language before 10.
Language Universals • Chomsky – special innate mechanisms underlie the acquisition of language. • Competence not performance. • Study by seeking universals across languages. • Universals -- adjectives appear near the nouns they modify. • May be based on cognitive constraints not language mechanisms.
Parameter Setting • Variability among natural languages can be accounted for by setting about 100 parameters. • Language learning consists of acquiring the settings for these parameters. • Also, acquiring vocabulary. • Pro-drop parameter: • I go to the cinema (does not drop pronoun) • Voy al cinema esta noche (drops pronoun).
What Develops • Two explanations for changes in children’s thinking: • They think better – more working memory. • They know better – more facts. • Probably both occur, due to neural changes: • Increase in synaptic connections. • Myelination increases neural transmission speed.
Cognition and Aging • Decreases in IQ performance scores occur after age 20: • Related to speed of response on tests. • Older adults do better on jobs. • Age-related declines in brain function: • Cell loss, shrinkage & atrophy. • Compensatory growth of remaining cells. • Brain-related degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Psychometrics • Measures of performance of individuals on a number of tasks – examination of correlations across such tasks. • IQ Tests – Binet, Stanford-Binet, Wechsler • Mental age vs deviation IQ. • Factor analysis of performance scores: • Crystallized intelligence – increases with age • Fluid intelligence – decreases with age.
Kinds of Abilities • Reasoning ability: • Sternberg connects psychometrics to the information-processing approach. • People who score high on reasoning tests perform reasoning steps more quickly. • Verbal ability: • Working memory capacity is related to verbal ability. • People who recall words more rapidly do better on verbal ability tests.
Kinds of Abilities (Cont.) • Spatial ability: • Rate of mental rotation is slower for those with lower spatial ability test scores. • People with high spatial ability may choose to solve a problem spatially, not verbally. • Differences in abilities may result from differences in rates of processing and working-memory capacities. • Unclear whether this is innate or a difference in practice (nature vs nurture).
Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences • Gardner proposed that seven different intelligences are supported by different kinds of knowledge representation: • Separate neural mechanisms. • Separate developmental histories. • Cross-cultural universals in the display of such abilities. • Abilities: linguistic, musical, mathematical, spatial, bodily kinesthetic, personal (self-understanding, social).
Critique of Multiple Intelligences • Strong evidence for distinct linguistic and spatial intelligence. • Mathematical intelligence closely related to spatial so may not be distinct. • Remaining intelligences not usually considered cognitive but may be universal. • Gardner argues that intelligence is not unitary and hard to compare.