Thinking & Language (Objectives)
From Chapter 9 of David G. Myer's "Psychology", 10e, pages 336-365.
Terms in this set (11)
9-1: What is cognition, and what are the functions of concepts?
Cognition refers to all the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, remembering, and communicating. We use concepts, mental groupings of similar objects, events, ideas, or people, to simplify and order the world around us. We form most concepts around prototypes, or best examples of a category.
9-2: What cognitive strategies assist our problem solving, and what obstacles hinder it?
An algorithm is a methodical, logical rule or procedure (such as a step-by-step description for evacuating a building during a fire) that guarantees a solution to a problem. A heuristic is a simpler strategy (such as running for an exit if you smell smoke) that is usually speedier than an algorithm but is also more error-prone. Insight is not a strategy-based solution, but rather a sudden flash of inspiration that solves a problem. Obstacles to problem solving include confirmation bias, which predisposes us to verify rather than challenge our hypotheses, and fixation, such as mental set, which may prevent us from taking the fresh perspective that would lead to a solution.
9-3: What is intuition, and how can the availability heuristic, overconfidence, belief perseverance, and framing influence our decisions and judgments?
Intuition is the effortless, immediate, automatic feeling or thoughts we often use instead of systematic reasoning. Heuristics enable snap judgments. Using the availability heuristic, we judge the likelihood of things based on how readily they come to mind, which often leads us to fear the wrong things. Overconfidence can lead us to overestimate the accuracy of our beliefs. When a belief we have formed and explained has been discredited, belief perseverance may cause us to cling to that belief. A remedy for belief perseverance is to consider how we might have explained an opposite result. Framing is the way a question or statement is worded. Subtle wording differences can dramatically alter our responses.
9-4: How do smart thinkers use intuition?
Smart thinkers welcome their intuitions (which are usually adaptive), but when making complex decisions they gather as much information as possible and then take time to let their two-track mind process all available information. As people gain expertise, they grow adept at making quick, shrewd judgments.
9-5: What do we know about animal thinking?
Researchers make inferences about other species' consciousness and intelligence based on behavior. The main focus of such research has been the great apes, but other species have also been studied. Evidence to date shows that other species can use concepts, numbers, and tools, and they can transmit learning from one generation to the next (cultural transmission). They also show insight, self-awareness, altruism, cooperation, grief, and an ability to read intentions.
9-6: What are the structural components of a language?
Phonemes are a language's basic units of sound. Morphemes are the elementary units of meaning. Grammar—the system of rules that enables us to communicate—includes semantics (rules for deriving meaning) and syntax (rules for ordering words into sentences).
9-7: What are the milestones in language development?
Language development's timing varies, but all children follow the same sequence. Receptive language (the ability to understand what is said to or about you) develops before productive language (the ability to produce words). At about 4 months of age, infants babble, making sounds found in languages from all over the world. By about 10 months, their babbling contains only the sounds found in their household language. Around 12 months of age, children begin to speak in single words. This one-word stage evolves into two-word (telegraphic) utterances before their second birthday, after which they begin speaking in full sentences.
9-8: How do we acquire language?
Linguist Noam Chomsky has proposed that all human languages share a universal grammar—the basic building blocks of language—and that humans are born with a predisposition to learn language. We acquire specific language through learning as our biology and experience interact. Childhood is a critical period for learning to speak and/or sign fluently. This is an important consideration for parents of deaf children, who might master oral communication if given a cochlear implant during this critical period. Deaf culture advocates oppose such implants on the grounds that deafness is a difference, not a disability.
9-9: What brain areas are involved in language processing and speech?
Two important language-and speech-processing areas are Broca's area, a region of the frontal lobe that controls language expression, and Wernicke's area, a region in the left temporal lobe that controls language reception. Language processing is spread across other brain areas as well, where different neural networks handle specific linguistic subtasks.
9-10: Do other animals share our capacity for language?
A number of chimpanzees have learned to communicate with humans by signing or by pushing buttons wired to a computer, have developed vocabularies of nearly 200 words, have communicated by stringing these words together, have taught their skills to younger animals, and have some understanding of syntax. But only humans communicate in complex sentences. Nevertheless, primates' and other animals' impressive abilities to think and communicate challenge humans to consider what this means about the moral rights of other species.
9-11: What is the relationship between language and thinking, and what is the value of thinking in images?
Although Benjamin Lee Whorf's linguistic determinism hypothesis suggested that language determines thought, it is more accurate to say that language influences thought. Different languages embody different ways of thinking, and immersion in bilingual education can enhance thinking. We often think in images when we use nondeclarative (procedural) memory—our automatic memory system for motor and cognitive skills and classically conditioned associations. Thinking in images can increase our skills when we mentally practice upcoming events.
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