Cognition and Perception Psych 448B 11/12/08 Outline: Children’s categories about the biological world Dialectical psychology – Reasoning – Emotions Language and thought: – Talking versus thinking – Whorfian hypothesis Colors Numbers In-class assignment: – Situational versus dispositional reasoning How do Children Reason About the Biological World? Young Western children (under 7) reason about biological phenomena by applying what they know about humans. From the ages 7 to 10 they go through a cognitive shift and understand that humans are one animal among many (see Carey, 1995). Anthropocentrism Carey’s Conclusion: Children think of everything as having human qualities. Example: – Humans have an omentum inside their bodies. Will other animals also have an omentum? YES – Animals have an omentum. Will humans have one? NO X How early does cultural exposure start? Often developmental research is assumed to speak to a universal human nature because children are assumed to have had only a little cultural exposure. Western urban children, who make up the bulk of the developmental database, have very little exposure to real animals, and much exposure to toy or cartoon animals. Early exposure to animals Researchers studied children from two indigenous tribes in the Americas: the Menominee from Wisconsin and the Yukatek Maya from Mexico (Atran et al., 2001; Coley et al., 1999). Menominee and Mayan children did not show an anthopocentric bias. Example: – Humans have an omentum inside their bodies. Will other animals also have an omentum? YES – Animals have an omentum. Will humans have one? YES The tendency to think of humans as different from other animals may not be innate anthropocentrism. Instead, experiences with animals matters. Naïve Dialecticism One kind of reasoning, that appears related to holistic reasoning, may have come from China. Chinese show a relative acceptance for contradiction, which has been termed “naive dialecticism” (Peng & Nisbett, 1999). This is grounded in a view that everything is connected and is constantly in flux. Symbolized by the yin and the yang, this represents a belief that the universe continually moves back from one opposite pole to the other. Tolerance for Contradiction According to this view, “Belief A” is connected to and is always changing into its opposite, “Belief Not A.” Hence, there can be no real logical contradiction. Formal logical reasoning In contrast, Aristotle proposed a different system for dealing with contradiction. 3 principles of formal logic Law of Identity: A = A Law of Excluded Middle: A = B, or A = Not B, these are the only two possibilities. Law of Noncontradiction: A = Not A. According to this perspective, there cannot be any contradiction. Cultural differences in formal logic: Consider the following two arguments: A: A sociologist who surveyed college students from 100 universities claimed that there is a high correlation among college female students between smoking and being skinny. B: A biologist who studied nicotine addiction asserted that heavy doses of nicotine often lead to becoming overweight. How plausible is each argument? A>B US and Chinese college students were asked to evaluate contradictory pairs of arguments: – Condition 1: Receive A OR B – Condition 2: Receive A AND B In Condition 2 (both arguments): – Americans were more convinced that the stronger argument was correct. – Chinese were less convinced that the stronger argument was correct. Dialectical Emotions (Bagozzi et al., 1999) “In the past month, what feelings did you have?” Americans are more likely to feel EITHER positive or negative, but not both “I feel happy” or “I feel afraid” Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese are more likely to feel BOTH positive or negative – “I feel so happy that I am afraid” Situational Differences in Dialectical Emotions (Leu et al, 2008) US, Japanese, and Chinese college students read about another student’s life: – Positive Events: “I got the highest score in the class.” – Negative Events: “I interviewed for a job and didn’t get it.” Euro-Americans pursue pure happiness, whereas East Asians guard against pure happiness. Situational Differences in Dialectical Emotions (Leu et al, 2008) Cultural differences in dialectical emotions were only found in positive situations. East Asians are likely to only report feeling both positive and negative feelings in positive situations, not all the time, across all situations. Language and Thought Talking and Thinking In some ways, talking is an analytic process. We can only specify one idea at a time that are arranged in a sequence. It is difficult to discuss holistic ideas in which there are multiple connections that are simultaneously relevant. If this is the case, holistic thinking should be impaired more by saying one’s thoughts out loud than would analytic thinking. Facial recognition as a holistic task Please describe this face: Facial recognition example Please describe this face: Facial recognition example People who verbally describe a face later do not recognize the face as well as others who do not. Verbal descriptions of faces do not capture the whole of the face (see Schooler & Engstler-Schooler, 1990). Speech across cultures: Westerners appear to value the spoken word more than East Asians: – In Judeo-Christian beliefs the “Word” is sacred. – The ancient Greeks viewed knowledge to emerge through the spoken word. – The First Amendment to the US constitution is to protect one’s freedom of speech. In contrast, East Asians appear to not emphasize speech as a marker of thought: – Lao Tzu said that “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.” – Various Eastern religions also emphasize silent meditation rather than prayer. – A Korean proverb states that “An empty cart makes more noise.” Does talking interfere with thinking among Asians? (Kim, 2002; 2008) Participants were asked to solve the Raven’s Matrices IQ test under different conditions: – Think Aloud Condition: 10 items silent, 10 items think out loud – Articulation Suppression: 10 items silent, 10 items while reciting ABCs Dependent variable: how many correct when talking? Performance on Raven’s Matrices Thinking aloud versus silence: – Euro-American performance is unaffected. – (US born) Asian-Americans perform worse when they are thinking aloud. Articulation suppression versus silence: – Euro-Americans performance is worse when reciting the alphabet. – Asian-American performance is unaffected. This suggests that Asian-American silent thoughts are non-verbal on this task, whereas Euro-Americans are thinking verbally about the task even when silent. Does Language Influence Thought? Whorfian Hypothesis: – Strong version: Language determines thought. Without access to the appropriate words people are unable to have certain kinds of thoughts. – Weak version: Language influences thought. Having access to certain words influences the kinds of thoughts that one has. There remains a lively controversy regarding the weaker version of the hypothesis, with much recent evidence coming out in favor of it. Language and Color Perception Although color exists along a continuum, color terms themselves are discrete. Color terms vary dramatically around the world, although there are only a limited number of patterns of color terms in all languages. Language and Color Perception Number of Color Terms Colors Represented 2 Black and White 3 Red, Black, and White 4 Red, Black, White, and Green or Yellow 5 Red, Black, White, Green AND Yellow 6 The above plus Blue 7 The above plus Brown 8 The above plus Purple, Pink, Gray, or Orange. If people don’t have a word for green, do they still see green the same way? The Dugum Dani have 2 color terms (Rosch Heider, 1972). The Dani could learn new color terms that were closer to the prototypes of English color labels, than they could learn new color terms that were further from the English prototypes. This research was enormously influential in arguing that language is independent of thought. However, new research has been exploring whether color terms affect perception of colors. Array of Color Samples Study: (Roberson et al., 2000; 2005) Participants were shown triads of color chips and were asked to identify which two chips were more similar in color. The chips that they chose from were equidistant in terms of hue, however, on test trials two of the chips crossed a boundary between two different color terms. The researchers compared how similarly people viewed colors to be based on whether the two chips crossed a color boundary in their own language, or a color boundary in another culture’s language. Blue-Green Stimuli Nol-Wor Stimuli Dumbu-Burou Stimuli Judgments based on whether the color of the chips crossed the boundaries of the color terms in their own language, not other languages. Numerical Cognition and Language Much of numeric cognition is a cultural invention - for the most part, people have few innate math abilities. Most abilities emerge with cultural learning. Some cultures do not have number terms beyond 2. For example, the Piraha from the Amazon have number terms that correspond to 1, 2, and many. What happens when the Piraha are asked to count beyond 3? (see Gordon, 2004). The Piraha were asked to do a series of matching tasks: – Copy lines and match the number – How many nuts remain in a can after seeing that some are removed? – Match a series of knocks. In general, Piraha had an approximate understanding of magnitude (large versus small). However, Piraha were only accurate up to small numbers, such as to 3 or 4. • • The larger the number they were asked to represent, the larger was their error, however, they did show a general sense of approximate quantities. They often would use their fingers to aid their performance, however, this was highly inaccurate, even for numbers smaller than five. There is still much debate whether these indigenous tribes cannot represent numbers because they don’t have the number terms (a Whorfian argument) or because they lack the cultural learning. Film Clips In-class assignment Understanding Other People’s Behaviors Analytic thinking involves understanding objects by focusing on their component parts, whereas holistic thinking involves understanding objects by considering their relations with the context. The same distinction can be applied to how people come to understand other people. Explaining people’s behaviors by attending to their personal characteristics is known as a dispositional attribution. In contrast, explaining people’s behaviors by attending to contextual variables is known as a situational attribution. Situation vs. Disposition Western participants overly attend to dispositional information compared with situational information when explaining the behavior of others, even when the situational constraints on the person’s behavior are obvious. In one classic study, American students were asked to evaluate an essay writer’s true attitudes by reading an essay that they had written which suported or criticized Fidel Castro (Jones & Harris, 1967). Participants naturally assumed that the person who wrote the pro-Castro essay had more positive feelings towards Castro than the person who wrote the anti-Castro essay. In other conditions, participants were told of some significant situational constraints on the essay-writers behaviors. – Participants were told that the authors had been assigned their positions (i.e., either pro-Castro or antiCastro). – Participants watched as another subject was given a pre-written essay (either pro-Castro or anti-Castro), and was asked to read it out loud. In both conditions, Western participants neglected situational information in favor of dispositional information, assuming that the essays were reflective of the subject’s true attitudes. One study explored people’s attributions in India and the US (Miller, 1984). Participants, who ranged in age from 8 year-olds to adults, read a number of scenarios where a target person did something, and then offered explanations for the target person’s behaviors. Their explanations were coded for being either dispositional or situational. American 8 year-olds and Indian 8 year-olds gave similar attributions. As Americans got older, they made more and more dispositional attributions, whereas their situational attributions didn’t change. American adults showed evidence for the fundamental attribution error. As Indians got older, they made more situational attributions, whereas their dispositional attributions didn’t change. Indian adults showed evidence for a reverse fundamental attribution error. UW Suicide in Red Square “Nov. 6, 2008 “ UW News Man who committed suicide in Red Square identified The person who committed suicide in Red Square Oct. 30 has been identified as In Soo Chun, 61. At about 1 p.m. Chun poured gasoline over his body and set it on fire. Students and other onlookers responded immediately, trying to smother the flames with their clothing, water and fire extinguishers from nearby buildings. Chun had been a member of the UW custodial staff since December, 2005. He immigrated to America from Korea in 1977 and became a naturalized citizen in 1982. His employment with the University ended in August. On several occasions near the end of his time as an employee, Chun was advised that counseling assistance was available through CareLink, the UW's employee assistance program, but as far as the University knows, he did not avail himself of such services.” VA Tech Shooting “The Virginia Tech massacre was a school shooting consisting of two separate attacks approximately two hours apart on April 16, 2007, that took place on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The perpetrator, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people and wounded many others before committing suicide. “Cho, a senior English major at Virginia Tech, had been diagnosed with and was treated for a severe anxiety disorder in middle school and continued receiving therapy and special education support until his junior year of high school. While in college in 2005, Cho had been accused of stalking two female students and was declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice. At least one professor had asked him to seek counseling.” In-class assignment Give situational accounts for: – Red Square Suicide (at least 1 sentence) – VA Tech Massacre (at least 1 sentence) Do not refer to mental illness or personality traits; instead, refer to extreme situational pressures that may have caused the tragic events.