Chapter 8
Language, Thinking, and Intelligence
• Communication: the sending and
receiving of information
– Language: the primary mode of
communication among humans
• A systematic way of communicating information
using symbols and rules for combining them
• Speech: oral expression of language
– Approximately 5,000 spoken languages exist today.
Language & the Brain
Broca’s area: small clump of neurons near front of brain
• Influences brain areas that control the muscles of the lips, jaw,
tongue, soft palate, and vocal cords during speech; thus,
Broca's area is important in language production.
• May also be involved when using grammatical language rules
in both producing and comprehending sentences.
Wernicke’s area: connected by nerve bundle to Broca’s
• Important for language comprehension
Broca’s & Wernicke’s
Do Animals Use
• Since 1930s, numerous attempts have been made
to teach language to a few select species.
• The most appropriate conclusion to draw:
– Nonhuman species show no capacity to produce language
on their own, but
– Certain species can be taught to produce languagelike
Infants Born Prepared
to Learn Language
• Language acquisition – learning vs. inborn
– Behaviorism’s language theory
• People speak as they do because they have been
reinforced for doing so.
• Behaviorists assumed children were relatively
• The problem with this theory is that it does not fit the
• Operant conditioning principles do not play the
primary role in language development.
Infants Born Prepared
to Learn Language
– The nativist perspective:
• Language development proceeds according to an inborn
• Language Acquisition Device (Noam Chomsky): humans are
born with specialized brain structures (Language Acquisition
Device) that facilitates the learning of language.
– Interactionist perspectives:
• Propose environmental and biological factors interact together
to affect the course of language development.
• Social interactionist perspective strongly influenced by Lev
Vygotsky’s writings
Infants Born Prepared
to Learn Language
• Assessing the three perspectives on
language acquisition:
– General consensus:
• Behaviorists place too much emphasis on
conditioning principles.
• Nativists don’t give enough credit to environmental
• Interactionist approaches may offer best possible
Stages of Language
• All human languages are composed of:
– Phonemes: smallest sound units in speech
– Morphemes: smallest units that carry meaning
Stages of Language
• Language development begins with children using
primitive-sounding phonemes.
One-word stage—use only one-word phrases.
Consequently, they overextend their words—application of the process
of assimilation.
By the age of 2—two-word stage—begin using two separate words in
the same sentence.
A phase of telegraphic speech begins.
• Child-directed speech—motherese
Parents help infants recognize specific language forms and skills
necessary for future language learning by the way they talk to them
(slowly, high pitch, simple words, heightened expression).
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive
Development - Four Stages
• Jean Piaget contended that cognitive development
occurs as children organize their structures of
knowledge to adapt to their environment.
• A schema is an organized cluster of knowledge that
people use to understand and interpret information.
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive
Development - Four Stages
• Acquisition of knowledge occurs through
the complementary processes of
assimilation and accommodation.
– Assimilation: the process of absorbing new
information into existing schemas
– Accommodation: the process of changing
existing schemas to absorb new
Piaget’s Stages
• Sensorimotor stage (birth–2 years):
– experience the world through actions (grasping,
looking, touching, and sucking)
• One of the major accomplishments at this stage is the
development of object permanence.
• Preoperational stage (2–6 years):
– represent things with words and images but
having no logical reasoning
Piaget’s Stages
• Concrete operational stage (7–11 years):
– think logically about concrete events;
understanding concrete analogies and
performing arithmetic operations
• Formal operational stage (12 years–
– develop abstract reasoning
The Three-Mountains
Conservation of
Conservation of
Piaget’s Conclusions Have
Been Questioned
• Development may be less “stagelike”
than he proposed.
• Children may achieve capabilities earlier
than he thought.
• All adults may not reach formal
operational thought.
Evaluating Piaget
• Despite criticisms, most developmental
psychologists agree that Piaget has
generally outlined:
– An accurate view of many of the significant changes that
occur in mental functioning with increasing childhood
maturation; and
– That children are not passive creatures merely being
molded by environmental forces, but that they are
actively involved in their own cognitive growth.
The Linguistic Relativity
• Does language determine thought?
• Benjamin Lee Whorf’s linguistic relativity hypothesis
– Proposed that the structure of language determines the
structure of thought (without a word to describe an experience,
you cannot think about it).
– However, research indicates that just because a language
lacks terms for stimuli does not mean that language users
cannot perceive features of the stimuli.
– The answer is no. Most psychologists believe in a weaker
version of Whorf’s hypothesis—that language can influence
• Thinking—cognition
– The mental activity of knowing
– The processes through which knowledge is
– The processes through which problems
are solved
Concept Formation
• Concept: a mental grouping of objects, ideas,
or events that share common properties
– Concepts enable people to store memories in an
organized fashion.
• Categorization is the process of forming
– We form some concepts by identifying defining
– Problem with forming concepts by definition is that
many familiar concepts have uncertain or fuzzy
Concept Formation
• Thus, categorizing has less to do with features that
define all members of a concept and has more to do
with features that characterize the typical member of
a concept.
• The most representative members of a concept
are known as prototypes.
When Is It a “Cup,” and
When Is It a “Bowl”?
Fuzzy Boundaries
• Determine whether something belongs to a
group by comparing it with the prototype.
• Objects accepted and rejected define the
boundaries of the group or concept.
• This is different for different people.
• Common problem-solving strategies:
– Trial and error: trying one possible solution
after another until one works
– Algorithm: following a specific rule or stepby-step procedure that inevitably produces
the correct solution
– Heuristic: following a general rule of thumb
to reduce the number of possible solutions
– Insight: sudden realization of how a
problem can be solved
“Internal” Obstacles Can
Impede Problem Solving
• Confirmation bias: the tendency to seek information that
supports our beliefs, while ignoring disconfirming
• Mental set: the tendency to continue using solutions that
have worked in the past, even though a better alternative
may exist
• Functional fixedness: the tendency to think of objects as
functioning in fixed and unchanging ways and ignoring
other less obvious ways in which they might be used
The Candle Problem
• Representativeness heuristic:
– the tendency to make decisions based on how closely
an alternative matches (or represents) a particular
– Availability heuristic:
• the tendency to judge the frequency or probability of
an event in terms of how easy it is to think of
examples of that event
Five conditions most likely to lead to heuristic use:
• People don’t have time to engage in systematic
• People are overloaded with information.
• People consider issues to be not very important.
• People have little information to use in making a
• Something about the situation primes a given
• Intelligence consists of the mental
abilities necessary to adapt to and
shape the environment.
– Intelligence involves not only reacting to
one’s surroundings but also actively
forming them.
Early IQ Testing Shaped by
Racial/Cultural Stereotypes
British Sir Francis Galton founded the eugenics
movement to improve the hereditary characteristics
of society.
• Eugenics proposed that:
– White and upper-middle-class individuals—who were assumed to
have high mental ability—should marry and have children.
– Lower-class Whites and members of other races —who were
assumed to have low mental ability—should not reproduce.
Early IQ Testing Shaped by
Racial/Cultural Stereotypes
• Unlike Galton, French psychologist Alfred Binet:
– Made no assumptions about why intelligence differences exist.
Believed intellectual ability could be increased through education.
• Over Binet’s objections, American Henry Goddard used
Binet’s intelligence test to identify the feebleminded so
they could be segregated and prevented from having
Aptitude &
Achievement Tests
• Two categories of mental abilities
– Aptitude tests: measure capacity to learn new skill
– Achievement tests: measure what is already learned
Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT): measures learned
verbal and mathematical skills
SAT scores influenced by quality of test takers’ schools
• Difference in intent/use of the test
Aptitude &
Achievement Tests
– Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test: the widely used
American revision of the original French intelligence
Intelligence quotient (IQ): originally, the ratio of mental age
to chronological age multiplied by 100 (MA/CA  100).
Today, IQ is calculated by comparing how a person’s
performance deviates from the average score of her or his
same-age peers, which is 100.
– Wechsler Intelligence Scales: the most widely used set
of intelligence tests, containing both verbal and
performance (nonverbal) subscales
Test Standardization
• Process of establishing uniform procedures for
administering a test and interpreting its scores
– Reliability: the degree to which it yields consistent results
– Validity: the degree to which a test measures what it is
designed to measure
Content validity
Predictive validity: degree to which test results predict other
behaviors or measures
The Normal
Are intelligence tests
culturally biased?
– Critics claim that Whites and higher SES
individuals have had greater exposure than
ethnic minority and lower-class individuals to
topics on most commonly used IQ tests.
– Supporters of IQ tests respond that although IQ
tests do not provide an unbiased measure of
cognitive abilities, they do provide a fairly
accurate measure of academic and occupational
What is Intelligence? One or
Several Distinct Abilities?
• One of the primary questions about the
nature of intelligence is whether it is best
conceptualized as:
– A general, unifying capacity or
– Many separate and relatively independent
What is Intelligence? One or
Several Distinct Abilities?
• British psychologist Charles Spearman
concluded there was a general intelligence,
or g, factor underlying all mental abilities.
• Louis Thurstone argued there were seven
primary mental abilities:
– Reasoning, verbal fluency, verbal
comprehension, perceptual speed, spatial skills,
numerical computation, and memory
What is Intelligence? One or
Several Distinct Abilities?
– Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple
intelligences contends that intelligence
consists of at least eight independent
• Linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical,
bodily-kinesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal, and
What is Intelligence? One
or Several Distinct Abilities?
• Robert Sternberg’s triarchic theory of
intelligence proposes that intelligence consists
of analytical, creative, and practical abilities.
• Research still supports both perspectives:
– There is evidence that we have distinct mental
abilities and a general intelligence factor.
Sternberg’s Triarchic
Theory of Intelligence
People Differ in Their Neural
Complexity & Quickness
– Brain size has a moderately high correlation
(r = +.44) with IQ scores.
• Some neuroscientists point to the fact that larger
brains have more neurons than do smaller brains.
• Another possibility: brain size-IQ correlation is
related to different levels of myelin in the brain.
People Differ in Their Neural
Complexity & Quickness
– Intelligence is partly based on neural
complexity, quickness, and efficiency.
– Additional studies suggest that smarter
brains become more efficient with practice.
– These findings suggest that intelligence is a
product of both our biology (nature) and our
experience (nurture).
People Differ in Their Neural
Complexity & Quickness
• Extremes of intelligence
– Diagnosis of mental retardation given to people
• Have an IQ score below 70 and also have difficulty adapting
to the routine demands of independent living.
• Only 1-2 percent of the population meets both criteria.
• Males outnumber females by 50 percent
People Differ in Their Neural
Complexity & Quickness
• Extremes of intelligence
– About 75 percent of mental retardation cases
thought to result from unfavorable social
conditions or subtle and difficult-to-detect
physiological effects
– Remaining 25 percent of cases considered to
have a specific organic cause, such as fetus or
infant exposed to harmful substances
• Down syndrome caused by an extra chromosome coming
from either the mother’s egg (the primary source) or the
father’s sperm.
People Differ in Their Neural
Complexity & Quickness
• The gifted category used for IQs above 130 or 135
• U.S. federal law designates that giftedness should
be based on superior potential in any of six areas:
• General intelligence, specific aptitudes (for example, math and
writing), performing arts, athletics, creativity, and leadership
Twin and Adoption
Studies of Intelligence
• Twin studies indicate that the average correlation
of identical twins’ IQ scores is .86, while fraternal
twins’ correlation is .60.
– Fraternal twins—who are genetically no more similar than
regular siblings, but who are exposed to more similar
experiences due to their identical ages—have more similar
IQ scores than other siblings.
– In addition, nontwin siblings raised together have more
similar IQs (r = .47) than siblings raised apart (r = .24).
The Nature-Nurture
Twin and Adoption
Studies of Intelligence
– Adoption studies
• Children who were adopted within 2 weeks to 1 year
of birth have higher IQ correlations with biological
parents than with adoptive parents.
– Based on twin and adoption studies:
• Heredity accounts for a little over 50 percent of the
variation in intelligence, and
• Environmental factors account for a little less than
50 percent.
Figure 8-12 Reaction
Gender Differences in
IQ Scores
• Gender differences: male and female IQ
scores are virtually identical—few
differences in certain aptitudes
– Females tend to do better on verbal aptitude
tests, while males tend to do better on visualspatial tests.
– Gender differences have also been found in
mathematical ability.
Gender Differences in
IQ Scores
– Some studies suggest female-male differences
in verbal and spatial abilities might be linked to
differences in the organization of brain areas
controlling verbal and spatial abilities and to
hormonal fluctuations
– Other studies suggest that these differences are
a product of gender socialization and the
different skills taught to girls and boys.
Group Differences in
IQ Scores
• African Americans score between 10 and 15
points lower than White Americans and Asian
• Hispanic Americans achieve IQ scores
somewhere in between those of Blacks and
• Asian Americans score about 5 points higher
than White Americans.
Group Differences in
IQ Scores
• These IQ test differences also occur on nonverbal
test items that do not appear to be culturally biased
against ethnic minorities.
• Numerous studies suggest that it is “highly
unlikely” that genetic differences between the
races cause these group IQ differences.
Racial Differences
in IQ Scores
Sources: Data from N. J. Mackintosh. (1998). IQ and human intelligence. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. Neisser, U. (1998). The rising curve: Long-term gains in IQ and related
measures. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Plant-Pot Analogy
Cultural Factors May Explain
Group IQ Differences
• Studies in various countries indicate that involuntary
minorities achieve lower IQ scores than voluntary
• Many social scientists believe that the primary causes are:
– Persisting negative cultural stereotypes within the dominant
culture concerning involuntary minorities’ intellectual abilities
(self-fulfilling prophecies), and
– The self-protective defensive reaction many involuntary
minority members subsequently develop against the rejecting
mainstream culture (oppositional identities).
Cultural Factors May Explain
Group IQ Differences
• Stereotype threat: disturbing awareness that your task
performance might confirm that you personally fit the
negative stereotype
– According to Claude Steele, when highly motivated minority students
take an IQ test & worry that a low score will confirm a “mentally
inferior” stereotype, the added pressure significantly hinders their
• Many studies inform us that negative stereotypes can create
damaging self-fulfilling prophecies among members of many
different social groups by inducing stereotype threat.
Performance and
Stereotype Threat
Cultural Factors May Explain
Group IQ Differences
• Intellectual growth is nurtured when parents and the larger
culture stress the:
– Value of education and
– Importance of working hard to achieve intellectual
• Intellectual growth is stunted when cultural beliefs impress
upon the child that their academic success is either:
– Unlikely (due to negative cultural stereotypes) or
– Not highly valued (due to it being incompatible with other
cultural values).

Language, Thinking, and Intelligence