Chapter 8: Language and
Thought
The Cognitive Revolution

19th Century focus on the mind
 Introspection

Behaviorist focus on overt responses
 arguments
regarding incomplete picture of human
functioning

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

Semantics = meaning of words and word
combinations
 Objects

in English, root words, prefixes, suffixes
and actions to which words refer
Syntax = a system of rules for arranging words
into sentences
 Different
rules for different languages
Language Development: Milestones

Initial vocalizations similar across languages
 Crying,

6 months – babbling sounds begin to resemble
surrounding language
 Twin

cooing, babbling
Talk
1 year – first word
 similar
cross-culturally – words for parents
 receptive vs. expressive language
Table 8.2 Overview of Typical Language Development
Language Development:
Milestones Continued

18-24 months – vocabulary spurt
 fast
mapping
 over and underextensions
 Overextension
= Child calls all things round “ball”
 Underextension = Child uses word “puppy” only in reference to
their family pet, fails to recognize other puppies

End of second year – combine words
 Telegraphic
speech = “Me have now!”
 Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) = # of morphemes

End of third year – complex ideas, plural, past
tense
 Overregularization
= “I runned over here fast!”
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
 2nd languages more easily acquired early in life
 Greater acculturation facilitates acquisition
Figure 8.4 Age and second language learning
B.F. Skinner v. Noam Chomsky
Attempts to explain language development have sparked a spirited intellectual controversy. At the heart of this controversy is the nature-nurture debate.
Behaviorist B. F. Skinner believed that we can explain how babies acquire language entirely with principles of learning, such as the association of
objects with the sounds of words, the imitation of language modeled by others, and the reinforcement of correct use of words and syntax by parents and
teachers. Linguist Noam Chomsky, who favors the nature position, believes that much of our language capacity is inborn. According to this perspective,
just as "learning" to walk is programmed according to a timetable of biological maturation, so children are prewired to begin to babble and talk.
In this exercise, review each of the following examples of language use by children and decide whether it best supports
the position of B. F. Skinner or Noam Chomsky.
1. While Marie and her mother are looking at a book together, Marie's mother shows her a
picture of an animal and says "cow." Marie says "cow," and her mother praises her for
her correct utterance. Two pages later, Marie spontaneously points to a picture and
correctly identifies it as a cow.
2. When his day care teacher asks 2-year-old Jack what he did last Saturday, he responds
with "We goed to the zoo." His teacher smiles, marveling at the fact that all children Jack's
age make this type of grammatical error.
3. Nicole, who is deaf and was not exposed to sign language until age 3, lacks the manual
linguistic skills of deaf children born to deaf-signing parents.
4. Twelve-year-old Malcolm, who emigrated to the United States at age 4, understands
English grammar much better than 20-year-old Maya, who was first exposed to English at
age 12.
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
(Verbal Behavior 1957)
 learning

of specific verbal responses
Nativist
 Chomsky
 learning
the rules of language
 Language Acquisition Device (LAD)

Interactionist
 Cognitive,
theories
social communication, and emergentist
Perspective Taking: Do Animals Have Language?
Few controversies have so divided the scientific community as has the
controversy about the apes’ capacity for language. Although many scientists
have made serious attempts at rearing apes in language-rich environments,
the results have not overwhelmingly demonstrated that apes can use
language as human beings us it.
At the heart of the argument are the criteria we use to determine true
capacity for language. Generally, scientists specializing in the study of
language impose the following criteria for the debate:
•Is the language symbolic: Can it be used to represent absent objects?
•Does the language have systematic syntax, or word order?
•Can the language be used in a creative or productive manner?
Figure 8.5 Interactionist theories of 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
Simple Word Problems


In the Thompson family there are five brothers and
each brother has one sister. If you count Mrs.
Thompson, how many females are in the Thompson
family?
Fifteen percent of the people in Topeka have
unlisted phone numbers. You select 200 names at
random from the Topeka phone book. How many
of these people can be expected to have unlisted
phone numbers?
Figure 8.6 Six standard problems used in studies of problem solving
Solution to Water Jar Problem
(B-A-2C)
Mental Set
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and
expecting different results”
– Einstein 

The first four require the same strategy
 (B-A-2C)

The 5th is much simpler (A-C), however people get
stuck here
Without lifting your
pencil from the
paper, draw no
more than 4
straight lines that
will cross through
all nine dots.
-no retracing lines
Unnecessary Constraints
•Most people will not draw
lines outside the imaginary
boundary that surrounds
the dots
•That constraint is imposed
by the problem solver, not
the prompt.
•People also feel compelled
to draw 4 lines, but that’s
not necessary
The Matchstick Problem
Move 2 matches to form 4
(and only 4) equal squares.
Matchstick Solution
Effective Problem Solving

Barriers to effective problem solving:
 Irrelevant
Information
 Functional Fixedness
 Mental Set
 Unnecessary Constraints
Word Problems
Susan gets in her car in Boston and drives toward
New York City, averaging 50 mph. Twenty minutes
later, Ellen gets in her car in New York City driving
towards Boston, averaging 60 miles per hour. Both
women take the same route, which extends a total
of 220 miles between the 2 cities. Which car is
nearer to Boston when they meet?
Figure 8.12 The tower of Hanoi problem
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
Culture, Cognitive Style,
and Problem Solving


Field dependence – relying on external frames of
reference
Field independence – relying on internal frames of
reference
 Western
cultures inspire field independence
 Cultural influence based in ecological demands

Holistic vs. analytic cognitive styles
Decision Making:
Evaluating Alternatives and Making Choices


Simon (1957) – theory of bounded rationality
Making Choices
 Additive
strategies
 Elimination by aspects
 Risky decision making
 Expected
value
 Subjective utility
 Subjective probability
Table 8.3 Application of the additive model to choosing an apartment
Heuristics in Judging Probabilities

The availability heuristic
 Explains
why you are afraid of being attacked by a shark,
but you shouldn’t be.

The representativeness heuristic
 Judging

a book by it’s cover
Use your representative heuristic
to make assumptions about this guy 
Understanding Pitfalls in Reasoning About Decisions

The gambler’s fallacy
 Assuming

Overestimating the improbable
 More

likely to die in an airplane or car?
Confirmation bias
 Seeking

information to confirm what you already believe
The overconfidence effect
 98%

something will happen soon because it’s “due”
confidence intervals only right 60% of the time
Framing
 10
people are drowning, you can either save 5 of them
OR let 5 of them die
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