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Cognitive Psychology: Language and Consciousness

Cognitive Psychology: Language and Consciousness

Introduction

Language and consciousness are interdependent. Similarly to the way in which human thoughts are reflected in language units, the peculiarities of language structures influence consciousness. Boroditsky (2011) states that the realization that different languages may concern different cognitive skills goes back centuries. For example, people who do not think the same way about space are also likely to vary in their perception of time. Speakers of different languages may also be dissimilar in their manner to describe events and, as a result, in remembering actions and their doers. Generally, all events, even split-second accidents, are complicated and require construing and interpreting what happened (Boroditsky, 2011, p. 1-2). In the given videos, various aspects of abilities of brain and consciousness are described. Therefore, it is significant to analyze the evidence given by speakers to identify the new features of the connection between language and consciousness.

The Secrets of Speech Perception

The first video, presenting Patricia Kuhl, relates to the topic of speech perception and shows that a person can master a language in the most successful way at the age of under seven years old. The new information which I discovered was the fact that the person cannot learn to speak language only though listening to speech from TV or radio since the social factor is crucial. In addition, the speaker proved that it is impossible to preserve language through speaking it to another adult. I would like to ask the presenter if it is easier for an infant to acquire languages of the same lingua family, or it is equally easy to learn those from different ones (e.g. Indo-European and Finnish-Hungarian).

To summarize the talk, it is important to note that the process of language learning is still quite unknown from the point of neurobiology. Children under seven are more likely to learn new language on subconscious level. They take statistics while people talk to them, and if people talk to them different languages, they could acquire both. The opennes of infant’s mind is incredible, and in order to study the features of their perception and work of brain, children are being spoken to on different languages. Furthermore, to examine the processes that the child undergoes during the perception of new languages special machine was invented. The experiments demonstrated that talking to people is vital for a baby’s development and TV or audio speech will not bring any progress. Moreover, the speaker outlined the fact that in order to preserve the language under extinction only speaking it to a child will save it, while the usage of the language in communication with an adult will not give such positive results.

Patricia Kuhl said that children “take statistics on a brand new language” because they are sensitive to the statistics they take. Children observe it, distribute, and thus keep it in memory. The speaker supports her assertion with the results of the experiment when American and Taiwan children were introduced not only their native language, but also completely new to them, mandarin. As a result, they were as good in mandarin as in their native language.

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The Ways of Making Choices

The second talk by Sheena Iyengar relates to the question of the variety of the ways of thinking of people from different cultures as well as those who speak different languages. For example, the lecture demonstrated the differences in color perceptions between Russian-speaking and English-speaking people. Russians have more options in choosing the color because they have the names for different shades of it, like “sinyy” and “goluboy.” On the contrary, Americans only have “blue,” so they have not much choice in both naming and distinguishing the colors. This information relates to the choice issue presented in the video. Moreover, the influence of doctors on the choices was discussed The examples included the difficulties that people may face when choosing radical means of treatment (like the surgery in the lecture, or switching off life supporting program in the video), while doctors cannot justify one meddication option over the other. People do not dare to choose the hard and dangerous way of treatment, so the opinion of the doctor is rather influential and persuasive. Such hard choices require effort, and it is easier for people to transfer responsibility to another person. The presenter raised the problem of choice based on social-historical background of the nation that did not relate to language. In addition, the speaker drew attention to the experiment regarding the people who can affect choices and their influence on the quality of them. I would like to ask the speaker the following question: if bilingual individuals (for example Russian-English speaker) were asked to choose color firstly using one language and than another, what shades would they name and what would influence his choice.

To summarize this video to a friend, I would say that the speech was about the options people adopt when making choices under various circumstances. For instance, children, whose choice might be interfered by parents or teachers, the citizens of the countries with different political regimen, parents who are forced to make complicated decisions regarding their children lives, the people with special needs (like blind) who can make choices only referring to the names that “look” and “smell” differently, etc.

   

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Children make choices with more quality when they are not controlled by adults. Citizens of Eastern Europe do not see perspective in having many choices, because they are used to having little amount of options after being under totalitarian power for a long time. On the choice of color, the blind can rely only on language characteristic. For them, this characteristic can show both smell and look.

Sheena Iyengar supported her claims with the details of the experiment conducted among the citizens of post-communist area. They had seven options to choose a different kind of soda drink, but people were restricted in choice because they had to opt for only a soda, not juice or water. Consequently, her point was the more choices we have, the better they are.

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