Unit VII Thinking and Language Notes

Unit 7B, Thinking, Problem-Solving, Creativity, and Language
(Updated for 2011; goes with Chapter 10 in 2007 book)
I. Thinking, 298
Also called Cognition: mental activities associated with processing, understanding and
Metacognition: knowledge of what strategies to apply, when
and how so that new knowledge can be developed
syllogism: deductive reasoning in which a conclusion is
derived from two premises
Ex. a. Every virtue is laudable
b. kindness is a virtue
c. Therefore, kindness is laudable
A. Concept
What are the functions of concepts?
In order to simplify the world we create these
Mental groupings of similar things
For Piaget (see Unit 9) the basic unit of mental organization was a schema, a model upon
which to organize thinking.
Ex: chair represents baby’s high chair, dentist’s chair, reclining chair
To simplify things we form hierarchies.
Some are formed by definition.
1. Prototype includes all the features we associate with the best representation of an
Ex: a robin more closely resembles our bird prototype
B. Solving Problems 300
1. Algorithm a logical procedure used to solve a problem
a. slower, but less likely to lead to mistakes
Ex: unscramble the letters in SPLOYOCHYG to find the word
2. Heuristic using a rule of thumb strategy for problem solving and decision making
Ex: would not solve SPLOYOCHYG example by trying YY combination
3. Insight a flash of inspiration gives you the solution; occurs in the temporal lobe
(see also page 236, insight learning)
4. Wolfgang Kohler demonstrated that chimps use insight (1925).
Divergent v. convergent thinking: searching for multiple answers v.
searching for the one correct answer; divergent is more related to
Brainstorming: a group leader defers to all members for free,
uncritical expression of ideas by members of a group to more
effectively solve a problem
IDEAL problem solving: identify the problem, develop solutions, evaluate ideas, act
(apply the solution), look back (evaluate)
Deduction v. Induction:
Deducing: going from the general set of facts to specific conclusions.
Induction: going from the specific to a general statement.
Creativity, 301
What is creativity and what fosters it?
Creativity: the ability to produce new ideas that are useful
Divergent thinking: thinking of more than one possible answer
Convergent thinking: intelligence tests and most school work requiring one, correct
Five components of creativity identified by Robert Sternberg:
a. expertise
b. imaginative thinking skills
c. venturesome personality new and risky endeavors are appealing
d. intrinsic motivation doing something because it is inherently interesting (see Unit
e. creative environment
Teresa Amabile’s experiment showed that people are more creative when they are not
graded on their work.
To promote creativity managers should activate employees’ intrinsic motivation
Creative thinking is helped by the two-track mind and parallel processing, the mind
working on more than one thing at a time, consciously and unconsciously.
C. Obstacles to problem solving 302
1. Confirmation bias looking only for answers that confirm your expectations
EX: The U.S. government “had a tendency to accept information which supported
(their presumptions)…more readily than information which contradicted” them in
the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
2. Fixation inability to look at a problem from a different perspective
Ex: matchstick problem on p. 303
5. Mental set type of fixation; works on previous solutions that were successful
4. Functional fixedness thinking of things for their usual functions
ex.: inability to see paperclip as a hook
D. Making Decisions and Forming Judgments 303
Based on research by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman
1. Representative heuristics (stereotyping, see Unit 14)
Judging something according to how it matches your prototype
Ex: you’re told someone is strong muscular and fast
You think of the person as (representing) some kind of athlete
They could just be a fit professor
2. Availability heuristics
Seeing the likelihood of events based on how vivid your memory is of them
3. Overconfidence
Overestimating the accuracy of your judgments
The belief perseverance phenomenon, 307
You keep your belief even though the original source is wrong or discredited
Robert Rosenthal found this in 1972: teachers’ expectations influenced whether students
performed well in school. Teachers who didn’t think a student was capable wouldn’t
change their minds even if the student presented evidence they were very capable. This is
the Pygmalion effect.
Fear Factors: Do we fear the right things? 308
a. what we can’t control “perceived control”
b. if it is immediate
c. the availability heuristic: what we can more easily remember affects us
d. our ancestral history has prepared us to fear certain things
e. if the event or object is vivid
The effects of framing 311
The way something is set up affects your thinking
Ex: more positive response to Beef is 75% lean (rather than 25% fat)
Those who understand how it works use it to “nudge” us in a direction of their choosing
(Cass Sunstein’s argument and research)
Belief bias
The tendency for your beliefs to distort your logical reasoning ability
Intuition, 310
a. guarantees a quick response
b. is often adaptive
Artificial intelligence
a. Computerized systems that mimic human thinking
b. Computers are faster than humans on many tasks; but humans can parallel process;
computers use serial processing
Ex: robots that “sense” their environment; ex: chess programs that beat humans
Neural networks
Computer circuitry that resembles the human brain neuron connections
Can mimic the exhibitory and inhibitory messages of human brain functioning
II. Language 313
Noam Chomsky: language is the human essence.
A. Language structure
What are the structural components of a language?
B. gestured, spoken and written words that communicate meaning
1. Phoneme
The smallest unit of sound
Ex: fish has three phonemes: f, i, sh
2. Morpheme
The smallest meaningful unit
Ex: the pronoun I, the article “a” (most are comb. of two or more phonemes)
3. Grammar
Rules of the language allowing us to understand it
a. Semantics
Rules to derive meaning from morphemes, words and sentences
Ex: adding –ed to laugh means it happened in the past
b. Syntax
How to combine words into meaningful sentences
Ex: adjectives usually occur before nouns: white house---not house white
B. Stages of language development 412
We learn an average of 3500 words per year after age 1.
When do we learn language?
What are the milestones in language development?
1. Babbling: spontaneous uttering sounds
a. 3-4 months after birth
b. not imitation of parents
c. sounds unlike the parents’ language are uttered
Around 4 mos. baby begins to be language receptive--- can comprehend language; later
will bemoving toward language productive to be able to produce language
2. One word stage
a. Around age 1
b. Have learned that sound carries meaning
c. First word contains one syllable;
ex: “ma”, “da”
d. As child moves to multiple syllables, one word can mean a whole sentence
3. Two word stage
a. Prior to age 2
b. two word sentences resembling
Telegraphic speech
c. ex: I hungry, me play, want candy
d. no three word stage;
Children jump to longer phrases
C. Explaining language Development 316
How do we learn language?
1st view: B. F. Skinner, learned by operant conditioning (behaviorist)
b. association: sights with sounds
c. imitation: modeling
d. reinforcement
2nd view: Noam Chomsky, inborn, universal grammar (linguist)
a. ability to speak language is largely inborn
b. we have a language acquisition capacity (language acquisition device)
c. surface structure is all the rules of language (syntax, etc.)
d. Deep structure is the meaning of language
e. Universal grammar: all languages have the same building blocks; no
matter what he language we basically speak mostly in nouns, naturally
like birds learning to fly.
f. Chomsky says Skinner’s view is that language is learned like filling a
vessel with water; instead language learning is rather like helping a flower
to grow
3. Research: biology prepares us to use words and grammar; experience during the first
few years of life is critical to mastering a language; thus nature starts us out, nurture
shapes our growth.
a. after age 7 child loses ability to master any other language
b. Critical period: childhood, for mastering certain aspects of language
c. Sensitive period: an ideal period for learning something, but if you don’t
learn it then you can learn it later, less easily.
Overgeneralization in language: Myers gives examples where kids overextend rules;
or, they might call all four legged creatures “doggies” or all flying machines
Linguistic competence: understanding or producing sentences you have never
before heard.
III. Thinking and Language 319
What is the relationship between language and thinking?
A. Whorf’s Linguistic determinism (Linguistic relativity theory):
1. Language determines how we think
2. most evident in those speaking two languages
Ex: someone who speaks Chinese & English
They feel differently depending on the language they use
*English emphasizes personal emotions
*Chinese emphasizes interpersonal emotions
Bilingual advantage those learning two languages are better at ignoring irrelevant
information. Identified by Wallace Lambert (p. 321)
Denotation: the dictionary definition of a word
Connotation: the emotional or contextual meaning of a word
B. Thinking in Images 321
Thinking can occur without language
Ex: artists using mental imagery
Ex: Einstein used visual imagery
Imagining an activity triggers some of the same areas of the brain involved in actually
performing that activity.
Works in academics: outcome simulation, visually your grade, was less successful
than process simulation, imagining studying to get the grade.
Key terms to know: page 324
AP Practice Quiz: pp. 324-325
Appendix D-1 to D-6 Do animals think or use language?
Apes and monkeys can form concepts.
Chimps are natural too users.
Chimps have numerical ability.
Alex the parrot also uses numbers.
Researchers found 39 chimp customs and can transmit cultural patterns.
Animals also use insight.
Apes, dolphins and elephants demonstrate self-awareness (similar to the Rouge Test used
by babies)
Do Animals Exhibit Language? D-3
A. Animals can communicate using sound or behavior
ex: bees dictating the location of nectar with an elaborate dance
ex: the Gardner’s taught a chimp, Washoe, to communicate using sign language (she
knows 181 signs)
1. Koko, a gorilla trained by Penny Patterson, can sign far
more signs than Washoe and has a pet cat.
2. “McGyver” gorillas appear to use tools
3. Other gorillas demonstrate creativity by painting and
naming their art
4. Rico, a border collie, can fetch 200 items by name.
B. Skeptics of animal language D-4
1. Their vocab is very limited
2. only learned with great difficulty
3. they often mix up the few symbols they can use
4. they only do it to get a reward; Herbert Terrace found this
when training Nim Chimsky (1979)
5. their syntax is below a 3 yr. Old
6. they are just aping their trainers
Roger Fouts found that Washoe could train her adopted son to sign (1992).
Human language appears to have evolved from gestured communication. We talk and
think with our hands; this allows for sign language. Some people even gesture while
communicating over the phone!
Sue Savage-Rumbaugh found that chimps can comprehend syntax.
Whether or not animals use language depends on how you define the term.