Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Language and spatial reasoning apparently linked

The cognitive-science geeks here should have fun speculating about the implications of this study about the relationship between language and spatial reasoning. It's an interesting article, and cites previous work that I hadn't known (being merely an armchair speculator in this field) that had indicated such a link -- that people *think* differently about space depending on how their language *describes* it.

In this particular case, a group of researchers found an unusual opportunity for Real Science: a group of deaf people in Nicaragua who had created a new artificial language, which was evolving at human speeds, and examining how its practitioners reasoned about space. They found that people who learned this artificial language at different points in its evolution do seem to think somewhat differently.

It's intriguing stuff. I can't say I'm totally astonished -- my long-standing observation is that cognition is more or less entirely about feedback loops, so it's not surprising that language on a topic would feed into how one thinks about it. It does raise some interesting questions: in particular, since animals clearly have some spatial-reasoning capability, it can't entirely depend on language. But I can believe that it is *affected* by language, and it's at least somewhat plausible that humans have experienced a sort of evolutionary atrophy of more instinctive mechanisms since language became available -- that we don't think about space quite the same way, since we don't need to.

I look forward to further studies here -- it's a neat, very practical illustration of the larger questions of human thought...
Tags: cognitive science

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