Place: 4274 Chamberlin (refreshments will be served)
Speaker: Gary Lupyan, UW Department of Psychology
Abstract: Language is a defining trait of our species. A standard assumption shared by many in the cognitive sciences is that language simply allows for public expression of ideas that are themselves represented in a language-independent aEuro~mentaleseaEuroTM. Similarly, capacities on which humans appear to differ markedly from other animalsaEuro"relational reasoning, theory of mind, categorization, and executive functionaEuro"are often viewed as developments largely unrelated to language. In contrast, recent empirical evidence suggests that normal human cognition is actually language-augmented cognition. Exploring the role that language learning and language use exerts on human cognition leads to a better understanding of the evolutionary trajectory of language and offers a partial solution to the puzzle of how humans have come to possess intellectual capacities that could not have evolved through natural selection (aEurooeWallaceaEuroTMs problemaEuro). A computational framework for exploring the role language exerts on cognition is also discussed.