Fri Nov 5, 2010
5101 Tolman, 11 AM–1 PM
|Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Ben Bergen (University of California, San Diego)
Putting language in perspective (and vice versa)
When we observe or participate in events, the roles we play determine our perceptual, motor, and affective experiences. A swimmer, for instance, experiences her race differently from her fans. But what about events that we don’t experience directly–ones that we come to know about through language? Do we adopt a particular perspective when mentally representing described events? And if so, what factors affect the perspective we adopt? A series of experiments shows that comprehenders quickly and automatically construct mental representations of described events that adopt a particular perspective. Further work shows that grammatical details can affect the perspective that comprehenders adopt, but so do differences in individuals’ experiences with the described event. This work speaks to core questions in cogntive science; to what extent are cognitive systems for perception and action engaged during evolutionarily newer functions like language, and what role do they play?