Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Exploring Psychology: Language And Thought

Exploring Psychology

(Photo Credit: nofrills)

If I had to pick a favourite website it would be TED.Com. The concept behind TED is just brilliant, namely bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, and challenge them to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. The following extract from the website says it all really.

"We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other."

The talks cover a range of fascinating, engaging and thought provoking topic areas, psychology included. The website makes the best talks and performances available to the public, for free, the videos of which are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

The following video features a talk by Experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker who discusses language, and the way it expresses the workings of our minds. By analyzing common sentences and words, Pinker shows us how, in what we say and how we say it, we're communicating much more than we realize.

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard. Prior to taking up his post in the psychology department at Harvard, Pinker was the director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2004 Professor Pinker was named as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker

Book Review by Donna Seaman (Booklist)

Experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist Pinker is fascinated by the symbiosis between language and thought. In this stimulating volume, a continuation of the discussion found in The Language Instinct (1994), he argues for the "real-world importance" of "the relation of language to our inner and outer worlds.

Anchoring his discussion of why semantics matter to 9/11 and other momentous public events, Pinker teases apart the gap between the literal meanings of words and their elaborate connotations, which leads to fresh explanations of humor, the importance of metaphors, and the significance of swearing. Some of the most mind-expanding chapters involve the subtlest, most taken-for-granted aspects of mind, namely our sense of time, space, and causality.

Drawing on philosophy, evolutionary psychology, physics, neurology, anthropology, and jokes, Pinker presents a convincing theory of conceptual semantics, itemizing the "fundamental ideas" that form the "language of thought." From politics to poetry, children's wonderful malapropisms to slang, Pinker's fluency in the nuances of words and syntax serves as proof of his faith in language as "a window into human nature. See following link for full details.

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

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Exploring Psychology

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