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Posts Tagged ‘experimental’

Moving Through Time

19 January, 2010 Leave a comment

Thinking about past or future events can literally move us: Engaging in mental time travel (a.k.a. chronesthesia) results in physical movement corresponding to the direction of time. Volunteers who thought about past events swayed backwards while volunteers imagining future events swayed forward. These findings suggest that chronesthesia may be grounded in processes that link spatial and temporal metaphors (e.g., future= forward, past=backward) to our systems of perception and action.

Lynden K. Miles, Louise K. Nind, and C. Neil Macrae
Psychological Science
Moving Through Time — PDF.

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Categories: Papers Tags: ,

Thinking about what we are asking speakers to do

26 September, 2009 Leave a comment

Schütze, Carson (2005)
PDF via author’s web site
in Kepser, S and M Reis (eds.), Linguistic evidence: Empirical, theoretical, and computational perspectives

Schütze offers insightful review of linguistic evidence gathering, critiquing Hay 2001, Prasada & Pinker 1993, and Ullman 1999 among others, including applications of the venerable Berko 1958 ‘wug’ test.

Connections From Kafka: Exposure to Meaning Threats Improves Implicit Learning of an Artificial Grammar

18 August, 2009 Leave a comment
Psychological Science, 2009 August, doi://10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02414.x

I find this one interesting for two reasons: the weakening of the functional model of ‘language’ suggested by the association between meaning threats posed at identity and pattern-generating in e.g. linguistic domains, and the association between ‘linguistic’ patterns and ‘non-linguistic’ patterns, like that in Whitson & Galinsky 2008 that suggest a general ability to pattern-generate, not one specifically tailored to language.

In the current studies, we tested the prediction that learning of novel patterns of association would be enhanced in response to unrelated meaning threats. This prediction derives from the meaning-maintenance model, which hypothesizes that meaning-maintenance efforts may recruit patterns of association unrelated to the original meaning threat. Compared with participants in control conditions, participants exposed to either of two unrelated meaning threats (i.e., reading an absurd short story by Franz Kafka or arguing against one’s own self-unity) demonstrated both a heightened motivation to perceive the presence of patterns within letter strings and enhanced learning of a novel pattern actually embedded within letter strings (artificial-grammar learning task). These results suggest that the cognitive mechanisms responsible for implicitly learning patterns are enhanced by the presence of a meaning threat.

Journal of Experimental Linguistics

28 July, 2009 Leave a comment

The LSA has announced a new ‘eJournal’ (must we really still put ‘e’ in front of Internet-related things? At this late date?) on experimental and computational linguistics. It’s got a rolling publication date and commits to including all data and source code for models – that, at least, is very modern. It’ll be interesting to see what role journals like this have in the future of publication.

Press release below:

The Journal of Experimental Linguistics is part of the Linguistic Society of America’s eLanguage initiative. Like the rest of eLanguage, JEL is an Open Access online journal. Regular publication will begin towards the end of 2009.

JEL is a linguistic “journal of reproducible research”, that is, a journal of reproducible computational experiments on topics related to speech and language. These experiments may involve the analysis of previously  published corpus data, or of experiment-specific data that is published for the occasion. Other relevant categories include computational simulations, implementations of diagnostic techniques or task scoring methods, methodological tutorials, and reviews of relevant new publications (including new data and software).

In all cases, JEL articles will be accompanied by executable recipes for re creating all figures, tables, numbers and other results. These recipes will be in the form of source code that runs in some generally- available computational environment.

Although JEL is centered in linguistics, we aim to publish research from the widest possible range of disciplines that engage speech and language experimentally, from electrical engineering and computer science to education, psychology, biology, and speech pathology. In this interdisciplinary context, “reproducible research” is especially useful in helping experimental and analytical techniques to cross over from one sub field to another.

Publication is in online digital form only, with articles appearing as they complete the review process. A rigorous but rapid process of peer review, designed to take no more than 4-6 weeks from submission to publication, will be supplemented by a vigorously -promoted system for adding moderated remarks and replies after publication.

The editorial board, in alphabetical order, is Alan Black, Steven Bird, Harald Baayen, Paul Boersma, Tim Bunnell, Khalid Choukri, Christopher Cieri, John Coleman, Eric Fosler -Lussier, John Goldsmith, Jen Hay, Stephen Isard, Greg Kochanski, Lori Levin, Mark Liberman, Brian MacWhinney, Ani Nenkova, James Pennebaker, Stuart Shieber, Chilin Shih, David Talkin, Betty Tuller, and Jiahong Yuan. Mark Liberman is the editor in chief.

The Time-Course of Visual Categorizations: You Spot the Animal Faster than the Bird.

22 July, 2009 Leave a comment
Macé MJ-M, Joubert OR, Nespoulous J-L, Fabre-Thorpe M, 2009
PLoS ONE 4(6): e5927. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005927

. . .[W]e compared human processing speed when categorizing natural scenes as containing either an animal (superordinate level), or a specific animal (bird or dog, basic level). Human subjects require an additional 40–65 ms to decide whether an animal is a bird or a dog and most errors are induced by non-target animals. Indeed, processing time is tightly linked with the type of non-targets objects. Without any exemplar of the same superordinate category to ignore, the basic level category is accessed as fast as the superordinate category, whereas the presence of animal non-targets induces both an increase in reaction time and a decrease in accuracy.

This is a fairly big claim and an interesting paper. The big wow here is that they show superordinate categories to be the same speed as basic level categories, in defiance of what is usually taken to be a defining characteristic of the ‘basic’ category.

First off, the study of the relative effect of the presence of superordinate vs unrelated competing items is an interesting one, and I’d like to know if there’s any more on it.

One thing that makes me a little wary is that they refer to categories such as ‘dog’ etc as inherently basic level. This notion, that some category has an inherent hierarchical role, is a hard one to put down. The real observation, though, is that there is some level, characterized by many interacting attributes (imageability, lexical simplicity, etc) that represents a semantic ‘sweet spot’, a cline of greatest density-per-level. There’s nothing making this fixed for all cognizers, and in fact one of the real game-changing ideas about this research is that it is expected to be relative. Put simply, there’s no reason to think that ‘basic’ for me is ‘basic’ for everyone, but that’s an assumption a lot of people make.

This same issue is revealed in the idea of an ‘entry level’ category different from a basic for atypical category members (penguin for bird, for example). The reification of the claddistic hierarchy interferes with understanding categorization. By a claddistic hierarchy, a penguin is a bird. But for many people, while they may cite this fact verbally, we might guess that their underlying categorization could be different. Positing an ‘entry level’ categorization to explain why penguins are categorized faster as ‘penguin’ than ‘bird’ could be succumbing to the ‘common knowledge’ that penguins are birds, and that therefore any other categorization is ‘wrong’.

Similarly, ‘dog’ and ‘bird’ are sibling children of ‘animal’ in a simple schematic hierarchy, but there’s no real reason to think that they relate this way in an individual’s experience of the world.

Another issue in this kind of experimentation (and not necessarily one the authors should have addressed) is modality. Pictures of birds and dogs, as used in this study, are probably better than line art used in others. But a big part of categorization of input experience of animate entities might be the way they move or their location relative to the observer – on the ground, in a tree, etc. Static images remove these cues and present a very different task for the brain. The idea is to get at ‘visual categorization’ alone, but that may be reifying an expectation belied by lots of embodied cognition evidence.

All this said, the overall claim, that a parallel representation of categorization is much more likely than a ‘two-step’ or hierarchical one, seems likely. They go on to point out that lexical activation of the basic-level terms could tilt the speed/accuracy odds and is compatible with a parallel-activation based approach. The Rosch et al model of categories, separate from the relativistic observations, is one that relies on a simple schematic hierarchy, which is predisposed to a linear understanding. An understanding based on a parallelized system, which the brain is, is likely to be a better one.

I’m not sure about the other claim, that abstract categories are inherently faster, for the reasons above and a few others (for example the object/context congruence that the authors themselves point out). But I do wonder whether what is linguistically basic may not always be what is experientially and cognitively basic for a given cognizer. Language is shaped by cognitive processes, but it is shaped slowly and grossly in some cases, and what is ‘basic’ for the speaker’s linguistic community may not always be for the speaker herself.

Categories: Papers Tags: , ,
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