Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

Gesturing and Tip of the Tongue: How flailing your arms can cure a TOT state

November 24th, 2015 2 comments

Do you ever think of a word or phrase and you know you know it, you just can’t seem to find it? You’re frustrated and want so badly to be able to say the word, one might even say it’s at the tip of your tongue. This feeling is called a tip-of-the-tongue state, or the TOT phenomena. It’s likely that on top on this frustrating experience, you are flailing your hands around trying to gesture the word at the tip of your tongue. Although you may look strange doing so, gesturing may actually be the thing that helps you retrieve that word you so desperately want to access.

tip of the tongueGestures, which are body or limb movements, can be characterized as an element of a word’s meaning in some
one’s mental representation, or bank of knowledge. Humans often pair certain gestures with different words based on a possible function or shape of a word that is an object

For example, for the word ‘brush’, you may run your hands through you hair. This hand gesture is associated with the word ‘brush’ because it is paired with the function of a brush, located in your mental representation. Because of this association, it is possible to find yourself gesturing the functions of a word even though you cannot actually access what that word is. Luckily for those frustrated by TOT states, gesturing can help retrieve the word that is difficult to access.

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Why are Tongue Twisters so Difficult to Pronounce?

November 24th, 2014 4 comments

Tongue twisters are words, phrases or sentences composed of similar consonantal sounds that make it difficult to articulate. For example, try reading some of these out loud three times as fast as you can:

Freshly fried fresh flesh.

A bloke’s back bike brake block broke.

The soldiers shouldered shooters on their shoulders.

Fred fed Ted bread, and Ted fed Fred bread.


You might remember doing some of these as a child as fun little games for kids to do at parties or in the lunchroom. However, from the perspective of a language researcher tongue twisters can actually help us understand how we produce language.

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Do Deaf Children Lack Attentional Control? How Language may be the Answer

November 10th, 2014 3 comments

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Imagine being deaf. Do you think it would make it harder for you to pay attention to things? Make it easier to be impulsive? It is easy for many people to take for granted many of the things that they have in life. Especially some things as that are so seemingly common as a sense. However, for those people, such as deaf people, they know that there is much more to their struggle than it would appear. It is a common misconception that the only difference between those who are deaf and those who are not is the ability to hear. However, lacking the sense of hearing has far-reaching implications, some of which are still being discovered. One of these areas of implication is within the domain of attention. Attention is a fundamental cognitive ability in which one is able to select a particular stimulus from the environment and focus certain resources on it. For example, when one is in class there are many things happening all at once: other students are on their computers, maybe there is something happening outside the window, and/or your phone is ringing in your pocket. As a student, you are expected to block out all of these distractions and focus your attention onto the teacher, and, specifically, what the teacher is saying.

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Categories: Attention, Development, Language Tags:

Understanding Ebooks

Say, you’re Homer (the Greek one), and you’ve just put the finishing touches on your latest epic. You’re going to want a book. You’re going to want one so that you won’t have to worry about people mishearing your singing (because microphones haven’t been invented yet) or those pesky barbarians on the road to the next town mugging you and stealing your lyre. If you think about it, a book is a pretty nifty piece of technology. In fact, books are awesome enough to have been in use for something like 5000 years, and not only to still be in use in modern society, but to still be commonplace in it.

They're really expensive

They’re really expensive!

It is probably because books printed on paper have been so reliably awesome for so long that there has been so much controversy surrounding the expansion of reading platforms to include E-reading devices (Kindles or Nooks) and computers. Bibliophiles everywhere are collectively freaking out about the end of printed books, and as a result, a lot of ink has been spilled (Well, maybe not ink. Pixels, maybe? Bytes?) on research to determine how these new formats measure up to our classic, well-loved paperbacks. Read more…

Parenting Tips: How Bilingualism Can Save You From the Terrible Twos

May 2nd, 2014 6 comments

Leash child


“Look at Mommy!” “Come with Daddy!” Kids in the terrible two’s and even three’s just don’t seem to listen. Their world appears to be full of distractions. One moment they are giving you their undivided attention as you ask them to sit still, the next they are waddling off as fast as possible in the crowded supermarket. Their attention seems almost hopelessly uncontrollable. They dart from one toy to the next, and eventually you wonder how on earth their teacher gets them to focus for even a minute in school. Is there any way to reduce the distractions of these problematic preschoolers? A cure is bilingualism. Being bilingual means that you have the ability to speak in two or even several languages. Now, I’m not saying popular children’s shows teaching simple phrases from another language, such as Dora the Explorer, may have the most influence on your child’s attentional control, but actually being fairly fluent in multiple languages has a positive effect on preschooler’s attention. Read more…

“To help Dora climb, you gotta say subida. Can you say subida?” – Boots in Dora the Explorer

May 1st, 2014 2 comments


Subida! Subida! Climb! Like Dora in the children’s television show Dora the Explorer, approximately 20% of the American population speaks more than one language fluently. (Grosjean, 2012) They are able to watch Spanish soap operas without subtitles, read the Harry Potter series in German, and ultimately pass along the language to their children. In schools across the country, students are learning a second language every day in the classroom to become bilingual.

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Sentence Comprehension Deficits in Alzheimer’s Disease

December 13th, 2013 5 comments

Most people know that there are extreme cognitive deficits associated with DAT, otherwise known as Alzheimer ’s disease, but what is the nature of these struggles? What do those with DAT have the most trouble on, and what is the biggest cause of the troubles? It turns out that those with DAT have the biggest deficits in attentional tasks, and a lot of their memory issues stem from an inability to focus and maintain attention. In 1998 “Sentence Comprehension Deficits in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Comparison of Off-Line VS. On-Line Sentence Processing” looked at and tried to analyze the reasons behind memory deficits in DAT individuals.

The experimenters wanted to test whether the problems were stemming from a lack of syntactic knowledge, or the knowledge of how words form into sentences correctly, or from a working memory deficit. Working memory is the system that holds information in short term memory, deciding whether to attend to it, rehearse it, and transfer it into long term memory or to just throw it out. The better a person’s working memory, the better they can learn and pay attention to what they are looking at. Read more…

Reading is as Easy as a Hop, Skip, And a Jump

Being able to read is an enjoyable skill that usually begins to be taught between the ages of five and seven. Most people can recall what it was like in the early stages of reading. You start off slowly trying to pronounce and string the words together into one fluent sentence. As you progress you move on to more complex sentences and pretty soon you’re trying to read everything everywhere! It’s a skill you’ve become so comfortable with that you probably find yourself reading at a faster pace and only stumble on words that aren’t familiar. A common phrase used amongst students is “Oh, I just skimmed through it.” This phrase has lead to many psychological experiments that try and pinpoint how efficient we are at ‘skipping’ through sentences and our ability to fill in the missing content.

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Categories: Attention, Language Tags:

Finding Answers for Resilient Readers

April 25th, 2013 1 comment

Growing up, I noticed that some children would leave the classroom with teachers I didn’t recognize, and until I grew a little older I didn’t understand where they were going. Eventually I learned that these children had learning disabilities, some of whom were diagnosed with dyslexia. What has never crossed my mind since then, is that there are still adults who are affected by reading disabilities. Experimenters Welcome, Chiarello, Halderman, and Leonard (2008) examined a group of college students who they called “Resilient Readers” who have a rare form of reading disability that can be thought of as similar to dyslexia. The stereotype that people with dyslexia just switch letters is only one small piece of the disorder, which is caused by the brain not properly recognizing or processing symbols (letters and words). There are other symptoms for those struggling with dyslexia, including difficulties in: figuring out meanings of sentences, recognizing written words, and rhyming. Though it can be difficult for a young student with dyslexia to learn how to read, if taught specialized techniques and approaches to learning they are able to overcome or at least learn to work with their disorder (PubMed Health). Many students with dyslexia attend higher education and excel among their classmates.


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Categories: Education, Language, Pattern Recognition Tags: