Blogroll Additions: Language Geeks and Truckers

January 11, 2008

I found a couple new blogs to add to the blogroll, and thought you fine people should be alerted to these fabulous new options for entertainment and procrastination.

First, the Cognition and Language Lab blog, which is highly interesting to me, and will presumably be so to all my fellow linguistics geeks as well.

Second, another blog by a Grinnell alumnus, On the Road (again), in which Mark Bourne chronicles his experiences as a trucker. We Grinnellians know how to put our liberal arts education to work, yes we do! He is also keeping a blog about the progress on building his bread oven, which is what the trucking money is going towards with the end goal of having a bread baking business. Mmmm, bread.


Pride and Prejudice Overanalysis, Part 2: This little character has autism, this little character does not

July 26, 2007

In an amusing coincidence, right after Ann and I did our Hollywood vs. Bollywood P&P movie extravaganza, my bookstore got its review copy of a new book, So Odd a Mixture: Along the Autistic Spectrum in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, which, as you might gather from the title analyzes the characters in Pride and Prejudice for characteristics of autism spectrum disorders.

Now, I do admit, I thought this was a pretty, um, shall we say “niche” thing to write about, but I figured what the hey, I’d evaluate it seriously anyway, because we might as well carry it if it was good. And just to make sure I was evaluating it as well as I could, I read the original book version of Pride and Prejudice over the weekend. I had already read the intro to So Odd a Mixture, so I knew which characters the author was going to “diagnose,” and was therefore paying attention to the possible signs she might have found.

When I got back to work, I dove into the main chapters of her argument, where she analyzes, character by character, the following: Mr. Collins, Lydia, Mary, Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Darcy, Anne de Bourgh, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. (I think that was everyone.) If you’ve read P&P, take a moment to consider which of these characters you might consider possible candidates.

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Visual vs. Verbal Ways of Thinking

May 14, 2007

As I said a few weeks ago, I’ve been reading Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation at work. And before some people start saying, “What, still?,” I would like to point out that 1) I am actually expected to do other things at work ocassionally, and 2) there’s so much information in this book I kept having to stop and think all the time, which slows down the reading process a bit. Darn that interesting nonfiction. So anyway, I finished the book today and now have several posts worth of stuff to talk about.

For today, I’ve picked out some of the information she had to present about the way human verbal vs. visual cognition works. Grandin is known for her assertion that she thinks in pictures, hence the name of her autobiography, Thinking In Pictures, so she’s done a lot of thinking about this topic, clearly. She describes the following study to demonstrate how the two types of thinking seem almost opposed.

Research shows that language suppresses visual memory. This is called verbal overshadowing and is a well-established phenomenon… For example, in one study people watched a short videotape of a bank robbery, then spent twenty minutes doing something unrelated. Then one group spent five minutes writing down everything they could remember about the bank robber’s face, while the other group did an unrelated task.

Two thirds of the people who wrote nothing down and did unrelated tasks could identify a photograph of the robber, while only one third of the people who wrote verbal descriptions could pick him out…

I think for normal people language is probably a kind of filter. One of the biggest challenges for an animal or an autistic person is dealing with the barrage of details from the environment. Normal people with language don’t have to see all those details consciously…

-Grandin, 261

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