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Psych 411 Language and Thought, Fall 2014

We will be meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-10:45 in Psych 115.
The class is taught by Prof. Gary Lupyan (lab page), (lupyan _at_ wisc dot edu)).
You can download the full syllabus here Readings will be downloadable through a shared Dropbox Folder. If you don't have dropbox installed, please download it here

Goals of the class

Students will develop a rich understanding of the relationship between language and other cognitive processes. At the end of the term, students will be able to intelligently discuss topics like these:

o What’s so special about human language?

o Why are humans the only animal species with language?

o Where did human language come from?

o What can we learn about nonlinguistic cognition from the study of language acquisition?

o Do differences in language lead to differences in thought? What kind of thought?

o How does language help or hurt out “thinking?” (whatever “thinking” may mean)?

o What is the relationship between language and….. vision/spatial cognition/ arithmetic/abstract thought/categorization?

o What are the neural mechanisms by which language can affect various cognitive processes?

o Do language impairments impair “thought”?

o How does the science of language/thought relations inform us about metaphors, propaganda/politics discussion, and just plain conversation?

o How do new communication technologies change language?

o Can we create new languages to improve human thinking?

You can access the readings from the links on the right. I will tell you the password to download the PDFs of the readings on the first day of class.

Format of the class and class expectations

The class will consist of a mix of discussion of readings and lectures. For each class, students are expected to have read the assigned readings, and to post QRCs (questions/responses/comments) related to the readings on the class Moodle site. These need to be posted by 7pm on the day before class and will be graded as √ / √+ / √-
This class is meant to be an interactive experience and your QRCs will shape the discussion for the next class. Students should plan on raising at least one of their posted questions in class. I will tie in your QRCs to ongoing debates in the field, and to the relevant scientific literature. Students will also be expected to write two papers on a topic of their choosing. The first paper will be a literature review. The second paper will be an experimental research proposal. We will also have a few in-class debates (topics TBA) and 2 short quizzes.


Final grade assignment:

A >92%
AB 89-92%
B 85-88%
BC 80-84%
C 70-79%
D 60-69%
F < 60%
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