Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

G’day all

I came across an interesting New Scientist article about a supposed renewed interest in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – around the idea that language influences perception and cognition.

Here’s a short extract:

“Perhaps the most surprising effect of language is the way it shapes perception. According to Lupyan and others, the words you say, think and hear have a very real impact on the way you see. Gabriella Vigliocco at University College London has found, for example, that hearing verbs associated with vertical movement – such as “climb”, “rise” or “drip” – affects the eye’s sensitivity to such motion. She showed volunteers a display consisting of 1000 dots, each of which moved either vertically or randomly. Vigliocco found that volunteers were more likely to detect the predominant direction of motion when they heard a verb that matched it, for example “rise” when most of the dots were moving upwards. Conversely, they were less likely to detect the movement if the verb described the opposing motion, such as “fall” when the dots were rising (Psychological Science, vol 18, p 1007).” Link: What’s in a name? The words behind thought:

As an aside, I was interested to read that the hypothesis fell out of favour because of attacks by Chomsky and his followers in the 1970s – around the time John Grinder was heavily involved in transformational grammar. Given the references to Sapir-Whorf in the Structure of Magic, maybe John Grinder had moved away from Chomsky to some degree at that point? Who knows…

Enjoy

Dave

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

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