Tessa Verhoef, assistant professor in the Media Technology program at Leiden University, is guest speaker at the online ACLC seminar on Friday 18 June 2021 from 16:15 till 17:30.
Please contact email@example.com to join the seminar.
Cognitive biases and cultural evolution in space-time language emergence
What is the connection between the cultural evolution of a language and the rapid processing response to that language in the brains of individual learners? In an artificial language learning task we asked participants to communicate temporal concepts such as “day,” “year,” “before,” and “after” using movements of a cursor along a vertical touch bar. Via social interaction, dyads achieved above-chance performance on this communication task by exploiting an early bias to use the spatial extent of movement on the vertical bar to convey temporal duration. A later emerging strategy involved systematic mappings between the spatial location of the cursor and the temporal direction, i.e. past versus future. To examine how linguistic properties of a semiotic system relate to the demands of transmitting a language to a new generation, the language developed by one successful dyad in the communication game was used to seed an iterated language learning chain. Through simulated cultural evolution, participants produced a ‘language’ with enough structure to convey compositional concepts such as ‘year before’. In a final study, EEG was recorded as healthy adults engaged in a guessing game to learn one of these emergent artificial languages. Results indicate a neural correlate of the cognitive bias to map spatial extent onto temporal duration, and suggest a dynamic dimension to iconicity.