Author Topic: Mind reading  (Read 8715 times)

Offline Guijarro

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Mind reading
« on: June 04, 2014, 08:25:18 AM »
Geniuses get there before evidence is gathered.

So did Paul Grice when he said that what we did when communicating was not decoding coded messages. He spoke of MIND READING, instead.

Now, here is the neurological proof:

http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2014/04/29/you-took-the-words-right-out-of-my-brain.html

¡Ole, ole and ole for Paul Grice!
« Last Edit: June 04, 2014, 08:27:14 AM by Guijarro »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2014, 10:00:48 AM »
And this suggests that processing is more top-down than bottom-up, meaning that generative approaches may not be looking at it the right way.
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Offline lx

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2014, 10:50:58 AM »
What is the mind reading connection though? That's either a different usage to the canonical one my brain understands, or there has been some sort of misunderstanding along the line.
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And this suggests that processing is more top-down than bottom-up, meaning that generative approaches may not be looking at it the right way.
More top-down than bottom-up? I didn't see that anywhere in the article either. Language processing has to be predominantly bottom-up, yes with top-down feedback and predictive strategies along the way that help/interfere with processing, but I don't think that people can claim a dominance of any top-down processing at all. But yes, you don't really find neurolinguists who are also proponents of generative theory. If you do, that's kind of like the typical person they put on those science vs religion shows who try to claim that those fields can be entirely compatible (when they obviously can't when it comes to issues about the history of the world or historical facts in general).

To me, that article just seemed to imply the existence of an extension of Marlen-Wilson's Cohort Model back in the 1980s with extended applicability to accept situational context into language processing strategies. If two people live in a quiet village and like to visit the pub a few nights a week, if a fire starts at the pub and it's currently burning down and both people hear about it, when one calls the other one on the phone and starts the sentence off with, "Oh, my God. Have you seen what's going on down at the...." then the other person already knows exactly what is going to be next, it's the name of the pub they both like to go to. That's what that article is indicating and again that is nothing new that we didn't already know before. Scientific journalism is really quite shocking at times in how old information is rehashed and presented as new. The BBC this week have been running with this "new" Scottish study about delaying the onset of brain aging by being bilingual, and I've seen this study cited in other languages that I get notifications about -- but it's seriously old, old, old news that was in the media over 10 years ago (the concept of the idea) and it pops up at least once per year in the popular press. I heard people reference it at work and talk about this "new breakthrough" and resisting the urge to scoff took a considerable amount of effort! Unfortunately, this article seems to be doing the same. Yes, the study is new, but the conclusion is presented as new when it's already something that became settled even in psycholinguistics a long time ago. If I see someone's arm go at a fast speed towards someone's face, I will anticipate contact and it therefore is a punch. I don't know it's a punch only after seeing the contact, I can predict what is going to happen. Prediction is just one of the building blocks of brain function and it should come as no surprise that it has a part to play in how we process language, too. My brain areas in that last example would show similar activity in exactly the same areas, too (as would someone else who is watching the same event). This isn't about our minds 'aligning' or any connection existing as if there is a pathway that connects minds. The basic fact is we're both in the same context and just as much as you know what will happen next to someone else who highly expects something to happen next, the activity is naturally going to be similar. People should be writing papers about if they find significant differences.

The neuroscientific study that should be getting all the attention this week is this one:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140601150633.htm
« Last Edit: June 04, 2014, 11:47:52 AM by lx »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2014, 01:13:10 PM »
Quote from: lx
More top-down than bottom-up? I didn't see that anywhere in the article either.
Quote from: article
Traditionally, it was thought that our brains always process the world around us from the “bottom up”...
However, in recent years, many neuroscientists have shifted to a “top-down” view of the brain, which they now see as a “prediction machine”....

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Language processing has to be predominantly bottom-up, yes with top-down feedback and predictive strategies along the way that help/interfere with processing, but I don't think that people can claim a dominance of any top-down processing at all.
You have a point. But parsing may not be purely linguistic. Instead, it may involve cognition (and top-down prediction) more broadly. This could explain why speech recognition systems don't always get the phonemes right. In fact, we know that already. So this puts the "language problem" into an interesting broader context.

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But yes, you don't really find neurolinguists who are also proponents of generative theory.
That's mixed. Fodor for example is often cited and researched in psycholinguistics regarding theories of modularity, etc.
But in general you're right. And that's my largest objection to Generativism: even assuming the competence/performance distinction is valid, why does no one explore performance within Generativism? To me the bigger puzzle is, beyond whatever we know, how we can possibly implement it in real time!

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The neuroscientific study that should be getting all the attention this week is this one:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140601150633.htm
Cool! I really really want a machine like that to use while learning vocabulary.....
« Last Edit: June 04, 2014, 01:15:22 PM by djr33 »
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Offline lx

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2014, 02:29:38 PM »
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Quote from: article
I missed out that whole paragraph when I read the story! My bad.
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You have a point. But parsing may not be purely linguistic. Instead, it may involve cognition (and top-down prediction) more broadly. This could explain why speech recognition systems don't always get the phonemes right. In fact, we know that already. So this puts the "language problem" into an interesting broader context.
But whoever thought it was purely linguistic? Wasn't it always a given that it involved/drew upon broad cognitive functions? I know some theories are strongly opposed in some aspects in relation to this argument, but I always thought the middle ground was with some acceptance of that fact. I will qualify what I mean by 'purely linguistic' because it could be misinterpreted. I mean, not solely thanks to a specific system that is posited to exist purely for reasons of processing language. Language faculty proponents are notoriously awful at providing details of what they think when it comes to physiological processes. There's such a nice, warm, welcoming world of other like minded people who like to exist and talk in the theoretical and they never have to conjecture to people that what they're talking about is supposed to be some model of how the brain actually works at some level, so maybe it is quite a reasonable statement to say people believe in a dedicated system that processes everything and solely exists for that. I was at a conference the other week and the issue of how languages can fundamentally change widely-held convictions in linguistic theory came up, resulting in paradigm-shattering shifts of view because one language behaves one way and it meant people in other countries had to abandon their syntactic analyses of their own languages. This tacit assumption of universal coverage of the theory implies a mental restriction that exists in our own minds and the existence of one structure meaning other linguists abandon their stances reflects the fact they accept that their model of the mind (on a linguistic level) must be different. The moment I started trying to connect this to anything in the real world (neurobiology) the conversation was over and there was almost a dust trail from how fast they bolted away into friendlier territory. It's astonishing how many linguists just refuse to even try to connect their ideas to anything resembling verifiable proof.
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That's mixed. Fodor for example is often cited and researched in psycholinguistics regarding theories of modularity, etc.
But in general you're right. And that's my largest objection to Generativism: even assuming the competence/performance distinction is valid, why does no one explore performance within Generativism? To me the bigger puzzle is, beyond whatever we know, how we can possibly implement it in real time!
Exactly! Performance introduces idiosyncrasies and it's not possible to generalise back to one uniform system in this way. Everything that might be used against the theory can be classed as a "performance error" and doesn't affect the general "competence" question, which is just a pure cop-out just like Freud's assertion that the mind can hide its true functions when investigated, so not finding an example on close examination of what he proposes -- is proof of what he said! It's barking mad! You'd have to be able to prove him wrong to prove him right! Language isn't a uniform system, but rather we all try to centralise ourselves onto a version that we find around us by creating an approximation that is constantly changing throughout our lives. Everyone's mental representations are driven by their experiences and that is the case at almost every level of cognition. Generativism really needs to be massively reformulated or dropped, and the people who consider themselves as scientists of language are deceiving themselves in the face of surmounting evidence that would shatter their life's work. An honorable scientist is someone who would drop his life's work at the drop of a hat if a clear piece of contrary evidence existed, but reputations, human pride and lofty university chambers where one can feel superior without challenge, are just the true downfall of many people. I got sick of that attitude after a few years of it building up and it shocked me how resistant I was to change at first. The idea we process structures like little v and PRO in a biological sense are so nonsensical to me now. We need to build up from the physical evidence we can achieve, but when most linguists are stuck in the realms of Dualism and old-fashioned Cartesian thinking, it's not easy! The issues have actually been summed up into fairly well known concepts (with acronyms an'all!) that categorise the vast problems that exist between the fields of study, the Granularity Mismatch Problem (GMP) and the Ontological Incommensurability Problem (OIP). While the OIP exists, we're not going to get anywhere fruitful because the two camps are so entrenched in their own incommensurable notions of what it means to study language, that I don't think progress will be made in the current format of both disciplines of study. There are some good papers available on the net that discuss specifically these issues. I would recommend Defining the relation between linguistics and neuroscience and Toward a neural theory of language: Old issues and new perspectives. I honestly think the linguistics of the future will look back around our time and the transfer away from the "Reign of Generativism" and its fall and decline will be well documented, and people will be shocked that it was ever widely accepted as a way of researching how our minds work. Many linguists (I believe) would be tempted to argue that their theorising is not meant to be taken to be a literal modelling of the mind, but what would their answer then be in relation to how (as I mentioned before) they are using some evidence to completely shatter some once-popular ideas? Why can't there be diversity? They will try to dance around the point until you have no energy left but their tacit assumption is a symbolic representation of the mind. Minimalism isn't referred to as the "unscientific revolution" for nothing (source). Right, that's my mini rant over. Let's not devalue the fascinating study of language by allowing these fairy tales to run rampant. I'm interested to know what you guys think on these issues. Thoughts?
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Cool! I really really want a machine like that to use while learning vocabulary.....
Haha, to periodically forget your words?  :o But seriously, if this holds water and can be modelled in humans, it would be absolutely fascinating.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2014, 02:35:30 PM by lx »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2014, 06:52:33 PM »
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But whoever thought it was purely linguistic?
FLN (Narrow Faculty of Language)? :)
(Sure, it inputs and outputs to other things, but the language itself is modular.)
But I agree with you. That is the sane position.
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The moment I started trying to connect this to anything in the real world (neurobiology) the conversation was over and there was almost a dust trail from how fast they bolted away into friendlier territory. It's astonishing how many linguists just refuse to even try to connect their ideas to anything resembling verifiable proof.
Mhm.

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Generativism really needs to be massively reformulated or dropped,
Working on it.... slow process :D
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Thoughts?
I enjoyed your rant.
I've actually come to a realization that Minimalism may be headed in the right direction, contrary to how it seems. The point is that Minimalism is using less architecture to explain less. The crucial point is that it explains less. Or, I believe, that it should. I simply do not believe that surface level language (like "English") can be explained in such terms. Instead, something can (probably) be explained in such terms, and that something is indeed minimal, and needs minimal architecture to support it. Beyond that, then, we end up with a form-function mapping that isn't too interesting structurally and, I believe, looks something like construction grammar. Hoping to get somewhere with these now loosely connected ideas in my dissertation. May 2015 I hope...

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Haha, to periodically forget your words?
The opposite of course. Or perhaps to establish several lexicons, that I can rotate between. No more confusing languages with each other!
« Last Edit: June 04, 2014, 06:59:21 PM by djr33 »
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Offline lx

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2014, 08:22:35 AM »
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FLN (Narrow Faculty of Language)? :)
Aha, you're right! That acronym brings back a flood of memories from my first year of LX at university. I had this paper strewn across my wall. Good times.
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I've actually come to a realization that Minimalism may be headed in the right direction, contrary to how it seems. The point is that Minimalism is using less architecture to explain less. The crucial point is that it explains less. Or, I believe, that it should. I simply do not believe that surface level language (like "English") can be explained in such terms. Instead, something can (probably) be explained in such terms, and that something is indeed minimal, and needs minimal architecture to support it. Beyond that, then, we end up with a form-function mapping that isn't too interesting structurally and, I believe, looks something like construction grammar. Hoping to get somewhere with these now loosely connected ideas in my dissertation. May 2015 I hope...
That sounds interesting. What's your train of thought on how CxG can be partnered with Minimalism? I certainly can see that the main tenets of CxG would allow for some compatibility with traditional generative concepts, given its structural nature. However, the fact that it's historically a project of the Cognitivists would provide a few theory-internal hindrances to be overcome in an explanatory theory, but it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to provide a few challenges as whatever comes out alive after challenging questions is more refined and, more importantly, plausible. But then the question comes down to what type of CxG to choose from, given that everyone seems to want to make a name for themselves by inventing their own type. I'm particularly fond of Bergen's work in Embodied Construction Grammar (and particularly recommend his book, Louder than Words). Yes, if it wouldn't be giving the game away for your thesis then it'd be interesting to hear what you're thinking about at the moment.

Offline freknu

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2014, 10:19:28 AM »
It's funny how there was no mention of "mirror neurons" ;)

Offline lx

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2014, 11:47:33 AM »
It's funny how there was no mention of "mirror neurons" ;)
I'm glad they weren't mentioned. They're quickly becoming the cliché explanation for all sorts of phenomena that researchers don't really understand. While widely relevant to many, many disorders/psychological processing strategies and aspects of cognitive behaviour/language processing, I think it's important to not tarnish the actual fundamental working hypotheses by throwing them in as a 'maybe' in articles such as this one. Funnily enough I watched a conference talk by their discoverer today, and he included a video I hadn't seen that demonstrates them. At 14:35, if anyone is interested. Absolutely fascinating.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2014, 11:51:00 AM by lx »

Offline freknu

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2014, 12:00:52 PM »
It's funny how there was no mention of "mirror neurons" ;)
I'm glad they weren't mentioned. They're quickly becoming the cliché explanation for all sorts of phenomena that researchers don't really understand. While widely relevant to many, many disorders/psychological processing strategies and aspects of cognitive behaviour/language processing, I think it's important to not tarnish the actual fundamental working hypotheses by throwing them in as a 'maybe' in articles such as this one.

Of course not! That would really be annoying.

However, it would seem that our brain possesses the ability to empathise and predict to a great degree, so it wouldn't surprise me if this extended to more than just visual stimuli. Looking at it from a wider point of view trying to acquire a greater picture, it wouldn't be strange if there was a general underlying ability which can be used in a wide variety of situations.

From visual stimuli such as watching someone eat something, aural stimuli from hearing something, and all the other senses ... why not something like language, attitude, or cognitive state in general?

Is it just a small compartmentalised ability closely connected to certain functions such as sight or hearing? Or is it a larger generalised, structural ability inherent to our brain?

If it is the latter, why not language? Is it necessarily because of some predictable attribute of our recursive language, or a more general ability to perceive and empathise?

Would this same ability work if we substituted our predictable language with something unpredictable (whatever that would be)? If you remove the inherent predictability, would it still work? Without any linguistic cues, would we still be able to empathise with their cognitive state and "read their minds?"

Is this a linguistics feature, or a cognitive feature?
« Last Edit: June 07, 2014, 12:54:54 PM by freknu »

Offline lx

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2014, 12:21:00 PM »
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Is it just a small compartmentalised ability closely connected to certain functions such as sight or hearing? Or is it a larger generalised, structural ability inherent to our brain?
It is absolutely one of the fundamental processes that makes us human, in my opinion.
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If it is the former latter, why not language? Is it necessarily because of some predictable attribute of our recursive language, or a more general ability to perceive and empathise?
I'm sorry but I am having a hard time understanding what you mean in this sentence. Can you rephrase it?
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Would this same ability work if we substituted our predictable language with something unpredictable (whatever that would be)? If you remove the inherent predictability, would it still work? Without any linguistic cues, would we still be able to empathise with their cognitive state and "read their minds?"
I wrote a paragraph but removed it because I thought I might have been referring to a different thing than you were. What did you mean with 'this specific ability' (just so I know I'm talking about the same thing you mean  :D).
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Is this a linguistics feature, or a cognitive feature?
Essentially, no difference is made in cognitive linguistics. Language arises out of cognitive ability. There is no separation.

Offline freknu

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2014, 12:54:03 PM »
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Is it just a small compartmentalised ability closely connected to certain functions such as sight or hearing? Or is it a larger generalised, structural ability inherent to our brain?
It is absolutely one of the fundamental processes that makes us human, in my opinion.

So you would favour a generalised inherent structure, rather than a specialised compartmentalised module?

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If it is the latter, why not language? Is it necessarily because of some predictable attribute of our recursive language, or a more general ability to perceive and empathise?

I'm sorry but I am having a hard time understanding what you mean in this sentence. Can you rephrase it?

Is it something inherent to language (the tool) or to the brain (the user)? Is the only reason this works because language has a very specific structure?

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Would this same ability work if we substituted our predictable language with something unpredictable (whatever that would be)? If you remove the inherent predictability, would it still work? Without any linguistic cues, would we still be able to empathise with their cognitive state and "read their minds?"
I wrote a paragraph but removed it because I thought I might have been referring to a different thing than you were. What did you mean with 'this specific ability' (just so I know I'm talking about the same thing you mean  :D).

To empathise. To one way or another understand the "cognitive state" of someone without them explicitly telling you. E.g. linguistically, you predicting the word someone is going to say without you actually having any explicit knowledge of what word it is.

Is this any different from being able to sympathise with someone, understanding how something is going to affect them emotionally? Do you need to have experienced the exact same yourself in order to understand what something is experiencing? Is this ability tied to the experience itself, or is it tied to the cognitive processes?

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Is this a linguistics feature, or a cognitive feature?
Essentially, no difference is made in cognitive linguistics. Language arises out of cognitive ability. There is no separation.

What I mean by that is, is it limited to language or is it a general ability? E.g. what about dancing? Does it mean that motor functions rely on a different ability to empathise and predict someone else's cognitive state? If so, why?

Offline lx

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2014, 01:17:09 PM »
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So you would favour a generalised inherent structure, rather than a specialised compartmentalised module?
A specialised compartmentalised module for what exactly? This is the clarification I was looking for in my last post. I wanted to check exactly what we were talking about.
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Is it something inherent to language (the tool) or to the brain (the user)? Is the only reason this works because language has a very specific structure?
Same thing here with it and this. Are you talking about just empathy here, or something wider? Or is it about ability to predict/anticipate events?
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To empathise. To one way or another understand the "cognitive state" of someone without them explicitly telling you. E.g. linguistically, you predicting the word someone is going to say without you actually having any explicit knowledge of what word it is.

Is this any different from being able to sympathise with someone, understanding how something is going to affect them emotionally? Do you need to have experienced the exact same yourself in order to understand what something is experiencing? Is this ability tied to the experience itself, or is it tied to the cognitive processes?
Aha, I see what you mean. It's all to do with experience. If I tell you that I no longer have a zinzarbo then you would have a bit of a difficult time understanding what I was experiencing. There is nothing to latch onto in your own experience that would lead you to infer my cognitive state because I've just made that word up. It could have been a good thing I no longer have, from which you'd understand I was sad, or it could have been a bad thing, like a cold or a headache or an annoying neighbour, which would then mean you'd understand I was happy about this event. So, yes, experience at some level is necessary. Now, context also plays a role (as it always does) and if I rephrased my statement as, "I've lost my zizarbo," then you would still be pretty clueless as to the meaning, but providing my face wasn't giving away any clues, usually when people lose things, it is unintentional and the majority of time something that is negative. So, taking a guess, you might say, "I'm sorry to hear that," and just hope that the conversation can move on before the other person figures out I don't know what a 'zinzarbo' is. If I, however, said, "Rtiyi yadanu bahaj zinzarbo" then you would have absolutely no idea what I am talking about as those were random key strokes. You do not have the experience that relays to you what I might be feeling. I would understand you via how I understand myself. If I loved the feeling of pain and grew up with it as the norm and then saw you hurt yourself, I'd be happy for you. We understand each other primarily through our experiences of the world and that links language is just an extension of expressing our experience (to put it crudely and ignore a lot of the more complicated details).

When I see people do something like accidentally kick something or see them accidentally bump into something, if I have done the same and I know how it feels, my body tingles a little bit and I cringe a little, because I know how it feels. There is a biological mirror effect where I experience what I've just seen you do. It is known and accepted that this happens. It's all part of how our brains allow us to be who we are. The experience itself is the cognitive process. When we remember something, the same portions of the brain fire away as they did when the memory was formed (this is also widely accepted). An experience cannot really be differentiated away from the processes that it consists of. An experience isn't the output of a process that constructs it and places it somewhere, this is why people say language and experience is emergent.
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What I mean by that is, is it limited to language or is it a general ability? E.g. what about dancing? Does it mean that motor functions rely on a different ability to empathise and predict someone else's cognitive state? If so, why?
What do you mean? What does dancing have to do with predicting someone else's cognitive state? When you say motor functions relying on a way to derive empathy or a prediction, it's using a specific component (i.e. motor cortex) to describe something that arises out of whole-brain emergent interaction, not something that can be attributed and split up in such a way. I apologise if I misunderstood your point here. Let me know if I did.

Offline MalFet

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2014, 02:42:57 AM »
However, it would seem that our brain possesses the ability to empathise and predict to a great degree, so it wouldn't surprise me if this extended to more than just visual stimuli. Looking at it from a wider point of view trying to acquire a greater picture, it wouldn't be strange if there was a general underlying ability which can be used in a wide variety of situations.

From visual stimuli such as watching someone eat something, aural stimuli from hearing something, and all the other senses ... why not something like language, attitude, or cognitive state in general?

Is it just a small compartmentalised ability closely connected to certain functions such as sight or hearing? Or is it a larger generalised, structural ability inherent to our brain?

If it is the latter, why not language? Is it necessarily because of some predictable attribute of our recursive language, or a more general ability to perceive and empathise?

For what it's worth, I think even Chomsky would be on board with the notion that linguistic communication depends on a vast and remarkable capacity of inter-subjective empathy. After all, he's a dyed-in-the-wool Kantian, even though he doesn't talk about those roots much these days. At the same time, I suspect he would also say that this dimension of language doesn't have much bearing on the dimension of language that he chooses to study.

edit: type-os abound!
« Last Edit: June 08, 2014, 02:50:57 AM by MalFet »

Offline Guijarro

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Re: Mind reading
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2014, 08:53:23 AM »
As the French would say, Malfet:

Clair et net!

I couldn't agree more with you.

It would take a couple of chomskyans, Deirdre Wilson and Dan Sperber, to concentrate on the communicative aspect and thereby develop the "mind reading" notion that Grice proposed.