“The Power of Language: words activate knowledge that helps children attend & learn.”

So yesterday I went to a talk at Brooklyn College. The speaker was Dr. Catarina Vales from Carnegie Mellon University. Here are some of my notes from the talk!

  • We not only use language to communicate with one another but we also use it to represent the knowledge that we have already acquired, and use it to foster more knowledge.
  • Words bring to mind knowledge about their reference:
    • Words refer to category level instances, not individual tokens.
    • Knowledge of category changes in task perceived similarity, making within category discriminations harder than between category discriminations.
  • Words also bring to mind knowledge about their related entities
    • Words are organized according to meaningful relations
    • Knowledge of these relations affects attention.
    • She conducted a study with two different groups. The groups each heard the same labeling word but one groups had a related item on the screen while the other did not have a related item. When the item related to labeling word was presented on the screen it took longer for children to answer whether or not the given word is actually presented on the screen. Therefore, children bring related entities to mind when thinking of other knowledge.
  • Knowledge linked to words helps children attend
    • Children in label condition were very accurate, no matter how long they took to answer.
    • Visual condition had a less accurate response when they took a shorter amount of time to answer and more accurate when they took more time, but still less accurate than the labeling response.

Side note: Dr. Vales conducted many experiments on children and language cognition, which was very interesting, but she did speak very fast and it was a little hard to take notes and properly follow along.

She did conduct a study which is a little similar to a study I helped a Professor in the BC Speech Department conduct. I was only a helper for this experiment and did not analyze any data but as she spoke about it, I understand the reasoning behind the rigid structure of the experiment.

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