Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagTom Wolfe

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Homo erectus thinking alone - 3D render

Cognitive Scientist: Earliest Humans, Homo Erectus, Had Language

Homo erectus needed a language to enable such remarkable achievements over 100,000 years ago, he says

Many experts believe that language has been a late development in human history. As Daniel Everett puts it, “many paleoanthropologists view erectus as little more than a skinny gorilla, of few accomplishments, far too stupid to have language, and lacking a vocal apparatus capable of intelligible speech.” Everett (pictured) disagrees and asks us to look at some facts from paleontology: Evidence that erectus had language comes from their settlements, their art, their symbols, their sailing ability and their tools. Erectus settlements are found throughout most of the old world. And, most importantly for the idea that erectus had language, open oceans were not barriers to their travel. Erectus settlements show evidence of culture – values, knowledge structures and social structure.…

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Father and child reading story book

Researchers: Human Brains Are Prewired To Recognize Words

Contrary to what psychologists had supposed, the ability to seek meaning is built in, not taught

Zeynep Saygin at Ohio State and her colleagues challenged a long-standing belief that human brains are not pre-adapted to learn language: Humans are born with a part of the brain that is prewired to be receptive to seeing words and letters, setting the stage at birth for people to learn how to read, a new study suggests. Analyzing brain scans of newborns, researchers found that this part of the brain – called the “visual word form area” (VWFA) – is connected to the language network of the brain. “That makes it fertile ground to develop a sensitivity to visual words – even before any exposure to language,” said Zeynep Saygin, senior author of the study and assistant professor of psychology…