• Marchesk
    Rats can recognize colors and understand left and right, but they can't put the two together to locate a biscuit left of the blue wall in a maze. They can't connect the color with going left to find a biscuit. It's 50/50 whether they go right or left.

    Children up till six years of age are also like this, except that they're constantly babbling words. Then around six, they're able to string different concepts together to say something like, "The biscuit is left of the blue wall", and understand it.

    Now when adults are tasked with reciting back words they're listening too, they lose the ability to make sense of "left of the blue wall". What this suggests is that language is a means by which different regions of the human brain communicate with each other. You have one region in the visual cortex that recognizes blue. And another that recognizes a biscuit. You also have a spatial understanding of left and you know what a wall is. When someone says, "The biscuit is left of the blue wall", those different regions of the brain are able to communicate with one another, leading us to a world of understanding not available to small children and rats.

    I thought it was an interesting theory of language. That it hooks up different regions of the brain with different conceptual understanding, providing us with a combinatorial explosion of meaning. They went on to discuss Shakespeare's genius and all the common phrases he invented by shoving different concepts together.
  • Bitter Crank
    Comparing children and rats... love it. You can't be all bad. Rats and children are also better at certain kinds of estimation than adults are.

    Does language tie various parts of the brain together, or is language one of the parts that is tied together? Don't know. I'm inclined to think it is one of the parts that is tied, rather than ties. In any event, various parts of the brain in a rat have to interact. Sense of smell, vision, hearing, and memory all go into rat-navigation.
  • Marchesk
    Don't know. I'm inclined to think it is one of the parts that is tied, rather than ties. In any event, various parts of the brain in a rat have to interact. Sense of smell, vision, hearing, and memory all go into rat-navigation.Bitter Crank

    Sure, but for some reason, rats can't combine blue and left together to understand left of blue. Is that because they lack language, or because their brains aren't wired up to allow such a combination? Maybe rats just aren't smart enough. The show didn't say anything about squids or dogs. I'm guessing there are some birds which get the concept.
  • Bitter Crank
    "Left" and "blue" in humans are processed in the language center, which rats don't need much of. The frequency of radiation we call blue and the direction that relates to the side of our body in which the heart is located are handled in at least three separate areas of the brain. (proprioception, spacial relationships, and color).

    The capacity to associate things which are handled in various parts of the brain no doubt occurs in rats --memories of pain and the odor of cats, for instance, are probably associated and handled in separate unrelated parts of the rat brain.

    And maybe rats aren't smart enough, or maybe they haven't needed this kind of association to survive, and birds did.
  • Marchesk
    But I think the idea here is that language allows us to form associations which wouldn't be possible otherwise. Somehow, it allows different regions in the brain to communicate in a manner they wouldn't be doing, linking together disparate concepts. The various phrases Shakespeare made popular illustrate that nicely. A bird might understand left of blue, but it can't comprehend the notion of a fool's paradise (just to pick one randomly - perhaps it would be better to pick a more concrete one since birds understand neither fools nor paradise).
  • Marchesk
    So the real question is how viable is the theory that language provides a mechanism for disparate parts of the brain to communicate which otherwise wouldn't?
  • StreetlightX
    It would have to be assessed on the basis of how language would be able to play that role. What specifically about language, in other words, would allow it to play the role you're theorising here?

    For my part, I'm not all that convinced, unfortunately. I have no doubt that language allows for an unprecedented acceleration of the formation of associations - thanks to the relatively low energy costs involved in the use of language, as opposed to habit acquisition through say, bodily contraction -, but I don't think that there's anything particularly special, better, or exclusive about language that would make it serve the bridging function you want to make it play.
  • Marchesk
    I guess it would be. It's just something interesting I heard on NPR.
  • Cavacava
    I saw an experiment investigating rats color discrimination. In it the rats are trained to associate food in a specific location with a blue light, the rats were also tested with yellow, and red lights. The yellow light produced the most correct results, red the worst. Gcolema2 rats's Blog ? I have no idea how trust worthy, but it looks pretty straight forward.

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