7 July 2014

Whorfian hypothesis

Does language shape our way of thinking? This simple but at the same time complicated question made Benjamin Lee Whorf study and develop his hypothesis about language: the Whorf hypothesis. He tried to show how effectively language shapes our thought by studying American Indian linguistics and most of his conclusions are based on this.
This hypothesis is divided in two parts: Linguistic determinism (language acquisition shapes ones thought) and linguistic relativity (depending on the language you speak you think in a way or another). These language differences are completely unconscious and make us see the world differently from people that speak another language.
To try and prove his theory, Whorf showed some examples of when language influences thought. Lexically, he proposed differentiation (different languages have more or less words for a specific domain) and explained how Eskimos have lots of different words for snow that the English language does not have, or, how the Hopi have only one word for flying objects. These ideas have been criticised by others telling that these examples are an exaggeration.
Another example to prove his theory was using grammar. For example, the differences between nouns and verbs that the English language has, Hopi language does not have them. They treat words of short duration always as verbs (not verbs or nouns as English does). Whorf affirmed that grammatical distinctions influence heavily on the ways we see the world. He mentions how the English language differences into form and substance making us think of the objects form depending on the category we’ve put them in (something that other languages do not have, and so they visualize those objects in another way).
Other psychologists do not agree with Whorf’s theory as it did not fit with the behaviourist ideas of the time and were in contradiction with Chomsky’s view of the universal language. Furthermore, Whorf provided many arguments but few evidence. In order to test his hypothesis they examined what differences in language means; what differences in thinking means and what is meant by languages determine thought. An experiment that proves the Whorf hypothesis wrong is the colour experiment. Dani culture learned colours in the same way as English speakers when tested. If the hypothesis was right they would not be able to learn colours in the same way (as they only difference between black and white).
Experiments in colour also proved the Whorf theory right when they saw how the words we use for colours (green, blue or blue-green) influence how we refer to them (if the name for blue does not exist when we see a blue object we name it in another way). Another experiment that proves the theory is examining numbers that show that the way numbers are represented influences mathematical thinking and so Chinese and American see maths in different ways. Furthermore, object terms also influence the way of thinking as dependent on the language the use of verbs or nouns is used more widely and that influences the way of expression of the different languages. Finally, the space distinctions between languages make us think of the world in different ways depending on the language we speak.

21 February 2014

Film Recomendation: K-PAX

People who are insane go to insane places or insane places make people seem insane?

This fascinating movie, K-PAX, makes us think about truth, madness and reality.
Protos, the main character of the film assures he is an Alien that comes from the planet K-PAX. He is sent directly to a psychiatric hospital where he tells unbelievable things about his planet, but, is he telling the truth or is he a really good liar?
This film explains how insanity can create sanity and how looks can be deceiving.

You can't miss this amazing film, and please, comment what you think of it! 

11 December 2013

Concept of form: The Problem of Visual Form Perception Part 2

The first environmental aspect needed to create this image is the light source. This refers to the direction and intensity of the light coming from the environment. Let’s see and example: imagine being outdoors, in a garden, the main light source would be the light reflected by the sun in most of the objects. Its direction is from up to down and the intensity depends on the time of day. Even though the sun is the main source, there could also be reflections of light from one surface to another. This would provide the secondary sources of illumination. Let’s see another example in an indoor scene. The main light source could be a bulb, or many bulbs in the scenario, and the secondary sources of illumination would be the light reflected in the walls of the room.

The next aspect that is important to understand the concept of form is the reflectance. This refers to the properties various surfaces have (shinny, dull, bright, …) when they come in contact with light. An object absorbs part of the light and reflects the other part, what we perceive is only the light the object reflects. In other words, depending on the surface, some objects absorb more light from one region of the wavelength spectrum than from other regions of the wavelength; depending on the wavelength absorbed we see different colours. For example, to see red, the surface will absorb the short and middle wavelengths and only reflect the longer wavelengths. Furthermore, surfaces differ in the total amount of light they absorb; the ones that absorb lots of light are shinny, glossy and look like a mirror but the others absorb little light and because of this they are dull and matte.

Now we will look at the surface orientation relative to the light source and the viewer.  The surface orientation is set with reference to an imaginary perpendicular line to the surface, which is called the surface normal. So, to have an optimal light reflection in a surface, it is necessary that the angle between the direction of the viewer and the surface normal is exactly the same as the angle between the direction of the light source and the surface. The more different the angles are, the less light is reflected from objects onto the image. To understand this better, lets look at the image below. As we can see, the part of the pyramid that is facing the eye is reflecting much more light than the blocks that are just in front of the pyramid (we can see the pyramid in white and the blocks in grey which means they have a little bit of shadow). This happens because the angle between the pyramid and the light source is mostly the same as the angle between the surface and the eye.

The final environmental aspect we need to look at is the viewing position, in other words, the relationship between the viewer’s eye and the scene (like seen in the image above). Look at figure 10.1 and imagine that Ernst Mach changes his position in the room. The image projected from the room would be completely different despite the fact that all the other environmental aspects (the light source, the reflectance, the surface orientation) had not changed at all relative to one and other.

Concept of form: The Problem of Visual Form Perception Part 1

In this part of the topic we will explain how the information about our surroundings is perceived. We will tell you which aspects of the environment are necessary to perceive the shapes around us and what relationship with the viewer this aspects may have in order to see what we perceive. It seems that in the absence of any effort, the human visual system is able to recover 3-dimension visual images from the environment from ambiguous 2-dimension retinal images. How this feat is possible is considered the problem of visual perception.

Light is reflected from objects and surfaces in the environment and transformed to light information that comes into our eye. The total light coming from the environment and stimulating our eye is called the visual field. The image below is an example of a visual field seen by the left eye of the psychologist Ernst Mach.

This reflected light causes a retinal image. This is a two-dimensional distribution of light of various intensities and wavelengths on the retina. The intensity and wavelength of each point of light depends on the combination of four aspects of the environment: the light source, the reflectance, the surface orientation and the viewing position. All of these aspects must be linked to their relationship with the viewer.

25 November 2013

20 November 2013

Parenting Styles

Parental style refers to the strategies parents use for child rearing. Research has shown that there are four types of parenting styles: permissive, authoritarian, authoritative and uninvolved. Depending on the parenting style used, children have different values, behaviors and social skills. 
Permissive parents are characterized by being indulgent. They don’t believe that they have responsibility over their children and because of that they don’t put any limits or have any control.
Authoritarian parents could be seeing as the opposite of a permissive parenting style. In this case, parents are very strict; they expect their orders to be completed without explanation. They do not tolerate disobedience and are not supportive with their children.
Authoritative parenting style is a strict parenting style. They set clear limits and at the same time they are loving and caring. They give explanations to their limits and encourage their children to be independent.

Finally, uninvolved parents are completely uninvolved with their children. They believe they don’t have any responsibility just feeding the child and giving shelter. It is more extreme than the permissive parenting style as they are detached emotionally.