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Gary Lupyan, Ph.D.

Department of Psychology
University of Penn

What do Words do?

Humans are the only animals to have names for their categories. Beyond making linguistic communication possible, do words (verbal labels) enable or facilitate certain cognitive processes?  Does learning to name objects help us learn to what categories they belong? Does labeling a familiar object change how we remember it? Does hearing a word affect visual perception? I will talk about these issues in the context of the broad question-what do words do?-and present experimental evidence showing that words do far more than simply communicate information between individuals. Rather than viewing words as simple outputs of a conceptual system, I will argue that words (and language more broadly) should be viewed in terms of their feedback (top-down) effects on lower-level cognitive and perceptual processes.


Thursday, October 22, 2009
7:00 PM Cunniff Hall
Sponsored by the Department of Psychology