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Language as a Window,  Language as a Mold: How Words Reveal and Shape Human Experience

Some thoughts are difficult to put into words. This simple observation shows that there must be a medium of thought that is independent of language. Yet to communicate our thoughts to others, this medium must somehow be connected to our knowledge of words and other linguistic units. In this talk, I will discuss two major ways that language and thought are connected, presenting evidence from my lab that illuminates each connection. First, language is a window into how people make sense of their experiences. Words like I and hogwash, for example, reveal how we regulate our emotions and how we grasp abstract concepts. Second, language can shape how we understand our experiences. Different ways of framing a target issue lead us to make different judgments and decisions, and these subtle linguistic cues gain power from the surrounding social-pragmatic context. I will discuss how each of these connections challenges existing assumptions about the language-thought interface. Throughout the talk, I will highlight Reedies’ contributions to our emerging understanding of this interface.

Content note: Part of this talk will discuss research pertaining to interpersonal violence.

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