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Can we think without using language?


Eldorado
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"The 'penny for your thoughts' kind of question is, I think, as old as humanity," Russell Hurlburt, a research psychologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who studies how people formulate thoughts, told Live Science. But how do scientists study the relationship between thought and language? And is it possible to think without words?

The answer, surprisingly, is yes, several decades of research has found. Hurlburt’s studies, for instance, have shown that some people do not have an inner monologue — meaning they don't talk to themselves in their heads, Live Science previously reported. And other research shows that people don't use the language regions of their brain when working on wordless logic problems.

For decades, however, scientists thought the answer was no — that intelligent thought was intertwined with our ability to form sentences.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/health/mindandbody/can-we-think-without-using-language/ar-AAYDqbI?

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This world leaves me speechless with what I see everyday.:lol:  

 
 
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Thanks for this article. This is something I've been thinking about myself too. How did a people thiought and communicated when there were no languages? As far as I know the first languages originated in the Mesopotamia (or China, I may be wrong) some 8,000 years ago. How did a people comunicated before that time without using a words and a languages? Some experts say they found the answer on the pillars in the Göbeki Tepe - people were communicatieed, and expressed themselves mostly through animal-symbpls and other symbols.

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39 minutes ago, jethrofloyd said:

As far as I know the first languages originated in the Mesopotamia (or China, I may be wrong) some 8,000 years ago.

Uhm... that is somewhat wrong.

That date is approximately the first time languages were put down in symbols, or letters.

The languages themselves were many, many thousands of years older.

 

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16 minutes ago, Abramelin said:

The languages themselves were many, many thousands of years older.

Is there any concrete - archaeological or written - evidence for it? Or, is it just a logical conclusion?

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1 hour ago, jethrofloyd said:

Thanks for this article. This is something I've been thinking about myself too. How did a people thiought and communicated when there were no languages?

People of the early races communicated by passing on images of their lives to each other, since in those days phenomenal memory and figurative transmission were highly developed. The more images a person saw, the wiser he was knowing how his ancestors acted in each situation. The disadvantage of this method of communication is that they they did not create new mental images, but transmitted and used what they received from their ancestors, and so their development went very slowly. In a dream, this figurative thinking wakes up in us - this is an atavistic relic of those times.

The will of these creatures and the strength were great, they could order animals, draw strength from them and not kill them. They could influence inanimate objects and move them. They could, without mathematical calculation, understand how much a tree or stone can withstand weight and build without engineering art. What plants should be taken to cure the body. They could make their body insensitive to pain and carry a lot of weight. These abilities can open in a person under hypnosis, and this is also an indicator that they were once consciously controlled in a person. The figures of these creatures can be observed on Easter Island. Against them, we are weak and weak-willed beings who have developed technology and science as compensation for our weakness and limitations . Our thinking only thinks about things but cannot penetrate into them and feel their composition and structure.

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1 minute ago, jethrofloyd said:

Is there any concrete - archaeological or written - evidence for it? Or, is it just a logical conclusion?

Well, we have the 'equipment' in our throats: vocal cords and a tongue-bone (of which I forgot the latin name of).

And yes: a logical conclusion. It's not that people back then suddenly started chatting with eachother and right then invented writing to put their chats down.

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Of course one may think without word objects or language forms... there are myriad states of meditation that arise without word structure or language mentation.

 

sheesh.

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5 hours ago, Eldorado said:

The answer, surprisingly, is yes, several decades of research has found. Hurlburt’s studies, for instance, have shown that some people do not have an inner monologue — meaning they don't talk to themselves in their heads, Live Science previously reported. And other research shows that people don't use the language regions of their brain when working on wordless logic problems.

For decades, however, scientists thought the answer was no — that intelligent thought was intertwined with our ability to form sentences.

We seem to have a confusion of decades. I think understanding of cognitive phenomena has been steadily improving because of ongoing research, and it is arguable that "cognitive science" (in the sense of close cooperation among computer scientists, psychologists, linguists, philosophers, specialists in neural function and brain function, and a bunch of other related fields) is of decades-old vintage. And "on the opposing side" there was a constituency for decades during the 20th Century for the Whorfian Hypothesis (aka linguistic relativity, Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) in various forms which tied thinking and language together closely.

But as understanding of cognitive phenomena increased, ideas of obligatory dependence of thinking upon language declined. As to the topic question, can human beings think without language?, it's hard to believe the negative answer has been news or just discovered any time recently.

There is the subtly self-referential scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind where Truffaut (a master of visual thinking in real life) supposedly communicates with the aliens in a "language" of light and sound. Fine. But you the viewer have only the light and sound, and yet you follow the scene just fine. Even if you regularly maintain an interior monolog, in this moment, you come face-to-face with something else that is nevertheless a representation of thought and an act of communication (film maker to you, depicting an act of communication, character in the story with characters in the story).

 

Examples from the visual arts, music, dance and theater are of course legion. Anybody who thinks all of that doesn't involving "thinking" needs to get out more. It's not only the arts, but the phenomenon is especially easy to observe there.

Edited by eight bits
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I’ve heard it said that talking to yourself is ok, it’s when you start answering yourself there’s a problem.  

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5 hours ago, eight bits said:

We seem to have a confusion of decades. I think understanding of cognitive phenomena has been steadily improving because of ongoing research, and it is arguable that "cognitive science" (in the sense of close cooperation among computer scientists, psychologists, linguists, philosophers, specialists in neural function and brain function, and a bunch of other related fields) is of decades-old vintage. And "on the opposing side" there was a constituency for decades during the 20th Century for the Whorfian Hypothesis (aka linguistic relativity, Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) in various forms which tied thinking and language together closely.

But as understanding of cognitive phenomena increased, ideas of obligatory dependence of thinking upon language declined. As to the topic question, can human beings think without language?, it's hard to believe the negative answer has been news or just discovered any time recently.

There is the subtly self-referential scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind where Truffaut (a master of visual thinking in real life) supposedly communicates with the aliens in a "language" of light and sound. Fine. But you the viewer have only the light and sound, and yet you follow the scene just fine. Even if you regularly maintain an interior monolog, in this moment, you come face-to-face with something else that is nevertheless a representation of thought and an act of communication (film maker to you, depicting an act of communication, character in the story with characters in the story).

 

Examples from the visual arts, music, dance and theater are of course legion. Anybody who thinks all of that doesn't involving "thinking" needs to get out more. It's not only the arts, but the phenomenon is especially easy to observe there.

Hello @eight bits hope you and yours are well my friend. I located the published journal mentioned in the Article in the OP, below I am going to post a link and the Conclusions from the Scientific Journal.

Take Care my friend.:tu:
 

Conclusions:

“”First, the study does what it set out to do: to estimate the frequencies of important phenomena of inner experience. As such, it should provide a benchmark for future studies of experience. That is a bold claim, because it implies, for example, that any future investigation of the phenomena of everyday experience in a varied population, by us or by others, using DES or using some other adequate method, should discover inner speech about a quarter of the time. Our claim is that the phenomenon of inner speech is pretty much independent of us, in much the same way that the concept of the desert is pretty much independent of the organization or entity that studies deserts.””

“”There will always be some discrepancy about what counts as an instance of the phenomenon of inner speech, just as there will always be some discrepancy about what counts as a desert. Our claim is that these discrepancies should be minor if actual phenomena are explored with an adequate method: the desert may account for 10% or 12% of the earth surface, depending on how you mea- sure, but no reasonable measurement will say 30% or 73%. Thus we claim that there is a way out of the dilemma of the wildly disparate emotion frequency estimates of Watson and of Russell; there is a way out of the dilemma of wildly disparate inner speech estimates of this study and of Klinger and Cox. That way is to explore phenomena with an adequate method.”f

“”Second, the study highlights the issue of how to explore the phenomena of inner experience. We have argued the desirability of beginning such an exploration by conducting an initial survey of the phenomena of conscious experience without preconceptions about what might be found. Furthermore, we would argue that DES, with its idiographic, qualitative, open-ended and open-beginninged approach, is one way of appre- hending those initial phenomena, capable of discovering both what is anticipated and what is not and provid- ing high-fidelity accounts of experience (Hurlburt & Akhter, 2006; Hurlburt & Heavey, 2004, 2006; Hurlburt & Schwitzgebel, 2007). We are specifically not arguing that DES is the ultimate way of apprehending the phe- nomena of inner experience.””

“”We hope that this study demonstrates that consciousness science needs to pay substantial attention to the methods it uses in the exploration of phenomena, and that that attention may lead to the development of methods that apprehend phenomena more faithfully than does.””

“”Third, this study is important because it shows that exploring the phenomena of normal inner experience is potentially possible and constructive. We have shown that there are identifiable phenomena of inner experi- ence, some of which are widely anticipated and some not. It shows large individual differences in inner expe- rience. This contradicts the implicit but widely held belief that everyone’s inner experience is pretty much the same and underlines the need for more systematic investigations of the characteristics of everyday waking inner experience.””
“”DES investigations have all been performed by us and our colleagues. Certainly this study needs examina- tion and replication by others not related to us. The more methodological heterogeneity the better, we think, as long as there is an adequate attention to the method used and regard for the phenomena under consideration.””

https://hurlburt.faculty.unlv.edu/heavey-hurlburt-2008.pdf

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10 hours ago, jethrofloyd said:

Thanks for this article. This is something I've been thinking about myself too. How did a people thiought and communicated when there were no languages? As far as I know the first languages originated in the Mesopotamia (or China, I may be wrong) some 8,000 years ago. How did a people comunicated before that time without using a words and a languages? Some experts say they found the answer on the pillars in the Göbeki Tepe - people were communicatieed, and expressed themselves mostly through animal-symbpls and other symbols.

You may find this interesting, it appears that it is very complicated to date spoken languages. However, until something replaces it the oldest written language is Cuneiform which did first appear in Mesothelioma which is currently dated to approximately 3200 B.C.

The World's Oldest Writing: https://www.archaeology.org/issues/213-1605/features/4326-cuneiform-the-world-s-oldest-writing

Evolution of speech and evolution of language:https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13423-016-1130-6 

Hope this helps

 

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10 hours ago, Abramelin said:

Well, we have the 'equipment' in our throats: vocal cords and a tongue-bone (of which I forgot the latin name of).

And yes: a logical conclusion. It's not that people back then suddenly started chatting with eachother and right then invented writing to put their chats down.

Right.  We learned to communicate by copying what others are saying.

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With my throat I’ve learned how to copy country singers.  And by the gods I think I’ve done a darn good job of it.  I am now finally good enough to play in a sleazy bar or a Ramada Inn lobby.

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15 hours ago, Eldorado said:

. But how do scientists study the relationship between thought and language? And is it possible to think without words.

While most people assume that their internal monologue is normal, there is a sizeable number of people who have no such internal monologue: Article

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On 6/19/2022 at 6:57 PM, jethrofloyd said:

Thanks for this article. This is something I've been thinking about myself too. How did a people thiought and communicated when there were no languages? As far as I know the first languages originated in the Mesopotamia (or China, I may be wrong) some 8,000 years ago. How did a people comunicated before that time without using a words and a languages? Some experts say they found the answer on the pillars in the Göbeki Tepe - people were communicatieed, and expressed themselves mostly through animal-symbpls and other symbols.

They must have been able to think. After all, pre-historic people invented languages, they didn't just stumble across a book.

Edited by The Silver Shroud
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I think we can think without language, but many living things have language, not just us.  It’s just that their language is different.  Take birds (I observe them in my yard) they communicate.  Even different species, not only that, they collaborate.  The smaller birds have an alert call when a predator, like say a Coopers Hawk flies in.  Then all birds of all species make sounds and take shelter, then sometimes the crows will come in and chase away the hawk. That proves they have language since their communication is based on sound, but, it’s not the same as ours. Still, one cannot argue that is language.

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From my part, I would say that thinking without language lacks precision when one has to communicate.

For example, an ancient observation of mankind states that "A picture paints a thousand words" - this insight of mankind came to mankind when mankind already had the choice of using picture to communicate or using language to communicate.

With the rise of philosophers, it has become altogether impossible to communicate with precision without language.

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