[Using concepts related to non-verbal cognitive, biological, and language development, describe the process of how we learn to think.]
The cognitive abilities of humans are extraordinary and remarkable. We have the ability to adapt ourselves to the different environment conditions and even been able to make the environment suit us. We have spread our race over the entire earth and have been successful in eradicating most of our competitors. A list of cognitive functions distinguish us form other lower beings, which make us so capable. The capabilities are:
- the ability to reasons analogically;
- the ability to compare two different things;
- the ability to obtain abstractions from details given;
- the ability to reason out of a particular context; and
- the ability to use and apply symbols to represent spatial or numerical information.
Our language abilities are remarkably exceptional too. We have the semantic-conceptual abilities as well capabilities of learning grammar. The question that is indeed intriguing at this point is “to what do we attribute these abilities to?”Three different sources explaining our superiority have been proposed. They are:
- According to the innate domain theory, our starting state of knowledge is better innately than that of animals;
- Secondly, out innate processing capabilities are superior to animals,
- Thirdly, our participation in language and culture endows the superiority.
According to the researchers, our superiority lies in the facts that 1) we can learn by analogy; 2) possess symbol systems to express mathematical and language notations; and 3) a relation of causation exists that is mutual in that our analogical prowess augments our language capabilities making us the most brilliant species on Earth!
Analogy is a means by which relational knowledge is revealed. Further, language is the tool by witch relational language is learnt and the means of offering cognitive stability to what has been learned.
- Language and Thought
Vygotsky’s theory postulates that language has a great role to play in cognition. With the advent of linguistic skills, children augment this with their prelinguistic cognitive abilities such as associative learning, reactive attention, and semimotor intelligence with newer abilities such as deliberate memory, focused attention, and symbolic thought. The arrival of language skills endows a child with the ability to control his mind and thinking. The child can now direct attention, choose the course of ideas and thoughts and form mental plans.
Thus, the Sapir-Whorf viewpoint points out that the grammar of a language shapes a person’s perception of the world, while the Vygotskian viewpoint says that having an internal language helps one to control his own mid and formulate mental plans.
- Symbols and Thought
According to the researchers, there are two assumptions based on the results of their experiments:
- Relations of symbols are utilized in carrying out analogical mapping tasks; and
- Acquiring relational language aids in the development of symbolic representations.
There are further conclusions made by the researchers regarding acquisition of language skills and problem solving in children. According to them, the concepts of algebraic notations, when acquired by children, help them to move from grounded representation of word problems to symbolic representations. Grounded representations are better for simple problems, while symbolic representations are better for complex problems (Koedinger et al., in prep.).
General learning mechanisms have come under a lot of disapproval in the past decades. The process of learning by children is so rapid that no single theory has sufficient evidence to point to to a general learning process. It is also seen from everyday life that children have greater ability to acquire learning in certain domains such as mechanical causation and biology. Thus, it can be said that humans possess specialized faculties to quickly grasp certain domains. There are built-in representations and processes that facilitate acquisition of privileged domains.
Humans are highly adaptable. We are comfortable in the tropics as well as in the Artics. This suggests that to create such a species that exhibits this high level of adaptability, the species must be able to have a powerful learning mechanism by which they can obtain certain communalities an differences from life’s general incidents and be able to capture them and pass them not to the rest of the species as well as to the younger generations - for this language is needed. Since, humans possess these abilities, they are the superior amongst all there species in the world.
Finally, the learning of language is essential for cognition. Relational symbols that have been learned help in structuring knowledge acquired by representation. Also, humans are endowed with the ability of extracting relationships via analogy and then preserve them through language (Rattermann and Gentner). This allows them to create the structured symbolic representations that allow a level of higher cognition. Also, structure-dependent comparison processes allow for the progressive abstraction of relations structures, which can be noticed even in infancy.
Koedinger, K. R., M. W. Alibali, and M. J. Nathan (in preparation). Trade-offs between grounded and abstract representations: Evidence from algebra problem solving.Rattermann, M . J., and D. Gentner. “The effect of language on similarity : The use of relational labels improves young children's performance in a mapping task.” Eds. K. Holyoak, D. Gentner, and B. Kokinov, Advances in Analogy Research : Integration of Theory and Data from the Cognitive, Computational, and Neural Sciences. Sopfhia: New Bulgarian University, 1998, 274–282. Vygotsky, L. Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1962, (Original work published 1934).