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Tessa Verhoef, assistant professor in the Media Technology program at Leiden University, is the guest speaker at this online ACLC seminar. Her talk will be about 'Cognitive biases and cultural evolution in space-time language emergence'.

Event details of ACLC Seminar | Tessa Verhoef (Leiden University) - Online
Date 18 June 2021
Time 16:15 -17:30


Cognitive biases and cultural evolution in space-time language emergence


What is the connection between the cultural evolution of a language and the rapid processing response to that language in the brains of individual learners? In an artificial language learning task we asked participants to communicate temporal concepts such as “day,” “year,” “before,” and “after” using movements of a cursor along a vertical touch bar. Via social interaction, dyads achieved above-chance performance on this communication task by exploiting an early bias to use the spatial extent of movement on the vertical bar to convey temporal duration. A later emerging strategy involved systematic mappings between the spatial location of the cursor and the temporal direction, i.e. past versus future. To examine how linguistic properties of a semiotic system relate to the demands of transmitting a language to a new generation, the language developed by one successful dyad in the communication game was used to seed an iterated language learning chain. Through simulated cultural evolution, participants produced a ‘language’ with enough structure to convey compositional concepts such as ‘year before’. In a final study, EEG was recorded as healthy adults engaged in a guessing game to learn one of these emergent artificial languages. Results indicate a neural correlate of the cognitive bias to map spatial extent onto temporal duration, and suggest a dynamic dimension to iconicity.

About the ACLC seminar series

The ACLC seminar series is a two weekly lecture series organized by the ACLC, research school for linguistics of the Faculty of Humanities.