Tool: Language

Human spatial cognition and learning can be greatly influenced by the symbol systems we use to represent and communicate about space. In particular, spatial language—by far the most ubiquitous of all our external representational systems—can enhance spatial cognition in several ways. Spatial language encodes space in categorical terms and emphasizes qualitative divisions of space rather than metric properties. Spatial language thus can invite qualitative categories that guide spatial reasoning. Spatial language provides tools for labeling spatial relations and focuses attention on patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed. Moreover, spatial language can form an abstract system that permits analogical extensions of spatial representations to other domains.

The goals of our research on Spatial Language are:

  1. To explore the effects of spatial language on spatial cognition.
  2. To delineate the cognitive constraints on spatial language.
  3. To understand how spatial language is learned.
  4. To explore the neural representation of spatial language and thought.

Point of Contact:
Terry Regier

Publications from SILC

  • ♦ Brunyé, T., Rapp, D.N. & Taylor, H.A. (2008). Representational flexibility and specificity following spatial descriptions of real world environments. Cognition, 108, 418-443.
  • ♦ Christie, S. & Gentner, D. (in press). Where hypotheses come from: Learning new relations by structural alignment. Journal of Cognition and Development.
  • ♦ Cifuentes Férez, P. & Gentner, D. (2006). Naming motion events in Spanish and English. Cognitive Linguistics, 17, 443-452.
  • ♦ Feist, M.I., & Gentner, D. (2007). Spatial language influences memory for spatial scenes. Memory and Cognition, 35, 283-296.
  • ♦ Gentner, D., & Christie, S. (in press). Language and cognition in development. To appear in M. M. Spivey, K. McRae, & M. Joanisse (Eds.) The Cambridge handbook of psycholinguistics.
  • ♦ Gentner, D. & Christie, S. (in press) No symbols, no dice. To appear in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
  • ♦ Gentner, D. & Christie, S. (2008). Relational language supports relational cognition in humans and apes: A response to Penn, Holyoak & Povinelli. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31, 137-183. [Penn, Holyoak, Povinelli paper: doi: 10.1017/S0140525X08003543 ]
  • ♦ Gentner, D. (2007). Spatial cognition in apes and humans. TRENDS in Cognitive Science, 11, 192-194.
  • ♦ Gentner, D. (in press). Bootstrapping children’s learning: Analogical processes and symbol systems. To appear in Cognitive Science.
  • ♦ Gentner, D., Anggoro, F. K. & Klibanoff, R. S. (in press). Structure-mapping and relational language support children's learning of relational categories. Child Development.
  • ♦ Gentner, D., & Bowerman, M. (2009). Why some spatial semantic categories are harder to learn than others: The typological prevalence hypothesis. In J. Guo, E. Lieven, S. Ervin-Tripp, N. Budwig, S. Özçaliskan, & K. Nakamura (Eds.), Crosslinguistic approaches to the psychology of language: Research in the tradition of Dan Isaac Slobin. NJ, New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • ♦ Gentner, D. & Christie, S. (2006). Using numbers to structure space. In R. Sun & N. Miyake (Eds.), Proceedings of the Twenty-eighth Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 267-272).
  • ♦ Gentner, D., Loewenstein, J., & Hung, B. (2007). Comparison facilitates children's learning of names for parts. Journal of Cognition and Development, 8(3), 285-307.
  • ♦ Gentner, D., Simms, N. & Flusberg, S. (2009). Relational language helps children reason analogically. In N.A. Taatgen & H. van Rijn (Eds.), Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Cognitive Science Society.
  • ♦ Göksun, T., Hirsh-Pasek, K, Golinkoff, R. M., Imai, M., Konishi, H., & Okada, H. (2011). Who is crossing where?: Infants discrimination of figures and grounds in events. Cogniton, 121, 176-195.
  • ♦ Göksun, T., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. M. (2009). Processing figures and grounds in dynamic and static events. In J. Chandlee, M. Franchini, S. Lord & G. Rheiner (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 199-210). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
  • ♦ Göksun, T., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. M. (2010). Trading Spaces: Carving up events for learning language. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5, 33.
  • ♦ Göksun, T., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. M. (2010). How do preschoolers express cause in gesture and speech? Cognitive Development, 25, 56-68.
  • ♦ Göksun, T., Küntay, A., & Naigles, L. (2008). Turkish children use morphosyntactic bootstrapping in interpreting verb meaning. Journal of Child Language, 35, 291-323. 
  • ♦ Goldin-Meadow, S. (in press). When gesture does and does not promote learning. Language and Cognition.
  • ♦ Khetarpal, N., Majid, A., Malt, B., Sloman, S. & Regier T. (in press). Similarity judgments reflect both language and cross-language tendencies: Evidence from two semantic domains. To appear in Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.
  • ♦ Khetarpal, N., Majid, A. & Regier, T. (2009). Spatial terms reflect near-optimal spatial categories. In N. Taatgen, et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.
  • ♦ Özçaliskan, S. & Nakamura, K. (Eds.), Crosslinguistic approaches to the psychology of language: Research in the tradition of Dan Isaac Slobin. NJ, New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • ♦ Parish, J., Pruden, S.M., Ma, W., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R.M. (in press). A world of relations: Relational words. In B. Malt & P. Wolff (Eds.), Words and the world: How words capture human experience. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • ♦ Pruden, S.M., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R.M. (2008). Current events: How infants parse the world and events for language. In T.F. Shipley & J.M. Zacks (Eds.), Understanding events: How humans see, represent, and act on events. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • ♦ Pruden, S.M., Shallcross, W.L., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R.M. (2008). Foundations of verb learning: Comparison helps infants abstract event components. In H. Chan, H. Jacob & E. Kapia (Eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp.402-414). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
  • ♦ Ratliff, K.R. & Newcombe, N.S. (2008). Is language necessary for human spatial reorientation? Reconsidering evidence from dual task paradigms. Cognitive Psychology, 56, 142-163.
  • ♦ Regier, T. (in press). Computational approaches to language and thought. In M. Spivey, M. Joanisse & K. McRae (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Psycholinguistics. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • ♦ Roseberry, S., Göksun, T., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2009). In season? A review of Katherine Nelson’s Young minds in social worlds. Journal of Child Language, 36, 225-233.
  • ♦ Roseberry, S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Parish-Morris, J. & Golinkoff, R. M. (2009). Live action: Can young children learn verbs from video? Child Development, 80(5), 1360-1375.
  • ♦ Simms, N. & Gentner, D. (2008). Spatial language and landmark use: Can 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds find the middle? In V. Sloutsky, B. Love & K. McRae (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.
  • ♦ Simms, N. & Gentner, D. (2009). Relational language and inhibitory control in the development of analogical ability. In B. Kokinov, K. Holyoak & D. Gentner (Eds.), Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Analogy. NBU Press, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  • ♦ Uttal, D. H., Liu, Linda L., Lewis, A., & Gentner, D. (2008). Developmental changes in children's understanding of the similarity between photographs and their referents. Developmental Science, 11(1) 156-170.

Additional References

  • ♦ Feist, M. & Gentner, D. (2003). Factors involved in the use of in and on. Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.

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