Cognitive Psychology – language forum week 2
Is written word and what is heard cognitively comparable in any way? This is a question I’m offering to my forum to unpack this week.
Generating spoken word
This week our cognitive psychology is exploring word production in verbal exchange. We are marvelling at the speed of the spoken word and the processing complexity and power required to support such a phenomena. And it is a marvel to consider how close to immediate our sentences are formed.
Processing written word
Last week, we were looking at how quickly we digest the written word. We explored several hypothetical models pondering how our brain may be extracting the essence of such written word.
Bridging the gap
Between the two I see a gap. And to connect the two requires the spoken word to be turned into written word. We only bridged that gap 5,000 years ago. Yet in our lectures we are moving seamlessly from one to the next.
We have moved from reading to speaking. A visual receipt. A verbal transmission. Writing and listening sit opposed to each. How interchangeable can they be? Verbal dialogue is constantly evolving in near real time. Written exchange can be one way, perhaps indefinitely. At the very least, audio transmission is required to be captured in the visual coding we chose. Or written word to be read aloud and converted from visual to audio wavelength somehow.
Preparing to speak or write
What do we consider distinguishes our wider preparations when engaging in dialogue vs conversing in written form? The first is a marvel of speed of thought. The second a longer more singular task. Is the second more careful and considered perhaps? Certainly, more time to revisit each phrase and tone, should one wish to hold more in reserve.
I suspect next week’s lectures will be attempting to make this connection. In the interim, we have been asked to introduce our own discussion piece into the weekly forum. So, connecting these two weeks, this has me thinking of how differently I engage with people over zoom meetings (or face to face once upon a time) compared to how I engage with people by email, or social media, or in written reports. Or indeed written form via this forum or my daily blog – to which this note serves both.
This is what I do
I love unpicking a problem or moving discussion somewhere new. I enjoy writing. I enjoy listening. I enjoy talking too. Reading I do plenty of, but it is my least preferred way to download another point of view. In my opinion this reflects more than cognitive preference. Reading is impersonal to the author. I have less perspective on motives and feelings connected to the words. I am seeking more information from an exchange of perspectives than these formal cues.
This seems an important expansion to make to cognitive function. Language choices are more than just packets of code moving from one automaton to the next. I am therefore struggling to connect to the models we are being presented as working theories. To me, they are constrained unnaturally against this wider process. I therefore find myself instinctively rejecting these models at source.
Let me expand on both verbal and written words – the way I think I prepare for both.
Preparing to speak
If in a meeting, and if the format allows, I like to be the strong finisher rather than the strong starter when in spoken form. I like to gauge a room. I take the tone, the hierarchy, the touch points, and make best guesses as to positions people are taking and perhaps why. If there is need for preparation, it is as likely to be this anticipation of people and likely positions taken that I prepare towards – because I turn up to meetings as a shared process – I watch as others make their mark. Within a meeting, I have in mind all that has been said and seek to find the common themes. If there is clear conflict or obvious positions widening, I seek to find the higher level battle that must be had – but more likely seek out the better way – and ensure all have had their say. In my own way I am seeking time but with the room in mind.
Writing (and rewriting)
This time I also seek in written form. I may write something early, but it may not go very far. If something is complex, I may not write anything at all. I am minded to seek more perspectives if there is unknowns, or allow myself more time to let more scenarios and angles to make themselves known. This takes an inner confidence that I have something building. I am thinking fast and slow. I am resisting the temptation just to do. In my lowest moments, this can simply be an escape. Thankfully, I now have plenty of ways to maintain a confidence and counter such nagging doubt.
Language belongs outside
So how does all that relate to these two sets of lectures? What does that say of the planning of writing vs the spontaneity of conversation? What does it say of the process of communication at all? How completely can we hope to map out the cognitive elements of language, without bringing such wider factors into play? How homogeneous can we hope to be able to make our theories, or present the neurological mapping to call them more? How will this be part of the wider shared experience in verbal or written form? What is cognitive psychology to language, if not accounting for what it is for?
In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.