Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning

Louder Than Words The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning Whether it s brusque convincing fraught with emotion or dripping with innuendo language is fundamentally a tool for conveying meaning a uniquely human magic trick in which you vibrate your vocal c

  • Title: Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning
  • Author: Benjamin K. Bergen
  • ISBN: 9780465028290
  • Page: 370
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Whether it s brusque, convincing, fraught with emotion, or dripping with innuendo, language is fundamentally a tool for conveying meaning a uniquely human magic trick in which you vibrate your vocal cords to make your innermost thoughts pop up in someone else s mind You can use it to talk about all sorts of things from your new labradoodle puppy to the expansive gardens aWhether it s brusque, convincing, fraught with emotion, or dripping with innuendo, language is fundamentally a tool for conveying meaning a uniquely human magic trick in which you vibrate your vocal cords to make your innermost thoughts pop up in someone else s mind You can use it to talk about all sorts of things from your new labradoodle puppy to the expansive gardens at Versailles, from Roger Federer s backhand to things that don t exist at all, like flying pigs And when you talk, your listener fills in lots of details you didn t mention the curliness of the dog s fur or the vast statuary on the grounds of the French palace What s the trick behind this magic How does meaning work In Louder than Words, cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen draws together a decade s worth of research in psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience to offer a new theory of how our minds make meaning When we hear words and sentences, Bergen contends, we engage the parts of our brain that we use for perception and action, repurposing these evolutionarily older networks to create simulations in our minds These embodied simulations, as they re called, are what makes it possible for us to become better baseball players by merely visualizing a well executed swing what allows us to remember which cupboard the diapers are in without looking, and what makes it so hard to talk on a cell phone while we re driving on the highway Meaning is than just knowing definitions of words, as others have previously argued In understanding language, our brains engage in a creative process of constructing rich mental worlds in which we see, hear, feel, and act Through whimsical examples and ingenious experiments, Bergen leads us on a virtual tour of the new science of embodied cognition A brilliant account of our human capacity to understand language, Louder than Words will profoundly change how you read, speak, and listen.

    One thought on “Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning”

    1. The book gives an up to date account of the simulation theory of meaning as a part of embodied cognition movement.The main problem though is that for most of the book, it seemed that everyone is confusing correlation with causation. Activation of the motor system associated with thinking about verbs is understood as meaning that these systems are employed to understand these verbs, etc. Only in the chapter before the last does the book provide any substantial discussion of why should we attribut [...]

    2. 3 1/2 stars, rounded up. The author's premise, that we understand language in part through "embodied simulation," is convincingly (to me) presented here and supported by descriptions of many (many!) experiments. Occasionally the explanations of studies and variations on studies and the nuances of what each study demonstrated and did not demonstrate get to be a little much, but for the most part Bergen keeps things lively with engaging anecdotes and silly humor. A fun book on current research int [...]

    3. Fascinating book, highly recommended by a friend. It's amazing to see how far the science of meaning has progressed since I was last studying it some 35 years ago. The book is mostly about "embodied simulation"--the process by which we "make meaning" (more on that in a second) by imagining ourselves doing actions which words describe. I'm astonished at the ingenuity with which experimenters have been able to design studies to tease out various nuances in this view. But I'm an old guy, and I can [...]

    4. I'd give this a 4+ for ideas but have to dock it for execution. The concept of embodied simulation as a key to meaning is intriguing and plausible, and Bergen's writing style is enjoyable and NOT pedantic.That being said, the book suffers from the same thing as a lot of other social science works---the discussion of the experiments is too protracted, and the conclusions he draws sometimes raise questions in my mind. Sometimes I just do not see why he draws a specific conclusion (either it is not [...]

    5. This book builds on the work of George Lakoff in how we construct models of meaning by concrete bodily simulations. When we process language we build visual or motor models in our heads of what the words and sentences mean. This is how meaning is built like computer code building a Sims world. The book presents a great deal of evidence that the theory of meaning in language is our way of taking strings of symbols and creating a virtual reality in our head with them. The author writes in an engag [...]

    6. A good book, but maybe it's not for me.I really like books that have a lot of research behind it, this is one of them. For almost every assumption made, the author reveals a research done to support his point.This book made me realize that our words do not give a meaning for something. Example: the word "pen" is not the meaning of something that writes with ink, it is just a pointer to that meaning. The meaning is the source that we generate. When you learn a different language, you're pointing [...]

    7. Astounding. From the first to last word, a magnificent trip on how we make meaning. Impressively Kergen presents throughout the 300 pages, more than 200 cognitive experiments done, mostly from the last 10 years, to support his claims. Kergen defends a position grounded in neuroscientific new knowledge, but also in older work, mostly inspired in the works of George Lakoff.The main proposal of this book is to substitute the "mentalese hypothesis" with the "embodied simulation hypothesis". This mea [...]

    8. Super interesting, especially if you think about etymology and brains and words as much as I do. The cross-language (or mental language - Mentalese, the author calls it) stuff is especially fascinating to me, since I grew up with a native language I no longer speak but still have meaningful connections with those words.

    9. Beautifully readable. Meaning is at the heart of what it means to be human, or perhaps it should be described as the embodiment of being human ;)

    10. Benjamin Bergen has created a detailed book on the latest insights into how we form meaning in our minds out of words and images. He collects a wide range of detail from linguistics and neuroscience to show how we interpret information as well as how we collect and store it. It's an interesting book for anyone interested in language (guilty) and has some applications for those who write or use media. But there's such a massive collection of scientific minutiae that it tends to cross the typical [...]

    11. The title was carefully selected to indicate just what you get in this book. What a wonderful journey through the science of how the brain encodes words and how human behavior is moved by human cognition impacted by words. I would love to spend a day with the author comparing notes and devising further neurocognitive and neurolinguistic research to help us further understand ourselves, for"there's a sign on the wall, but she wants to be sure, 'coz you know sometimes words have two meanings" Not [...]

    12. I love keeping up to date with the latest Psychology and Cognitive Science research. This book was a great exposure to me in how humans derive meaning from language, and gives helpful insights since understanding language is a current problem / area of opportunity in Human Robot Interaction. This book is meant for more of a scientific reader and not as geared to the general public, although it would be understandable to the public, it's written more like a journal paper than a popular science bo [...]

    13. I love the analogies he uses to make ideas clear. I love his storytelling with humor. I liked the discussion about metaphorical language, as it was on my mind from the beginning - i.e how do we get to the more abstract with this theory? I wish the research were a bit more convincing in terms of cause-effect. But I know how hard it is to conduct research on language and mind - and meaning. A nice, readerly exposition of current progress in the field.

    14. I liked it, but I thought of it as a grammar-geek book, even though it's much more than that. I had to slow down the audio play-back, as the narration was going by too quickly for anything to sink in. As it was, I only remember high-level constructs and the term "embodied simulation." I recommend reading it if you want to get more out of it.

    15. Fascinating! My language professor in college would be so proud of me for reading this book to learn more about mind and meaning. Really amazing.

    16. I had high hopes for this book on how our brains derive meaning. There is a lot of good science and many interesting facts. However, this book gave me no new insight into how our brains work.

    17. Love the topic and want to read more about it; found the book too long and detailed for its limited subject matter.

    18. . All you ever wanted to know about 'embodied simulation of language' in so much detail, and more. - A bit tedious to get through.

    19. **Making meaning out of meaning making**If you stop to think about it, it's pretty amazing that we humans can make meaning out of the collection of sound waves of spoken words we hear and the light of the written characters we see.Just how we create meaning from jumbles of sounds and characters is the focus of this book. The miraculous meaning-making process involves our brains creating embodied simulations--mental representations generated by using our perceptual and motor systems. As the autho [...]

    20. Nice book on the science of meaning. The older notion was of meaning being the language of thought. In other words, each word is associated with an abstract mental symbol -- a definition in Mentalese. With the growth of modern cognitive science, this hypothesis has largely been replaced by the embodied simulation hypothesis, which is what this book dwells on. It explores different scenarios and provides evidence that when we comprehend a word referring to an action, we essentially simulate the a [...]

    21. This is a good description of the simulation hypothesis of understanding. The author provides descriptions of over 200 different experiments that support this hypothesis. The book is very scientific even though it is accessible to a lay audience. This was achieved by using simple language but describing many experiments. I suspect that a lay person will get lost in some of the details, while a scientist will be bored by some redundancy in the text.If you want to learn about the simulation hypoth [...]

    22. This is a good description of the simulation hypothesis of understanding. The author provides descriptions of over 200 different experiments that support this hypothesis. The book is very scientific even though it is accessible to a lay audience. This was achieved by using simple language but describing many experiments. I suspect that a lay person will get lost in some of the details, while a scientist will be bored by some redundancy in the text.If you want to learn about the simulation hypoth [...]

    23. The book presents a new hypothesis about how the mind makes meaning out of written or spoken languages. The main proposition is a hypothesis called Embodied Simulation which is basically when the light of written words hits our eyes or the sound waves of spoken words hits our ear, the mind would simulate what it would be like to experience the things described by these words.This hypothesis is an attempt to replace the old hypothesis of how the mind makes meaning where words are translated from [...]

    24. A very interesting, insightful and, in fact, funny exploration of the brain, language and meaning-making. This book is useful for anyone interested in the psychology of language as well as anybody associated with language teaching. Bergen mixes scientific rigor with amusing details to explain the embodied simulation hypothesis. The book is filled with fascinating studies that show us how true communication must be sensitive to personal and cultural differences and reveals the way the brain proce [...]

    25. I enjoyed the book but it is still a tough read. Many very subtle experiments are explained that attempt to tease out how the brain makes meaning out of language. Honestly, I got a bit lost on some of the experiments and what was actually found. The author goes out of his way to explain if we know something or if we are still just guessing. I enjoyed that but it actually added confusion to what is actually known. He needed to follow the brain's example and "wrap-up" each chapter with a summary o [...]

    26. An amazing continuation of the science of memory with the addition of embodied simulation that builds on such great scientific minds as Eric Kandel and his book In Search of Memory. What is needed is an extrapolation of what he tells about language and what it has to do with writing.

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