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Allison Fink's picture

Language and Optics in the Brain

     Do we need words for things before you can conceive of them? I say, if not yes, that it is helpful. Only in articulating things with your consciousness do you learn. You only have a fuzzy idea of what a concept is until you have to explain it and justify yourself. This is why teachers learn so much, and in my experience I feel I only learn if I am held accountable for something by making and presenting my own account. And having a greater vocabulary means that you are better able to express yourself due to the subtle associations of each word. I found it interesting that language is an instinct. This means that grammar structures are similar and can be created by children even out of pidgin languages. It brings up questions for me about how the brain and computers work. I am starting to wonder how these things store information and how the brain can have built in a program for developing syntax. How can it be innate? How does the brain work? How is it organized? I’m curious now.

The Pinker made me wonder how languages came to be different among different groups of people. Just as children sometimes make up words that become incorporated into their families’ vocabulary, could people in a group have each made up their own words (out of what? Instinct?), which gradually became learned and shared by others, and a language developed out of the contributions of others and the instinct to create a grammar structure as well?

Language for me is either fluent or stuck. I can get bogged down in words and not be processing them. The words don’t come, yet I feel I can’t think any other way. The words don’t mean anything. Other times, like when I am bringing together ideas in writing, or when I am spontaneously drawing on my own thoughts and expressing myself, the words come fluently. Sometimes the words come in a certain arrangement. I think there is a link between the arrangement and the precise impression that the sentence strikes in me. Thus my brain and the flow of language to get the meaning out are linked. So I can see that language is an instinct. I think it’s kind of like a process that the brain does to allow thoughts to flow.

For my project, I will be investigating optical illusions and the eye’s blind spot. The blind spot is an area from which your brain gets no visual input, but your brain makes up something to go there. I hope to investigating questions such as How can your brain see things that aren’t there? How does it interpret a picture? How does seeing an ambiguous picture reveal how the brain operates all the time? This will perhaps eventually lead to questions of what the relationship of the external world and your brain is.  

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