Louder Than Words Summary

Louder Than Words Summary
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Within the novel Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning, the author postulates an intuitive case for an upcoming cognitive linguistic theory & studies whether humans mimic virtual experiences rather than abstract mental symbols during communication. The following is a detailed summary and analysis of Bergen’s book.

Consider the words “happiness” and “joy.” Do they have a similar meaning? Most of the metaphors people commonly use with these words might have distinct implicated meanings. Benjamin K. Bergen is a cognitive scientist who believes that people tend to view happiness as some object that is usually acquired. On the other hand, joy is perceived as something that gets poured into a container. People either search for happiness, or they become filled with joy.

What is Louder Than Words About: Plot Overview

As a basic plot summary, it can be said that the text focuses on the work undertaken by Bergen’s team during a research study at the University of California. The study used a variety of reaction time measurements, hand movements, and eye gazes in addition to brain imaging. All these were aimed at observing how the human mind derives meaning from things or situations.

In particular, the author explains findings made on certain research in which he asked three groups of people to provide answers to a question posted as a caption underneath a picture. This scientist intended to test the hypothesis that people might undertake embodied simulations while thinking about these two words. One group was involved in filling containers with a liquid, while the other one was preoccupied with searching for something, e.g., a publication.

Ever since the 1970s, linguists and cognitive psychologists have pondered whether the language of thought is something dissimilar from meaning. As such, it was theorized that rather than abstract symbols, meaning might bear a connection to an individual’s real-life involvements.

Compatibility of action-sentence research studies directed by Benjamin K. Bergen has experimented whether written characters or the spoken word engages our motor systems and vision to virtualize our perceptions of whatever is described through language.

Each participant was to push a grey button to observe a sentence followed by a white or black button to determine if the statement is sensible or not. To respond, the participant needed to move towards or away from a body to press the white or black button using muscles innervated by neurons within the motor cortex.

Bergen further postulates that the compatibility of action-sentence experiments demonstrated that the participants utilize mental manifestations of things or locations described within the sentences. Critics also question whether Bergen’s techniques essentially register any other thing apart from meaning. However, his innovative work, together with the efforts of George Lakoff, a linguistics mentor, might change how science perceives the conveyance of meaning. The author is exhibiting when and how simulation takes place within human neural structures.

The above synopsis should be sufficient to give you a considerable understanding of the text.

Louder Than Words Analysis for a Better Understanding

Apart from reading the plot overview, you need an expert’s analysis of the story to derive more meaning from it. The following is a quick and simple review of the major concepts discussed in this novel:

Bergen presents the audience with location-sentence compatibility and the action-sentence compatibility paradigm. He comes up with the idea that the human brain makes memory comparisons with the location & verb words of a statement. After that, a mental simulation compatible with these aspects of the statement is created.

To observe the process through which the mind creates meaning, Bergen claims that you can make use of buttons, high-speed cameras, knobs to record responses & response times through data analysis software. You can then back up your findings using functional MRI.

In the beginning, the writer gives detailed explanations about the primary motor cortex and explains more about cognitive therapy. Second, he proceeds to give extra clarifications about other researchers as well as his experiments that monitor actions within the primary motor cortex. He achieves this by observing the response times via computers. After that, he analyzes all the results and backs them up using mental imaging. Finally, he discusses and interprets his results.

Since the brain simultaneously utilizes grammar to assemble & reassemble simulations as new linguistic information gets encountered, Bergen argues that this is a bottom-up as well as a top-down process. Both occur at the same time, and the resulting outcomes are compared with real-world knowledge. Individuals tend to sequentially begin with the first few words of a statement but quickly form bigger simulations that might require changes as they receive more information towards the culmination of a sentence.

Towards the conclusion of his story, Bergen lays down the common criticisms of his work. He first claims that the criticisms are typical problems associated with that particular research. Though he interestingly discusses how the questions and doubts have been tested, he claims that those results are not conclusive. This is because it is impossible to separate the variables.

Next, he focuses on studying patients who suffered head trauma and temporarily induces brain lesions through the use of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. This was an effort to provide additional evidence to connect simulation and meaning. The result was that the participants became unable to use location prepositions correctly. Though a nice inclusion into the action-sentence effect and the location-sentence theory, the author seemingly ignores criticisms through offering extra evidence that supports the action-sentence effect.

In conclusion, Bergen postulates that the simulation of language comprehension aids people in identifying words in addition to how they are utilized. He puts forward a theory that the new evolved parts of the brain responsible for formulating & understanding language rely on resources from older brain segments using them in novel ways to form simulations.