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Chapter Eight. Language and Social Cognition

Gün R. Semin

Subject Cognitive Psychology » Psychology of Language
Social Psychology and Personality » Social Cognition

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631210344.2002.00010.x


The mutual influence of language and social cognition is a classic problem not only in social psychology but also in human intellectual history. The theme is this: does language influence, shape, or perhaps even determine human cognitive activities, or alternatively, do cognitive processes affect language? A closer inspection of this research field suggests that some of the unspoken, meta-theoretical assumptions, by which our notions of language and cognition are shaped, constitute the key for a systematic understanding of the domain. Let us briefly review these assumptions that will be elaborated upon in the main body of this chapter. The most commonly shared assumption by both scientists and lay persons alike is that cognition and language should be viewed from an individual perspective. In this approach, language is a tool for thinking, representation, and computation. Similarly, social cognition refers to individual processes: encoding, representing, thinking, retrieving, etc. For instance, if two cultures linguistically code the color spectrum differently, do they then perceive and represent colors incommensurably or not? Not surprisingly, thinking of language and cognition in this way leads to the fascinating and classic issues that have occupied many minds about the relationship between language and cognition and their mutual influence. Do linguistic tools influence cognitive ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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