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How Language Shapes the Way we think

A language is a powerful tool. With it, we communicate our feelings, needs, innermost thoughts, and desires. Language helps us to connect with each other and the world around us. Most of us recognize the importance of language, but did you know that it can even impact how we think? That’s right, recent research has started to indicate that language has a much more powerful impact on us than many initially thought and it starts to take hold very early on in life.

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The way an individual thinks about their world is directly impacted by the language they acquired as they grow up. The experts have conducted a range of tests and found that the language a person learns – and then ultimately uses – actually changes the way that they think about colors, sizes, and shapes. This could then extend to the world around them, influencing everything from the people they engage with the type of work that they do. Ultimately, this means that the way a person actually sees the world will depend on the language that they learned as a child and then a young adult.

If this surprises you, you’ll probably be interested in some of the tests that researchers have conducted over the years to get a better understanding of this. Here are a couple of the most fascinating ones that are currently challenging people’s thoughts about the way we use – and are shaped by – language.


Attention Blink

In order to better understand this process, researchers produced a series of tests that they have called the “Attentional Blink”. The test subjects were asked to look at a series of images that were displayed on the screen at a high speed. The subjects were then asked to identify the images that they felt were familiar to them. Those who took the test could name certain objects but found it much more challenging to name the objects that came directly after these ones. This showed that the brain needed time to process the name of the first object and this meant that it had decreased focus on the second.


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The Random Noun Test

Another way to test this is through the random noun test, whereby individuals were shown a series of nouns that they were then asked to identify. While subjects found it very challenging to name all of them, very few participants missed out on their own names. This highlights the fact that those nouns that a person is familiar with are much easier for that person to see.


This topic is still hotly debated in many areas of the academic world. While many people believe that language influences everything from what we see in our daily lives to how we think about things, there are others who do not believe that language has quite the same hold over us. Ultimately, this is a debate that could end up going on for a long period of time, but regardless of where the last word will fall, it certainly poses some interesting questions for the rest of us.

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