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

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

by Benjamin K. Bergen


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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 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 more 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465028290
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 10/30/2012
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Benjamin Bergen is an Associate Professor in the Cognitive Science Department at the University of California, San Diego, where he directs the Language and Cognition Lab. Bergen is an active researcher in cognitive linguistics and cognitive science, with over 40 publications and 60 presentations in the two fields. He is regularly invited to lecture in the U.S. and abroad. His work has been featured in The Atlantic, New Scientist, and Science News. Bergen lives in San Diego, California.

Table of Contents

Foreword George Lakoff ix

1 The Polar Bear's Nose 1

2 Keep Your Mind on the Ball 23

3 Meaning and the Mind's Eye 49

4 Over the Top 73

5 More Than Words 93

6 Early and Often 121

7 What Do Hockey Players Know? 151

8 Lost in Translation 175

9 Meaning in Your Grasp 195

10 What is Simulation Good For? 223

11 The Repurposed Mind 247

Epilogue: The Crosstalk Hypothesis 261

Acknowledgments 265

Notes 269

Bibliography 277

Permissions 289

Index 291

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Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
KenTeach More than 1 year ago
I'm a teacher - I teach 8th grade English - and I'm sure I don't understand the implications of everything Bergen writes about in this book. What I did understand, though, was exciting enough.  As I was reading this book, I could not help myself from stopping my colleagues in the hall of my school to tell them of some revelation I'd just read. Did you know that when you read a sentence about someone picking up, say, a glass, that the part of your brain that controls your hand and arm is activated? Cognitive scientists call this embodied simulation, and it may be the mechanism through which we understand and make meaning from what we see and read. Bergen does a terrific job of clearly explaining Lakoff and Johnson's metaphor theory (every teacher should also read their book, "Metaphors We Live By"). I don't know how you could read this book and not change your conception of how humans make meaning and why some students "get it" while others don't. Cognitive science is on the cusp of changing the way we think about teaching and learning. Read this book if you want to truly understand how the brain works to make meaning.