Mental Representations of Abstract DomainsOverview
1. How are we able to think about things we've never seen or touched? How do we come to represent and reason about abstract domains like time, mathematics, or ideas? The ability to invent and reason about such abstract domains is uniquely human and arguably the very hallmark of human sophistication. Yet, how people are able to mentally represent these abstract domains has remained one of the great mysteries of mind until very recently. Research in my lab is starting to unravel this mystery. We have discovered hidden links between perception and abstract thought, and are now working to discover the neural implementation of abstract thought in the human brain.
2. What is the relationship between language and thought? Do people who speak different languages think differently about the world? Does learning new languages change the way you think? Do polyglots think differently when speaking different languages? Research in my lab has compared speakers of English, Spanish, German, Russian, Turkish, Mandarin, Indonesian, and Navajo on how they encode, attend to, and remember their experiences. Our studies have focused on representations of time, colors, objects, and events and have uncovered many fascinating cross-linguistic differences in thought.