• Question: What is the stand-out thing that you have discovered?

    Asked by swhawking to Rohan, Nayeli on 22 Sep 2017.
    • Photo: Rohan Kapitany

      Rohan Kapitany answered on 22 Sep 2017:

      I can give you two answer:

      The first is about rituals, the second is about yawns.

      The way I try to understand rituals is by stripping away everything we already believe about them. You can go to church, but you already know about the bible. And you can have a birthday party, but you already know the candles represent your age.
      What I do is create rituals from nothing, but using strange hand actions and performing redundant actions.
      I’ve found that when I perform these actions, particularly over food, people think that the actions are 1) redundant, and 2) that they don’t cause physical change… but 3) that they think the object is in someway special, and that people desire it more.
      Think about a fancy restaurant where they do totally redundant things, or the way they make flair cocktails (throwing around the bottles and glasses). These are kinds of ritual, and people love them. They’re also associated with ‘higher quality’ food and drink – though I bet that the food isn’t entirely that much better – some of the actions themselves make us believe that the food is better than it really is (and that’s why they do those actions in front of you, rather than secretly in the kitchen).
      However, it’s not clear when children start holding the same kinds of beliefs as adult. Which means it’s not clear whether we *learn* this, or it’s a bias we have from an early age.
      What are your intuitions about rituals? What do you think might make a good experimental question?

      But as for yawns – well, I found evidence they may not be contagious in the way everyone believes they are. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40750-017-0059-y

    • Photo: Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez

      Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez answered on 25 Sep 2017:

      Hi Swhawking,

      Thank you for your question. I have found that babies start by learning the rhythmic properties of their language, such as stress patterns and intonation, then they learn the repertoire of sounds that their language uses. Then, babies learn the rules applying to those sounds, for example, which sounds can be combined together and which ones can’t. I also found that all these knowledge will help them, later on, to find and learn new words.
      Finding what is and what is not a word might seem trivial; however, we found that this is a very challenging task, since there are no pauses between words when we speak. For example, have a look at this video:

      Just try to tell how many words is the tv presenter saying,
      That’s very hard, right? And we are not even trying to identify the words, just to count them.
      Although, we know now lots of things about how babies start learning there are still many more that we do not know, for example why some babies learn quicker than others? how bilingual babies manage to learn multiple languages at the same time? what are the mechanisms underlying language development?… …. ….
      P.S. Remember that you can meet me and the other researchers at the Living Library event this Friday (29th), and that you can get free tickets for the IAR Live Final!