I was listening to an interesting radio show yesterday. The show explored how language influences the way we think and interact with the world.
They talked about people without language (born deaf and never taught sign language), people who through stroke have lost language and a Nicuagaran community of deaf signers who have developed their own language in the last thirty years.
As an AB I found it fascinating because it showed how language ability profoundly alters the way you perceive the world and pointed to the differences as to how babies see and remember their environment.
One example is the white room experiment. Take a white rectangular room. Now put a treat in one corner and let a rat see it. Now spin the rat around so it is disorientated. Let it go - there are now two equally likely spots for the food, so the rat gets the answer right 50% of the time, as you would expect.
Now paint one wall blue. (Rats have excellent colour vision) Now repeat the experiment. By combining the spatial information and the colour information there is enough data to 100% locate the treat. But rats will continue to only get it right 50% of the time. Now the interesting bit. Do the same experiment with a human child. A baby only get 50% right, same thing for a toddler, in fact only when a human get to about six or seven is it able to out perform the rat and get it right 100% of the time.
At this age human children start to be able to use language like "to the left side of the blue wall", so the concepts of colour and spatial location seem only to become integrated when you have the linguistic ability to express it!
It becomes even more interesting! What happens to an adult human when their language centre is shut off. Well there is a simple way to simulate this and that is to overload the language centre. Take an i-pod and play speech into the subject's ears and asked her to echo what she hears. With this overloading of the language centre, humans perform like babies (or like rats). Cool huh?
So try it as an experiment. Plug in your i-pod, down load some spoken word stuff and start echoing what you hear. Now pull out some toys. Lego would be fun. Try to build something complicated. I wonder you will find? Does it feel different to normal? Does playing a language that you don't understand change the experience? Do you like it?
Perhaps we can share our experiences with this experiment.