Linguistics Colloquium Feb. 23

W. Tecumseh Fitch and Miguel Oliveira Jr.

Miguel Oliveira Jr. (Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Brazil) and W. Tecumseh Fitch  (University of Vienna, Austria) will discuss “Visual Pattern Perception in Hunter-Gatherers, Illiterates and Undergraduates” on Thursday, Feb. 23, in the next presentation of the Linguistics Department colloquium.

Artificial grammar learning has been extensively used to explore the pattern-perception abilities of animals and both infant and adult humans, and intriguing species differences, and neural correlates have been discovered using this approach. However, there has been little research using this paradigm in uneducated adults.

Here the researchers report that members of a hunter-gatherer group, the Piraha of the Amazon Basin, fail on an AGL task that both European and Brazilian undergraduates easily complete. They then tested uneducated Brazilian villagers on the same task, and found that they too fail.

These results suggest that literacy, experience with computers, and/or familiarity with testing situations are at the root of the difficulties experienced by the two uneducated groups, rather than language. These findings strongly suggest that extreme caution is required when interpreting negative experimental results from the Piraha or other hunter-gatherers.

The colloquium will be from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 in Peters Building 390. INFO: 559.278.2442 or

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