How Humans Understand One Another

Professor Benjamin Bergen explains how humans understand one another and why we gesture when we talk.


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What's the most interesting thing you found about how humans communicate?

Some researchers wanted to know how people's brains were different when they were an expert in something versus a novice. They had people listen to language about hockey. They took people who knew nothing about hockey [and] some hockey players, and found that their brains lit up in very different ways when they were listening to a sentence. What happened is that all of the people used their motor system, but just in different ways. The hockey players did show activation in their motor systems, but only the parts that coordinate high-level learned motor action. This is called the premotor cortex, which is responsible for actions that you know how to do. The novices also showed they were simulating action but using a much lower-level detailed part. What that means is that these people were thinking about what it was like to perform the action even though they didn't know what these actions were. They were doing harder work.

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