Abstract concepts, language and sociality: from acquisition to inner speech

The problem of representation of abstract concepts, such as 'freedom' and 'justice', has become particularly crucial in recent years, owing to the increased success of embodied and grounded views of cognition. We will present a novel view on abstract concepts and abstract words. Since abstract concepts do not have single objects as referents, children and adults might rely more on input from others to learn them; we, therefore, suggest that linguistic and social experience play an important role for abstract concepts. We will discuss evidence obtained in our and other laboratories showing that processing of abstract concepts evokes linguistic interaction and social experiences, leading to the activation of the mouth motor system. We will discuss the possible mechanisms that underlie this activation. Mouth motor system activation can be due to re-enactment of the experience of conceptual acquisition, which occurred through the mediation of language. Alternatively, it could be due to the re-explanation of the word meaning, possibly through inner speech. Finally, it can be due to a metacognitive process revealing low confidence in the meaning of our concepts. This process induces in us the need to rely on others to ask/negotiate conceptual meaning. We conclude that with abstract concepts language works as a social tool: it extends our thinking abilities and pushes us to rely on others to integrate our knowledge.

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Borghi, Anna M.
Barca, Laura
Binkofski, Ferdinand
Tummolini, Luca
Royal Society, London , Regno Unito
Philosophical transactions - Royal Society. Biological sciences (Print) 373 (2018). doi:10.1098/rstb.2017.0134
info:cnr-pdr/source/autori:Borghi, Anna M.; Barca, Laura; Binkofski, Ferdinand; Tummolini, Luca/titolo:Abstract concepts, language and sociality: from acquisition to inner speech/doi:10.1098/rstb.2017.0134/rivista:Philosophical transactions - Royal Societ
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Laura Barca's picture
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Luca Tummolini's picture
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