Speaking the language of cognition

Senior Lecturer at the School of Languages and Linguistics, Dr Andrea Schalley
Senior Lecturer at the School of Languages and Linguistics, Dr Andrea Schalley

The influence and impact of a concept linked to human evolution, achievement, behaviour and language will be the subject of a public workshop to be hosted by Griffith University.

Minds Among Others: The Grammar of Social Cognition will be held in the Graduate Centre at Griffith’s South Bank campus on Sunday, April 14, and promises to be more than just a meeting of the minds.

According to Dr Andrea Schalley, one of the workshop’s organisers and Senior Lecturer at Griffith’s School of Languages and Linguistics, social cognition is the essence of people’s ability to interact with others by building a shared and complex mental world.

In studying how we manage all facets of social information — how it is encoded, stored, retrieved and applied — social cognition is being increasingly recognised as a driver of human evolution with profound connections to the evolution of culture, including language.

The leader of an Australian Research Council-funded project into language and social cognition, Australian National University’s Professor Nicholas Evans will address the workshop and said social cognition enabled humans to construct functioning societies.

“It allows us to share values and goals, to work together, to communicate with others and to understand context. It also influences the actions that follow exchanges of information,” he said.

As a subject gaining prominence in scientific and cultural debate, of particular interest to linguists is the development of what they describe as the elaborated architecture of social cognition.

“This refers to what speakers and hearers encode in representing social cognition”, Professor Evans said. “How far does this architecture vary across languages and to what extent have languages found different engineering solutions to the many difficult demands made on our minds by the complexities of social cognition?”

Meanwhile, studies of social cognition are not just relevant to humans. As technology assumes more complex roles in society, computers that interact with each other are engaging in their own form of social cognition. The era of the ‘social robot’ is upon us.

Sunday’s workshop will include presentations from key participants in the ARC project, as well as speakers from the fields of philosophy and robotics.

When: Sunday, April 14, 9am to 5pm

Where: Graduate Centre, Griffith University, South Bank campus.

RSVP by April 10 to [email protected] or goo.gl/nVT2M