Is human thought fully embedded in language, or do some forms of thought operate independently? To directly address this issue, we focus on inference-making, a central feature of human cognition. In a 3T fMRI study we compare logical inferences relying on sentential connectives (e.g., not, or, if … then) to linguistic inferences based on syntactic transformation of sentences involving ditransitive verbs (e.g., give, say, take). When contrasted with matched grammaticality judgments, logic inference alone recruited “core” regions of deduction [Brodmann area (BA) 10p and 8m], whereas linguistic inference alone recruited perisylvian regions of linguistic competence, among others (BA 21, 22, 37, 39, 44, and 45 and caudate). In addition, the two inferences commonly recruited a set of general “support” areas in frontoparietal cortex (BA 6, 7, 8, 40, and 47). The results indicate that logical inference is not embedded in natural language and confirm the relative modularity of linguistic processes.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Independence of our logical inference and natural language
Monti et al. examine the proposition that logic inference recruits neural structures traditionally engaged by linguistic processing, and make some very interesting points. Their abstract: