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The language of geometry: Fast comprehension of geometrical primitives and rules in human adults and preschoolers

By Marie Amalric, Liping Wang, Pierre Pica, Santiago Figueira, Mariano Sigman and Stanislas Dehaene


During language processing, humans form complex embedded representations from sequential inputs. Here, we ask whether a “geometrical language” with recursive embedding also underlies the human ability to encode sequences of spatial locations. We introduce a novel paradigm in which subjects are exposed to a sequence of spatial locations on an octagon, and are asked to predict future locations. The sequences vary in complexity according to a well-defined language comprising elementary primitives and recursive rules. A detailed analysis of error patterns indicates that primitives of symmetry and rotation are spontaneously detected and used by adults, preschoolers, and adult members of an indigene group in the Amazon, the Munduruku, who have a restricted numerical and geometrical lexicon and limited access to schooling. Furthermore, subjects readily combine these geometrical primitives into hierarchically organized expressions. By evaluating a large set of such combinations, we obtained a first view of the language needed to account for the representation of visuospatial sequences in humans, and conclude that they encode visuospatial sequences by minimizing the complexity of the structured expressions that capture them.Fil: Amalric, Marie. Université Paris Sud; Francia. Universite de Paris VI; FranciaFil: Wang, Liping. Chinese Academy of Sciences; República de ChinaFil: Pica, Pierre. Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte; Brasil. Université Paris VIII; FranciaFil: Figueira, Santiago. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas. Oficina de Coordinación Administrativa Ciudad Universitaria. Instituto de Investigación En Ciencias de la Computación. Universidad de Buenos Aires. Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales. Instituto de Investigación En Ciencias de la Computacion; ArgentinaFil: Sigman, Mariano. Universidad Torcuato Di Tella; Argentina. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas; ArgentinaFil: Dehaene, Stanislas. Université Paris Sud; Francia. Collège de France; Franci

Topics: Language, Ciencias de la Información y Bioinformática, Ciencias de la Computación e Información, CIENCIAS NATURALES Y EXACTAS
Publisher: 'Public Library of Science (PLoS)'
Year: 2017
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005273
OAI identifier:
Provided by: CONICET Digital
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