Recently, while taking care of my parents’ dog (see Figure 1 below), I observed an interesting phenomenon: whenever Sally (the dog) was thirsty, she would walk over to her empty water bowl, peer into it, then stare pointedly back at me, as if to say: what gives?
I refilled the water bowl and she lapped it up eagerly. It struck me that this was Sally’s way of “requesting” water. No language was involved, but she successfully communicated her desire (“more water”) through an action, and I interpreted this action correctly and acted accordingly (filling the water bowl).
So how does this work?
Language is mostly arbitrary, but there are patterns of systematicity both within and across languages. As discussed previously, arbitrariness and systematicity seem to play unique roles in improving both the learnability and communicative utility of a language.
So how can we, as researchers, quantify the degree of arbitrariness and systematicity in a language? And how can we discover these trends automatically?
Do rats feel regret? If so, how is it represented or experienced in the brain? Recent work (Steiner & Redish, 2014) suggests that rats do indeed feel regret, and has even proposed a mechanism for how rats – and by extension, people – feel regret.