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The Rhythm of Conversation (pt. 2)

People take turns talking during conversation. As discussed previously, the timing of this turn-taking process is remarkably fast, and happens largely beyond our conscious awareness. This raises the obvious question: how do speakers manage to transition between turns so quickly, and so successfully? Why Conversation is Remarkable Conversations, for the most part, do not follow … Continue reading The Rhythm of Conversation (pt. 2)

The Rhythm of Conversation (pt. 1)

Many things in our lives have rhythms: music, poetry, the pace at which we walk, and even the rate at which we talk. One of the marvels of everyday conversation – overlooked, perhaps, because it seems so obvious and so easy – is turn-taking. That is, when one speaker finishes talking, someone else usually starts … Continue reading The Rhythm of Conversation (pt. 1)

That’s not what I meant!

Ambiguity pervades language. This ambiguity can be used strategically by speakers, but it’s also what makes language so challenging for machines to understand – and in some cases, it even leads to miscommunications between people, particularly over written communication. During in-person interactions, ambiguity is more easily avoided. If a speaker says of a recently released … Continue reading That’s not what I meant!

What is ‘innateness’, anyway?

A recurring question in both scientific and public discourse is whether any given property of an organism is innate or learned. This debate, usually framed in terms of Nature vs. Nurture, often centers around properties of human behavior and cognition: intelligence, language, morality, mathematics, and so on. But while this dichotomous framing perhaps seems obvious … Continue reading What is ‘innateness’, anyway?

Sounding entitled

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being entitled. A worker is entitled to a paycheck; a customer is entitled to the goods they’ve paid for; all of us are entitled to certain inalienable human rights[1]. So why is “entitled” usually used as an insult? When someone says that somebody else is “acting entitled”, what they really … Continue reading Sounding entitled

Biased language

Bias is real – and often harmful. It’s been shown to manifest in hiring decisions, in the training of machine learning algorithms, and most recently, in language itself. Three computer scientists analyzed the co-occurrence patterns of words in naturally-occurring texts (obtained from Google News), and found that these patterns seem to reflect implicit human biases. … Continue reading Biased language