Monday, July 14, 2008

Innumeracy Among the Piraha

"MIT-led team finds language without numbers"

The team, led by MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences Edward Gibson, found that members of the Piraha tribe in remote northwestern Brazil use language to express relative quantities such as "some" and "more," but not precise numbers.


One other discovery of the project is that the Piraha can perform exact matching tasks as long as there is no memory component to them, but once there is a memory component, they approximate their matches. This suggests that language is a cognitive technology that aids humans in memory tasks.


"The only truly alien planet is Earth." - J.G. Ballard