Why you’d better never have to ask the way when visiting the Northern Territory in Australia

The way that different languages convey information has long fascinated linguists, anthropologists, and sociologists alike. Murrinhpatha, the lingua franca spoken by the majority of Aboriginal people in the Moyle and Fitzmaurice rivers region of Australia’s Northern Territory has many interesting features, with the absence of verbal abstract directions a prominent one among them.

And if a language doesn’t have terms to denote specific space concept, how can speakers communicate the direction of one location with respect to another?

read more

Fish can recognize human faces, new research shows

Archer FishA species of tropical fish has been shown to be able to distinguish between human faces. It is the first time fish have demonstrated this ability.

The research, carried out by a team of scientists from the University of Oxford (UK) and the University of Queensland (Australia), found that archerfish were able to learn and recognize faces with a high degree of accuracy — an impressive feat, given this task requires sophisticated visual recognition capabilities.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

read more

Strangers reach mutual understanding through talking and asking questions, not from non-verbal cues

Two Businesswomen outdoors talking.Psychologists at The University of Texas at Arlington have discovered that when two strangers meet and interact for the first time, the extent to which they develop mutual understanding depends on how much they talk and ask questions rather than on non-verbal cues such as gestures or exchanging glances.

The UTA researchers used a specialized linguistic program to measure the extent that two strangers “get in synch” linguistically, providing new insight into the processes that underlie how people come to understand each other when they meet for the first time.

read more

Most presidential candidates speak at grade 6-8 level

de4cad799ea7025a6af48872ffe203dcA readability analysis of presidential candidate speeches by researchers in Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technologies Institute (LTI) finds most candidates using words and grammar typical of students in grades 6-8, though Donald Trump tends to lag behind the others.

A historical review of their word and grammar use suggests all five candidates in the analysis – Republicans Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio (who has since suspended his campaign), and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – have been using simpler language as the campaigns have progressed. Again, Trump is an outlier, with his grammar use spiking in his Iowa Caucus concession speech and his word and grammar use plummeting again during his Nevada Caucus victory speech.

read more

Human sounds convey emotions clearer and faster than words

ScreamBrain uses ‘older’ systems/structures to preferentially process emotion expressed through vocalizations.

It takes just one-tenth of a second for our brains to begin to recognize emotions conveyed by vocalizations, according to researchers from McGill. It doesn’t matter whether the non-verbal sounds are growls of anger, the laughter of happiness or cries of sadness. More importantly, the researchers have also discovered that we pay more attention when an emotion (such as happiness, sadness or anger) is expressed through vocalizations than we do when the same emotion is expressed in speech.

read more

Let your head do the talking

Intellectual Business Woman Wearing Glasses Head TiltedHead movements play an important role in conveying emotions through speech and music

When people talk or sing, they often nod, tilt or bow their heads to reinforce verbal messages. But how effective are these head gestures at conveying emotions?

Very effective, according to researchers from McGill University in Montreal. Steven R. Livingstone and Caroline Palmer, from McGill’s Department of Psychology, found that people were highly accurate at judging emotions based on head movements alone, even in the absence of sound or facial expressions.

read more

Mind reading thanks to metaphors

Sharpen your ability to tune into other people's emotional or mental states by observing the metaphors they use. Why is this? Because metaphors can in fact help one to 'mind read'.

Nice to sniff you: Handshakes may engage our sense of smell

Why do people shake hands? A new Weizmann Institute study suggests one of the reasons for this ancient custom may be to check out each other's odors. Even if we are not consciously aware of this, handshaking may provide people with a socially acceptable way of communicating via the sense of smell.