Language and Cognition

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Over the years, psychologists have proposed a number of different theories to describe the interactions between language and other types of cognition. This week’s readings expose you to a number of these theories. Some theories suggest that language shapes the way we think about things. Others suggest that individuals are able to change their thought patterns by learning different languages.

Consider the influence of language on human cognition in professional settings by discussing how language promotes or limits communication between people. Finally, discuss how cognition could be improved or problems could be solved by examining language.

In your responses to your peers, comment on the limitations or strengths of language in terms of different types of communication present in professional settings. For example, how would the limitations or potential improvements your peer has mentioned play out in email or text communication?

8-1 Discussion: Language and Cognition

To complete this assignment, review the Discussion Rubric document.



Language influences our interactions continuously. The words we choose to use influences our actions. Our actions influence the actions and words others choose to use around us. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to start this assignment out until I received a phone call this morning. If you have read any of my posts this past week or so, than you know that my daughter was in the hospital. She does not have a cell phone at this time, so the doctor’s office has my cell phone number to contact her. When I received the phone call, the doctor on the other line asked to speak to her.

I explained that she was not here. She then preceded to tell me “it is highlyimportant that she calls us back.” As a mom, I became worried and started asking questions, to which not one could be answered because of HIPAA. I messaged my daughter on SnapChat and told her that she needed to call them back ASAP. I later found out that it was not highly important, but only slightly important. They needed to know her new address so they could refill her antibiotics. I panicked for no reason because of the words that were chosen.

In a professional setting, choosing the right words is very important. When doctors or nurses use phrases like “highly important” or “urgent”, we tend to regard this as such. In some cases, it can cause great alarm and stress. Now had the doctor explained that she just wanted to talk to my daughter today, I would not have panicked. I would have been able to assess the situation for what it was and not what it was made out to be.

Our language and culture determines how we react to the words that are used. For example, some languages and cultures talk using directions. In some cultures, you cannot say hello without knowing what direction you are going (TED, 2018). This is not the case for the English language, we simply can say “hello.” It was pointed out that many very well educated individuals do not know their directions when asked to tell someone which way is south. However, according to Lera Boroditsky, if our language and culture trains us to talk using directions, we can do it (TED, 2018).

According to Boroditsky in her TED Talk (2018), different languages and cultures assign gender to the words that they use. For example, the sun is feminine in German but masculine in Spanish and the moon is masculine in German but feminine in Spanish (TED, 2018). Additionally, German speakers would describe a bridge using stereotypical feminine words such as elegant and beautiful whereas Spanish speakers would use stereotypical words such as strong or long (TED, 2018). In a typical setting, this type of gender association could cause confusion and communication difficulty. In a professional setting, this could create a barrier that would be difficult to overcome unless the professionals understood this about language and cognition.

Let’s say a German architect was interviewed for a job to build a building but the company’s owner was from a Spanish background. The German architect was trying to describe their vision as elegant and beautiful but the Spanish owner wanted something that was viewed as strong. This could cause the German architect not to get the job and if they did, could cause some conflict later on.

Another point made by Boroditsky was that “people who use different languages will pay attention to different things depending on what their language requires them to” (TED, 2018). According to Boroditsky, language guides our reasoning on events, who do we blame or do we punish (TED, 2018)? The consequences of this can be seen in eyewitness testimony. A person of a Spanish culture would describe an accident without placing blame on anyone but a person of an American culture would tell police “he ran the red light and hit the car.” In Spanish culture, you are taught to remember the intention so an accident would be described as such (i.e., the car broke itself; TED, 2018).

One way cognition could be improved would be to have a basic understanding of different cultures and their languages. There are 7,000 different languages, so this could be nearly impossible but just to understand that some cultures assign words with different grammatical genders should help with cognition and communication. Another way to improve cognition would be to learn another language or even to appreciate another language and culture. For example, I read the article in our resources by Lera Boroditsky but when I found the TED Talk by her, I had to watch it. I was able to understand her point of view and be able to appreciate the differences we have in language. Her discussion led me to have an appreciation for language and cognition. She mentioned these quotes and how they each cause us to think differently about language and cognition.

“To have a second language is to have a second soul.” – Charlemagne

“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Shakespeare

I believe that having an appreciation for the different languages and cultures can broaden one’s cognition and help us to see things differently.


TED. (2018). Lera Boroditsky: How language shapes the way we think [Video File]. Retrieved from



Language can be defined as “a system of conventional spoken, manual, or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves. The functions of language include communication, the expression of identity, play, imaginative expression, and emotional release” (Robins and Crystal, 2019). Many people just think of language as spoken words, when it encompasses more than just that. Speaking does play a huge part in how we can convey ourselves, but there is also body language and how we communicate via typing, like right now.

These days, English is moreso a second language for people rather than first language. Body language can help people communicate better in a professional setting. You may not be able to understand someone’s words, but being able to read someone’s body can help get feelings and thoughts across. For example, someone who may have their arms crossed might be upset or someone who does not make eye contact may not want to interact with the person or people speaking to them.

Being able to master reading body language can help us understand those who may not speak the same language. Apostolos Belokas (2018) discusses that observing a person’s eyes and mouth are vital in decoding their feelings, such as anger, sadness, and happiness. He gives a few pointers on how to master body language. The most important rule is to be aware of not just your own body language, but observing those around you as well. Mirroring someone’s body language can be useful as well, such as when clapping for someone after they accomplished something.


Belokas, A. (2018, October 25). Why body language is important in the workplace. Retrieved from…

Robins, R. H., & Crystal, D. (2019, January 10). Language. Retrieved from


Last Updated on April 17, 2020