One of the oldest technologies we have is language. How do the words we use influence the way we think?
The media can talk about immigrants scurrying across the border, versus immigrants crossing the border. Or we might hear about technology platforms censoring us, versus moderating content.
If those word choices shift public opinion on immigration or technology by 25%, or even 2%, then we’ve been influenced in ways we can't even see. Which means that becoming aware of how words shape the way we think can help inoculate us from their undue influence. And further, consciously choosing or even designing the words we use can help us think in more complex ways – and address our most complex challenges.
This week on Your Undivided Attention, we're grateful to have Lera Boroditsky — a cognitive scientist who studies how language shapes thought. Lera is a Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego.
Clarification: in the episode, Aza refers to Elizabeth Loftus' research on eyewitness testimony. He describes an experiment in which a car hit a stop sign, but the experiment actually used an example of two cars hitting each other.
Lera Boroditsky is a Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego. She previously served on the faculty at MIT and at Stanford, and as the editor-in-chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. Her research is on the relationships between mind, world, and language (or how humans get so smart). Her TED talk on how language shapes thinking has been viewed more than 16 million times. Boroditsky has been named one of 25 Visionaries Changing the World by the Utne Reader, and her research has been featured in outlets including the New York Times, the Economist, and Scientific American.
Lera Boroditsky's 2018 TED talk about how the 7,000 languages spoken around the world shape the way we think
Boroditsky and Paul H. Thibodeau's 2015 study about how the metaphors we use to talk about crime influence our opinions on how to address crime
Boroditsky and Caitlin M. Fausey's 2010 study about how the language used to describe the 2004 Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" influence our views on culpability
BBC article featuring the research of former Your Undivided Attention guest Guillaume Chaslot, which shows the verbs YouTube is most likely to include in titles of recommended videos — such as "obliterates" and "destroys"