01 Mar The True Nature of Reality: Words As Labels – Part 23
We have taken a close look at how the brain receives and processes information from data gathered from our five senses, but how does learning occur? Understanding the process of learning can help give insight into possible errors in cognition and bias.
The act of learning is a process comprised of several different steps. The first component of learning is labeling. Labeling is closely integrated with language, although it can occur cognitively before we learn how to speak, or when we are introduced to a new object or idea. Labeling is the simplest and most straightforward step of the learning process.
Labeling occurs when we assign an identifier to an object. This identifier might involve a patterned combination of input received through the senses, but on a more basic level, the most common identifier is a single word. For example, the first time we ever encountered a dog, we were taught the verbal label “dog” or “puppy” to name the object known as a dog. A child being taught to sign, might not use a verbal identifier, but will use a hand gesture to label the object as a dog instead.
Labeling seems like a very simple idea, we just assign an identifier to different objects. This allows us to name or communicate all the different objects in our lives. If you think about language, we have different kinds of words like nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs (to name a few). Likewise, there are different types of identifiers for phenomena we know as people, places, things, and ideas (nouns), states of being or actions taken (verbs), ideas that describe objects (adjectives), and ideas that describe states of being or actions (adverbs). The relationships formed by these identifiers start to build a more vivid understanding of the reality our brain constructs, something known as conceptualization.
If we have a word for it, then we are identifying that small unit of reality. The label is simply what we call something, or how we commonly identify it so we can recognize and communicate that thing to another person. It is one of the basic components of conceptualization.
List an object you recently learned about. At what point in the learning process were you introduced to its label or name?
Write about how labels are used to identify objects made up of several different parts, or that serve several functions, and yet, with a single word, we can capture the complete idea of that one thing.
Why is this useful in communication?
Write down what comes to mind when you hear the following words: Dog, Milk, Father, Blue. Include any memories of when you first learned about these things, or perhaps your predominant memory of each word.
Language, more specifically vocabulary, is a running inventory of the reality we perceive. While we may forget words from time to time, we are pretty good at remembering things we deal with on a daily basis. What is the average vocabulary of a person in your country in this day and age? Look this up and write about it.
Do you think your vocabulary range is lower or higher than this average?
Do you think your current vocabulary is growing or shrinking with time?
What practices can you implement to increase your vocabulary and knowledge?