Can we think without language?

Can we think without language?

“I don’t think very young children do think.” If this sounds controversial, it is—psychologist Charles Fernyhough says as much in a Radiolab interview. Fernyhough defines thinking as processing experience through language. That is, for him, thought is largely verbal: what most of us think of as “thinking” involves narrating the world to ourselves as we go through it. He drew the conclusion that little kids don’t think after an experiment showed that children as old as 5 often cannot put together the two verbally-expressed ideas “left” and “blue wall” to grasp the phrase “left of the blue wall”, even when they know what “left” means. Which, to be fair, is a bit shocking.

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