AI News, Study of 800-million tweets finds distinct daily cycles in our thinking patterns

Study of 800-million tweets finds distinct daily cycles in our thinking patterns

Researchers in artificial intelligence (AI) and in medicine used AI methods to analyse aggregated and anonymised UK twitter content sampled every hour over the course of four years across 54 of the UK's largest cities to determine if our thinking modes change collectively.

The researchers revealed different emotional and cognitive modalities in our thoughts by identifying variations in language through tracking the use of specific words across the twitter sample which are associated with 73 psychometric indicators, and are used to help interpret information about our thinking style.

The first factor, with a peak expression time starting at around 5 am to 6 am, linked with measures of analytical thinking through the high use of nouns, articles and prepositions, which has been related, in other studies, to intelligence, improved class performance and education.

The second factor had a peak expression time starting at 3 am to 4 am, the aggregated twitter content found this time to be correlated with the language of existential concerns but anticorrelated with expression of positive emotions.

Speaking a second language may change how you see the world

The idea has seen a revival in recent decades, as a growing number of studies suggested that language can prompt speakers to pay attention to certain features of the world.

Rather than ask whether speakers of different languages have different minds, he says, “we ask, ‘Can two different minds exist within one person?’ ” Athanasopoulos and colleagues were interested in a particular difference in how English and German speakers treat events.

Looking at the same scene, for example, German speakers might say, “A man leaves the house and walks to the store,” whereas an English speaker would just say, “A man is walking.” This linguistic difference seems to influence how speakers of the two languages view events, according to the new study.

Athanasopoulos and colleagues asked 15 native speakers of each language to watch a series of video clips that showed people walking, biking, running, or driving.

In each set of three videos, the researchers asked subjects to decide whether a scene with an ambiguous goal (a woman walks down a road toward a parked car) was more similar to a clearly goal-oriented scene (a woman walks into a building) or a scene with no goal (a woman walks down a country lane).

In another group of 30 German-English bilinguals, the researchers kept one language busy during the video-matching task by making participants repeat strings of numbers out loud in either English or German.

When the researchers surprised subjects by switching the language of the distracting numbers halfway through the experiment, the subjects’ focus on goals versus process switched right along with it.  The results suggest that a second language can play an important unconscious role in framing perception, the authors conclude online this month in Psychological Science.

Learning A Second Language Can Change The Way You Think And Improve Your Wages

Not only is becoming insular a distinct disadvantage, but people who close themselves off to the opportunity of learning a new language also miss out on all of the personal and economic benefits that speaking a new language can bring.

When researchers presented a problem that involved wagering small amounts of money on a coin-toss, people thinking in their first language were more likely to display risk-averse behavior, regardless of the high odds of a net profit if the wager was made.

When the participants were presented the same problem in their second language, they were more likely to rationally consider the odds and realize that they were likely to profit, taking the wagering option with the higher outcome in spite of any risk aversion they may have felt.

When presented with the trolley problem — a classic philosophical dilemma where a person is forced to choose whether or not to sacrifice one life to save five lives, or sacrifice the five to save the one — those who were presented the problem in their second language were more likely to perceive the individuals as each having equal value and thus make the rational choice to sacrifice one life and save the five others.

In addition to helping people exercise rational thought, studies also have found that the increased brain activity promoted by speaking a second language also helps to stave off certain kinds of brain diseases such as dementia.

With growing economies and more foreign competition, learning a new language is a useful skill that can make you more appealing to potential employers while also improving your mental health and reasoning, and even help you understand a new culture.

How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language

Several recent studies have focused on how people think about ethics in a non-native language—as might take place, for example, among a group of delegates at the United Nations using a lingua franca to hash out a resolution.

In a 2014 paper led by Albert Costa, volunteers were presented with a moral dilemma known as the “trolley problem”: imagine that a runaway trolley is careening toward a group of five people standing on the tracks, unable to move.

But Costa and his colleagues found that posing the dilemma in a language that volunteers had learned as a foreign tongue dramatically increased their stated willingness to shove the sacrificial person off the footbridge, from fewer than 20% of respondents working in their native language to about 50% of those using the foreign one.

In their study, volunteers read descriptions of acts that appeared to harm no one, but that many people find morally reprehensible—for example, stories in which siblings enjoyed entirely consensual and safe sex, or someone cooked and ate his dog after it had been killed by a car.

This may seem paradoxical, but is in line with findings that reading math problems in a hard-to-read font makes people less likely to make careless mistakes (although these results have proven difficult to replicate).

By comparison, languages acquired late in life, especially if they are learned through restrained interactions in the classroom or blandly delivered over computer screens and headphones, enter our minds bleached of the emotionality that is present for their native speakers.

Using the skin’s electrical conductivity to measure emotional arousal (conductivity increases as adrenaline surges), they had native Turkish speakers who had learned English late in life listen to words and phrases in both languages;

This new research involved scenarios in which good intentions led to bad outcomes (someone gives a homeless person a new jacket, only to have the poor man beat up by others who believe he has stolen it) or good outcomes occurred despite dubious motives (a couple adopts a disabled child to receive money from the state).

These results clash with the notion that using a foreign language makes people think more deeply, because other research has shown that careful reflection makes people think more about the intentions that underlie people’s actions rather than less.

This explanation is bolstered by findings that patients with brain damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area that is involved in emotional responding, showed a similar pattern of responses, with outcomes privileged over intentions.

Change of Language, Change of Personality?

Bilingual 1: 'When I'm around Anglo-Americans, I find myself awkward and unable to choose my words quickly enough ...

When I speak Greek, I start talking more rapidly, with a tone of anxiety and in a kind of rude way...'.

More than forty years later, Baruch College Professor David Luna and his colleagues asked Hispanic American bilingual women students to interpret target advertisements picturing women, first in one language and, six months later, in the other.

The spontaneous reports by individual bilinguals, and the results of studies such as those mentioned here, have intrigued me over the years.

I noted first of all that monocultural bilinguals who make up the majority of bilinguals in the world are not really concerned by this phenomenon.

I proposed in my first book on bilingualism, Life with Two Languages, that what is seen as a change in personality is most probably simply a shift in attitudes and behaviors that correspond to a shift in situation or context, independent of language.

As we saw in an earlier post, bilinguals use their languages for different purposes, in different domains of life, with different people (see here).

It is the environment, the culture, and the interlocutors that cause bicultural bilinguals to change attitudes, feelings and behaviors (along with language)—and not their language as such.

Swiss German-French-English trilingual gives us a concluding statement that is fitting:'When talking English, French or German to my sister, my personality does not change.

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