Picture the following situation: a man comes into the room wearing a backpack, he turns round and accidentally knocks over a vase, shattering it to pieces. How would you describe this event? Would you say “the man broke the vase” or “the vase broke”? According to linguistic research (Fausey and Boroditsky 2008), the description you are most likely to use depends on your native language. English speakers are more inclined to use the construction in which the vase-breaker is identified (i.e. “the man broke the vase”) than speakers of Spanish. More importantly, these different linguistic patterns have consequences for people’s memory of these kinds of accidental events: English participants demonstrate better recall for who broke the vase than Spanish participants (Fausey and Boroditsky 2011). Research findings of this nature thus suggest that our particular linguistic background may have a profound effect on how we view the world around us.
In this course, we will take a closer look at phenomena like this in order to better understand how language influences people’s perception of the world. In the first part of the course, we will look at how language influences us in a general sense: how does the acquisition of language influence development? Do people who do not share the same mother tongue differ in their perception of the world? And how does acquiring more than one language influence us? In the second part of the course, we will take a closer look at how language might be used to engender changes in our behaviour. In this light, we will investigate phenomena such as linguistic framing effects, politically correct language, euphemisms and propaganda. This part of the course will also take into account how narratives can be used to change people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. In the final part of the course, you will form small groups with other students to conduct your own small-scale empirical research on how language influences us, thereby providing you with some hands-on research experience.
At the end of the course students will be able to:
Describe how the acquisition of language affects human cognitive abilities.
Describe how a person’s linguistic background can affect the representation and categorisation of people, objects and events.
Grasp how linguistic representations can be used to affect people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviour.
In terms of skills, this course will provide students with experience in:
Formulating relevant propositions and discussing issues concerning the relationship between language, thought and behaviour.
Conducting their own small-scale empirical research project.
Conveying the results of their own research to others in both the written and spoken form.
Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.
Mode of instruction
The course will be taught through a combination of lectures and seminars. The lectures will provide students with relevant knowledge of the field, whereas the seminars (and the associated assignments) will require students to put this knowledge into practice. In the first seminar, there will be a class discussion related to the topics dealt with in the lectures. In the following seminars, students will work on setting up their own small-scale group research projects, so that they can gain experience in conducting their own research. The last plenary session of this course will involve class presentations of the research projects.
10% Individual assignment 1
15% Individual assignment 2
18% Research project group assignments
17% Group presentation research project
40% Final research essay (individual, 2000 words, empirical paper describing research project)
All reading materials will be made available via Brightspace. It will not be necessary to purchase any reading materials for this course.
Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. H.N.M. (Hannah) De Mulder, email@example.com