Thursday, December 31, 2009

How we read?

Every moment of awareness is a pile of interpretations all insuperposition. A single state of mind is layered with harmonics of meaning - yet somehow remains one experience - Susan Blackmore

Reading and understanding language is a skill that most people take for granted. Processing language in the brain is very complex and entails many variables. Most language is processed in the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere processes visual and motor activities - States Stanislas Dehaene.

"When we look at a text photons are bouncing off those black squiggles and lines -- the letters in the particular sentence -- and colliding with a thin wall of flesh at the back of your eyeball. The photons contain just enough energy to activate sensory neurons, each of which is responsible for a particular plot of visual space on the hole image. The end result is that, as you stare at the letters, they become more than mere marks on a page. You begin to read "- Says .

Interesting Facts:
  • Seeing the letters is just the start of the reading process. Although our eyes are focused on the letters, we learn to ignore them. Instead, we perceive whole words, chunks of meaning. Once we become proficient at reading, the precise shape of the letters -- not to mention the arbitrariness of the spelling -- doesn't even matter, which is why we read word, WORD, and WoRd the same way.
  • Until now most assumed that when we read both eyes look at the same letter of a word concurrently. But it was found that our eyes look at different letters in the same word and then combine the different images through a process known as fusion. We were able to clearly show that we experience a single, very clear and crisp visual representation due to the merging of the two different images from each eye.
  • Language tends to be stored in the brain to be processed in audio format, so besides reading the text we automatically convert it to speach in our own heads. After that the process of making sense takes place.
  • Studies have shown that when a word is checked against the storehouse of words in the brain - whether it is a written word or a word-sound - only the main part of the word is checked first, and then the ending is processed separately. For example, 'sing', 'singing' and 'singer' would all be checked against the base word 'sing'.
  • Once we recognized the printed words we need to make sense out of them. Understanding how meaning arises from those words is of the most challenging tasks in cognitive sciences.
  • More on making sense and meanings can be found here and here.
  • There is an onging debate whether the new kind of reading experience provided by internet is benefitial or not. Some interesting articles are worth exploring: Is google making us stupid and How is google making us smarter. It would be interesting to incorporate the last scientific findings about how or brain reads in order to draw new and more accurate conclusions.


Charles Gramlich said...

It's intersting that we also possess two distinct reading systems for phonetic reading and whole word reading.

Paul said...

A constantly fascinating subject. I think reading poetry and prose are slightly different processes. Poetry tends to be read less linearly than prose. There is plenty of evidence too that reading from a screen is a different process from reading from a printed page. All this time reading on the internet may be changing the reading process overall. said...

In which aspects do you think watching text online differs from reading a paper book?

Mariana Soffer said...

Steve Jobs said"...the fact is people don't read anymore" which made us wonder: are people really reading online content or just scanning page? Apparently, it's the latter. But many more studies are yet to be made.

Shadow said...

the mind sure is a marvellous thing...

Lydia said...

Fascinating post, as usual. Lately I have told myself to really read what is in front of me on my computer monitor, instead of scanning or skimming or reading fully just certain parts. It helps to be mindful of this and I am getting more from my online reading. I certainly wouldn't want to purchase a Kindle until I "train" myself to read screens with as much attention as I read paper pages!

Mariana Soffer said...

Charles Gramlich:
Sure it is, I am glad you found that interesting, there are many strange and particular issues regarding how we deal with language that are worth exploring, I can give you a couple of links if you would like to know further information about it. It would be my pleasure.

Mariana Soffer said...

I am glad you liked this, I agreee with what you say about poetry, but I am not going to go in detail about it here. But since you mentioned how our reading habits are being changed by the internet, I added a new bullet to the end of the post, I think you might find pretty enlighting, besides feel freee to add your opinions to this open debate.
Thanks a lot for enriching my post.

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks my dear poet for stepping by. It sure is, I guess sometimes just a few words worth much more than discurse involved reasoning. There is magic in simple sentences, and simple words.

human being said...


for me reading
is eating
the same alchemic procedure
the same alchemic magic
the same alchemic metamorphosis


Mariana Soffer said...

Intereseting to know your viewoint and how you deal with this, I think that both ways of getting information into your system has their advantages and disadvantages, and that there are some that work better for some people and some for other. But this could lead to a hole new debate, I would like to submerge into one of this days.
By the way, re check the end of the post, I added some links that might interest you.

Take care and thanks a lot.

Jon said...


shijs sit

nat junny

yil sundernand




guillermo said...

Can you give me an overview and some links regarding broca area, which I understand is a part of the brain related to speach?

Mariana Soffer said...

Broca's area is the area of the brain responsible for speech production, language processing, and language comprehension, as well as controlling facial neurons.
For a long time, it was assumed that the role of Broca's area was more devoted to language production than language comprehension. However, recent evidence demonstrates that Broca's area also plays a significant role in language comprehension.


Mariana Soffer said...

human being
Beautifull comment, thanks a lot!
This reminds me of something I read long time ago, where it refered to the brain as an organ that was in need of constant fuelling which was providing by new inputs, any kind of information, this is indeed a necesity for us, we need this to survive. Whish I could find this article that describes this idea with better words.

Love you HM

Mariana Soffer said...

I liked you experiment, I would not dare to try playing with words and letters like that, but I think I understand what you say indeed.

Keep going, I like this!

human being said...

yes Mariana... fuel is like food... and fire is involved here too in the process of combustion... again alchemy...

think what Jon has left here is a bite of some food for our brain...
i chew it... and ate it... it was yummy...
think we should ask him for some more...

otin said...

Usually, I leave you some silly comment, but I actually was very interested by this post, especially the part about how we switch form video to audio in our minds. I often find it interesting how our minds are like recorders. You can hear a song and then remember it in your head exactly as you heard it!

JanetK said...

I wish someone would look at how reading braile differs (if it does) from visual reading. That would tell us a lot about how it is done.

Renee said...

Mariana I am grateful that I can still learn and that you can still teach.

Happy New Year.

Love Renee xoxo

Mariana Soffer said...

Human being:

I agree with your comments about Jon
Jon: We want more!!

By the way here I found one of the articles I was talking about:

This is quite complex, I will try to seek for a simpler one for next time.


Mariana Soffer said...

I also love your goofy comments, they always have sosmething nice and interesting indeed. But change are also more than welcome, feel free to ask about anything. I also think it is very interesting that point. You can check more about it, in the las Oliver Sacks books, or you can start you investigation trough earworms, that are the loops of sound that repeat in your head endleslly (I think they provide a hint towards how this issue works indeed)

leo said...

I like the How many F can you count?

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs. I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy.

Feliz anio!

Mariana Soffer said...

I do not know much about braile but I studied deaf people language, it is pretty interesting, they have a hole other representation inside their head, another aproach to things! Sacks also researched this, buth they where many others like Graham Bell, and a very interesting case study in the 1800 hundreds in martha's vineyard where a special condition occurred. It is also itneresting to check the last fmri studies that show the differences and similarities between both internal representations (at least what can be shown and understood from this studies).

Mariana Soffer said...


You also teach my dear friend, you teach in a fantastic humble way. And you also help to bring out the best in the
rest of us, which is great.

Mariana Soffer said...

I liked a lot what you wrote, specially the last sentence, where did you get it from? it is a great way to show how the mind works. At least for the part I am interested in.

Thanks a lot for collaborating.

leo said...

What are you doing tonight for silvester?

TC said...


I spent many years as a teacher and never stopped being amazed by the fact that my students were unable to read virtually anything. (Perhaps this is because they were graduate students...?)

At any rate, when I started doing up blog posts, the private motive was a desire to see if a kind of posting of images and words in "dialogue" with each other together might be "read" by (i.e. become accessible and pleasurable to) people who would not normally feel comfortable with the reading experience. Perhaps erroneously, I speculated that this target group would comprise the great majority of internet users.

The experiment remains ongoing. It has been interesting. I am learning that many people seem to "think" in images, and that this kind of thinking, when texts are added in, seems to yield a different sort of "reading" experience--maybe a little less off-putting, more suggestive and open-ended, than dealing with blocks of solid text.

In this regard, I found Paul's comment, above, quite relevant:

"I think reading poetry and prose are slightly different processes. Poetry tends to be read less linearly than prose. There is plenty of evidence too that reading from a screen is a different process from reading from a printed page. All this time reading on the internet may be changing the reading process overall."

That "non-linear" "poetic" reading process is what interests me.

Of course, I've had plenty of help and kind encouragement in this little experiment. From, for example, you.

You always teach me a lot. I look forward to continuing this exchange in the new year... which, let me say, will, I hope, be a very very good one for you and for all your loyal readers.



Tom Bailey said...

Here is my viewpoint although all of it is not truth - sometimes I take things on even if it is not absolute truth (for example anything is possible) might not be truth but it is a viewpoit that I take on as truth even if it is not so for the power it can provide.

Meanings seem to be where the rubber hits the road in all of this. The meanings we attach then go to work on influencing action and behaviors formed by principals and values developed.

There is a quote that goes "life is empty and meaningless and it is empty and meaningless that it is empty and meaningless".

I am not sure it is knowable exactly how meanings get attached.

My theory in this area in general is
- Life exists in language - the voice inside our head that you mentioned - then the words we say - and the actions we take based on those then create habbits and actions that lead to our results in life.

You are brilliant in your thinking as always. I read your blog not so much to "learn" for the sake of learning but - understand so that I can take some of these advanced skills and ways of thinking and apply them to my life to move it forward.

I read so slowly and I double read and sometimes even tripple read as I go so it make me wonder how the reading variables would work in my head.

Thinking is often the hardest work a person can do -

Kindest regards,
Tom Bailey

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks a lot for the link, lots of interesting stuff came out of there! I am really pleased.
Tonight notihg special, just familly indeed.

Mariana Soffer said...


Well maybe it is also because nowadays one has accesss to all kinds of information, specially in science, where you have divulgation articles, which are not specially for people who know a lot about the field.

Very intresting what you say about images and texts, I am currently fascinating with the kind of text that converts itself in images, like in the blog called similar to bpql (Geof Huff) or in human being' sometime..

I do care about that non-linearity too, but I tend no to search it to images (such as photographs), but trough the things I mentioned beofre.

I am glad you where encouraged by me.

Yeah it will be a great year, by the way we can start thinking about this poetry non-linearity, it is fascinating.

I love reading your post, that is why I am loyal my friend,
Thanks a lot TC, you are great

Val said...

The meaning of a symbol obliterates the symbol itself so that all you see is the meaning. If language is like this, then perhaps everything else is as well, including us.
Happy New Year Mariana, I wish you everything wonderful for 2010!

Mariana Soffer said...


Awsame, you left me thinking, and rethinking, even dough
I read so much about meaning, I feel you let me see something nowbody could, even dough I am not completelly sure how to describe it, I know that is the way towards it. Probably this is happen because we understand each other, or somehow "speak a similar language"

Stupid wonders:
Isn t the purpose of a symbol to represent a meaning?
Isn t the symbol usel without something to represent?
What else is there to see in the symbol beyond the meaning?
(By meaning you can refer to all the complexities that the world involves in itself)

I need to clarify this points in my mind to get to the generalization of it (when you refer to everything else). But the generalization sounds correct anyway.

Mariana Soffer said...

Tom Bagley
I like how you think, I like to read you describing your
processes, I mostly agree with all you say about them.

You allow yourself freedom, not stand on a solid, absolute, unique and arbitrary truth, you allow yourself playing with this stand points, which is great.

true:MEANING is it. great quote by the way, amazing.

Interesting theory, I have to think it more deply yet.

Anyway, you can read our discussion with val about meaning, that might help. But I also think that the inner representation, the model is fundamental, it is the form of the meanining, which is also the meaning in itself.

I like that you apply things to your life, people often forget about that step, and it all ends up being useless.

Tom, you gave me the most wonderfull compliment ever, I swear, I am almost afraid to make a mistake and at the same time I feel so proud of myself.


A Cuban In London said...

Another amazing post that calls to my linguist self. Recently the BBC showed a documentary on language and why humans are able to talk whilst other animals (including mammals) cannot and it was an eye-opener. And both your column and the programme overlap.

Reading is such a normal activity that we never take into account how much work the brain performs.

Happy New Year to you and your family! It was a pleasure reading you in 2009 and it will continue to be a pleasure in 2010.

Greetings from London.

Uncle Tree said...

Happy New Year, Marianna! Best wishes for 2-0-1-0! -2em selbmum


I want you to see things my way, so
1. I have an idea, formed of words and/or pictures, or both.
2. It is like putting together a puzzle, but the puzzle moves every time I try to place a piece where I think it belongs.
3. I know what I want to say, but when I put it up on the screen, it looks different, or wrong somehow.
I re-arrange, and exchange words until it closely resembles what I meant for it to mean in the first place.
4. I wish to show and tell you in words. If I could draw my own imagined illustrations, that would help me to convey meaning.
5. I send you a finished puzzle. You break it apart, and put it back together. You, as the reader, can put a piece in a place it doesn't belong, and still make it fit. I don't get it, because I can't do that. Know what I mean?
6. Why was Charlie Chaplin so popular in his day?
7. I often feel stupid. I will blame Google from here on out.

My numbers were meant to be taken with a grain of salt. Iodine, anyone?

Hugz! and take care, sweet niece!

Jim Murdoch said...

I can see the arguments for and against Google. My personal experience is that I am now smarter now than I was fourteen years ago when I first started using the Internet. I view it simply as a tool. Google is nothing more than an index. I don’t glamorise it in any way. Computers have made me smarter because of how I view them, as convenient storage. I download huge articles, essays, whole books where I can and use them for research. The speed at which I can access information has enabled me to explore a wide range of topics that it would have taken me months to research in the past. I don’t read any differently on the PC than I do on the page – I’m a scanner, always have been, I look for a relevant word and then read the surrounding text to see if it has what I’m looking for.

I don’t care for reading novels or long stories onscreen purely because I dislike the orientation. I’ve used my wife’s netbook, which is light enough to hold in your hand, and I have an old e-book reader which I enjoyed and would still use if it read PDFs (yes, it’s that old). I’ll have no problems buying a new one once the technology has settled down a bit.

The main problem I find with reading anything online is layout especially font size and spacing. Thankfully cleaner presentations are coming into vogue. The less clutter there is the more I like a site. Of course hitting CTRL+ is a quick and dirty fix, something you can’t do with a book.

I still buy and read books - I’m too long in the tooth not to be nostalgic about them – but I think the benefits of having a text you can search if nothing else is worth the minor inconveniences the new technology will bring.

Have a Happy New Year when it comes, Mariana.

J said...

Apparently the frequencies of light from a computer screen depress melatonin production, so the act of reading a screen alters your brain in different ways to a book, did you know?

Echo said...

Certainly the mind is affected by the way we read and perceive on the computer in bites rather than anything long term. The brain has changed, we rely more and more on exterior memory. Who today could carry on a verbal epic poem tradition? This is an evolution, an adaptation I think to the human brain, self created. It's not good or bad, just moving forward. Change. We rely on outside memory but our brains have other forms of working that we use daily that people of the past do not have at all. But it didn't begin with computers, it began with the industrial age like all things rapid. As Radio evolved into Television, we gave up much of our oral traditions for visual ones. We were trained as early as Seseme Street to shorter and shorter segments of rapid fire information.

ArtSparker said...

Once inside the brain, after the word has passed through the eyes as discrete entity, it may proceed to effloresce into something that can be unrecognizable from the original source...either through emotional weight brought to bear on it or association. Just saying,

"What a wonderful bird a frog are".

paulandrewrussell said...

A very interesting post, Mariana. I never knew the fact about the eyes looking at the letters of words separately then combining them. Cool.

Happy New Year :-)

Anonymous said...

fcsatnniiag psot,
mariana, & yes, i uadtrsennd
taht mnay ploepe can eevn raed tihs, too

× × ×


~otto~ said...

I think this explains why my speling is so bad ;-)

"Although our eyes are focused on the letters, we learn to ignore them."

Enchanted Oak said...

Tom Bailey said that thinking is the hardest work we can do. He also said something provocative:
"My theory in this area in general is
- Life exists in language - the voice inside our head that you mentioned - then the words we say - and the actions we take based on those then create habbits and actions that lead to our results in life."
My thoughts about this concern my mother, whose cognitive functions are failing. If her life exists in language, stemming from the voice inside her head, and then those words come out of her mouth, it's very clear that her language and inner voice are misfiring out of sequence.
She can begin a sentence to convey an idea, but before the introductory clause is finished, she has forgotten the primary part of the sentence. The voice inside her head which encapsulates ideas has become fragmented.
I notice that this fragmentation makes conversation--language exchanged--impossible, because neither she nor I can guess at the vision inside that intended to find voice and speech.
Language is the vital way we convey our ideas to each other. Without a smooth conduction of a language idea, the whole idea disintegrates into unrelated parts.

I want to understand how this works, so that I may find if it's possible to help her follow that train of an idea from beginning to end.
I wonder if studies are being done on the cognitive functions of the demented brain. It may be disintegrating, but is there a thread of thought that is completed somehow, in a language that we don't quite follow because we can't retrace the loops it took to get there? Is there a way to dicipher the development of an idea in a demented brain, so that at least a complete sentence can be discovered?
Comcomittantly, my mother cuts out newspaper stories of various topics, so she is about to ferret out complete ideas in print. When asked about them, she cannot tell you what they say or why she was drawn to them.
Apparently, this is all left-brain stuff. I wish I knew how to plumb the depths of her mind. Any ideas?

Mariana Soffer said...

A cuban in london:
Thanks for calling this blog amazing, specially when comming for a person with a linguistic background, I really apreciate it.

Do you remember the name of the program, I would love to watch it?

I like to examine things we take for granted, we can learn a lot and find lots of suprises.

The best wishes for you and your familly to, it has been a pleasure to get to meet you cuban lord.

By the way wich one is exactelly your linguistic background? I am just curious, I guess you know mine.

Mariana Soffer said...

Uncle Tree:
Thanks a lot. I am sure you will grow stronger leafs this year.

I would love to be able to see things your way, lets try.

From 1-4 I think I perfectly understood what you wanted to explain, I clearly got the concept.

5. I can do that because I have a different way of modeling things, we all have our unique one. Things can be transmitted because we speak the same language. This does not mean we will fit the pieces exactelly as the sender had them at first place. Parts are dissasembled before transmission and need to be re-accomodated by the receptor after all the parts arrived at the end.

6. Because he saw the reality he was living in, and he had a massive way that was effective to reflect that to the public. He made them stop ignoring some parts of reality as if there where just another part of the scenary, made them aware of it.

7. Good solution to blame it on google or the stablishment, but I know you can not do it for real, you just wish you could, but you are better than that.

Excuse me dear uncle but I do not understand what you mean by your previous to last sentence, is it just a joke of can you provide any hint about it?

Lots of love to you uncle tree

Mariana Soffer said...

Jim Murdoch

Well I do certainly agree with what you say about technology, it is just a tool, it does not change things indeed. It can be used to make things easier, such as a hammer for hanging a picture on the wall, but you can do it anyway, the new easier or harder way (although like in real life new ways have its new problems, such as hitting your fingger with the hammmer and being unable to hang anything else for a long time).

Thanks for sharing your personal feelings towards reading from the screen and your experience with it. I personally hate reading from a screen, I like books much more, besides, this trend of wide monitors is awfull for book readers.

I agree that the possibility to search is an incredible one, but nowadays there are gadgets that can have the book you are reading inside of it, or that can scan it while you read it, and therefore you can search for a certain information, so it can tell you in which page it is. So we have one less reason to use screens.

I love books too, they smell so good!

Happy new year , wish you the best Jim

Mariana Soffer said...

Not at all, lets do some research about it. Quite an interesting fact indeed.

(1)Radiation in the form of soft X-rays escapes out the ends of the tube. This causes a slow clustering of blood cells and restriction in oxygen flow which makes you drowsy. The only way to shield the radiation is to put lead tape on the ends of the tube. You can obtain small pieces of lead tape from security companies who use lead tape around the windows. (2) Pulsation or flicker, and that occurs not from the bulb, but from the fixture itself. The fixture pulsates 60 times a second - 60 Hertz, 120 power. By changing the power supply in the fixture to an electronic one, it will pulsate at 25,000 times a second and you will get no flicker. All the new type of fluorescents are flicker free, 25,000 electronic ballast.(3) it also has an optical effect that stops all healing. The pulsing refreshing rates on the TV and computer screens scramble the brain-wave patterns that are associated with healing and ceases healing in the body.

I guess the third problem is the most fascinating one, I will keep looking into it.

Thanks a lot J

Mariana Soffer said...

Welcome here! I like how you resume the history of information and communication technology To explain how they affected us.
It is true we relly more on artificial tools (some say we already became cyborgs). And it is not possible to judge if this is a better or worst thing for us.

One think I think is the brain has not physically/chemically changed/evolved yet, it still needs several decades for evolution to act and modify our heads to this new scenario.
What it has changed is the way that we function, how we use our resources.

My main concern is that we are shortening our span of atention increasingly, which might lead us not be able to focus deep enough in the subjects we research or learn.

Just one think to reflect about is that each 20 years we raise our IQ by 10 points average, does this mean we are making a better use of our brain? Or that the test should be better addapted to changes.

Mariana Soffer said...

I am glad you liked it and got to learn something new from it. Maybe you can take advantage of this fact and experiment with new kind of postings.


Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks a lot dear friend
Great comment by the way, I love those creative things that you state/write/express.

I was thinking that you as an artist already knew that we read that way, and took advantage of it by playing with the letters in your comments many times, the only change now is that we have science confirmation on that. But I guess artist got to that conclusion first

Mariana Soffer said...

Excelent reflection! actually you manage to take a burden out of myself too, I could never learn to do it properlly either, but now we can understand why, it is justified (so what?,(just kidding man))

Mariana Soffer said...

Great comment, feel free to propose as many delirious ideas as you want to.
I am sure that words are transformed in a way we did never even imagine, we do not have a clue about how we represent them internally, but what I think we know is that everything is context-related, words usually do not work in isolation, they have their surroundings altering and at the same making it.

PS: Love your quote

Mariana Soffer said...

I am really sorry about your mom, let me know if I can help you with something, I studied a little about neuroscience, specially brain failures, my causin does fMRI's and I know people we can consult if you want.

Well, you want to find how it works, I already told you more than happy to help with that.

Well for what you say it seems to be that what is not working properly is the short term memory, where the audio and the main idea to be expressed are stored. It seems that this part is not lasting long enough. So let me ask you the following:
Does it last long enough the short term memory so she can understand a hole sentence you say, without forgeting verbal parts so she can reconstruct the emmited concept?
Do you know how you can test this if you are not sure?
Does she answer correctly short questions?
Is she able to make short coherent statments?

FActs about the brain:
Brain function lateralization is evident in the phenomena of right- or left-handedness and of right or left ear preference, but a person's preferred hand is not a clear indication of the location of brain function. Although 95% of right-handed people have left-hemisphere dominance for language, only 18.8% of left-handed people have right-hemisphere dominance for language function. Additionally, 19.8% of the left-handed have bilateral language functions.
Characteristics of the Left Brain
The left side of the brain is known for:

Listening, speaking, reading, writing, and other uses of language
Memory for written and spoken messages
Ability to analyze information
Controlling the right side of the body
Result of Damage to the Left Brain
Damage to the left side of the brain can result in difficulty speaking and writing, cognitive issues such as memory problems and the ability to analyze, as well as emotional and physical problems. Left brain damage generally results in problems on the right side of the body.
read this:
you can read oliver sacks book "a man who mistook his wife for a hat" that has a case very similar to this.
Post your doubts here:

Well and many many things more I can help you with, lets chat/talk/email, go on with this.

J said...

Interesting, but what I was thinking of was the effect of the light frequencies emitted by artificial light sources like screens. Apparently they lack frequencies in the blue range which trigger melatonin production and this affects circadian rhythms

Melatonin is an important substance in a lot of ways- psychological, antioxidant, anti cancer perhaps.
I have taken melatonin to make me sleep and I can say that it's reputation for causing wild dreams is well founded.

I have the idea that maybe if melatonin can cause wild dreams then it has a role in imagination, and therefore maybe too much computering can suppress the imagination marginally as well as caue wakefullness.

Maybe one day someone gets two groups to read The Lord of The Rings, one group reads in book form and one on a screen, and compare the vividness of the imaginative involvement.

Questions like-

Describe a treant.
Describe the interior of The Prancing Pony Inn.
How hairy was Gandalf's beard?

-to assess the effect.


J said...

Or perhaps, as the pineal is a producer of melatonin, we can say that modern light blinds the third eye...

J said...

And just to overload your mind here is a bunch of stuff on melatonin.

Mariana Soffer said...


I see you got really interested in melatonin, cool, I like to know about it too, but sadly I had no background about it, so I just read all that I currently now, which I think thanks to you is not so little.

I would suggest you since you are really interested in certain scientific/human areas of research, like this one, to start planning a paper for submission to a congress, in which you do your proposed experiments, analize the results, of course you need mostly knowledge about statistics there, and draw some relevant and new conclusions. If you want I can help you with that, either choosing the journal to apply to, writting the paper or designing the questionaire, I think it is great to acomplish things in real life, much better than leaving them just as possible project or ideas arround your head. At least with the first option you learn much more and progress.

By the way very funny your propossed experiment, I like that!
And now wonder why we nerds tend to live at night and be a little depressive.

Thank a lot for all the info

J said...

And of course,

"Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye."

Bill Hicks

Shubhajit said...

First of all I want to wish you a very happy new year. Though it is just another day still we can make it a starting point just like a dawn.

You have mentioned very interesting scientific facts here. I particularly like the example of sing, singing, singer etc. Yes, brain can store words and process the same. Initially i believed all brains were same but now i believe the difference between individuals is actually because of brains and this again depends on the circumstances, environ, social structure etc.

Scientifically it is complex phenomenon how one can restore words, images, recollect and other things. I don't have perfect knowledge but still i want to learn it more. Thanks for your article.

Eshuneutics said...

word, WORD, and WoRd the same way.

Do you mean that we process each of these in the same way? I don't "read" these as the same. This is an interesting set of points on the nature of reading. You have stimulating thoughts! Happy New Year and happy NEW year and HAPPY new year to you.

J said...

Phew Mariana, I couldn't write a paper to a kindergarten, don't scare me with these ideas!

True though, I do want to produce some work of some kind in addition to endless web surfing.

Anonymous said...

I love your articles. They enlighten us so much. I find all topics related with language fascinating. I remember how I was amazed to learn about Chomsky's language acquisition theory.

Thank you for making things so clear in this text!

ANNA-LYS said...

I have no meaning to contribute with,
but, I wish You a Happy New Year, if that makes any sense? ;-)

(still a little bit ill)

Ruela said...

Happy New Year!

Harlequin said...

great post and wonderful comments.... what a fine experience it is not only to read your post but also to drink in all the insight and play from the comments. Jon and t 's work with words show how much of reading is contextual and whole/part/whole....
and on the getting stupider, Hubert Dreyfus has a new book out on learning and the internet.... and his stuff on learning is as pithy as it is controversial...hmmmm
thanks, as usual!!

Rinkly Rimes said...

How fascinating! Having taught little children to read I know how complex it is!

Dave King said...

Thanks for that, the whole subject of language is fascinating and ever-changing. I must confess that I did not know of the fusion theory.

Uncle Tree said...

Hello, Mariana! I'm sure you've heard the expression "take with a grain of salt", or take with a heavy dose of skepticism. Salt is fortified with iodine. I forget why. It probably tastes terrible by itself. My joke was in bad taste, too, perhaps.

I recently had to have my blood tested. Hypertension - once a year checkup.I take Enalapril daily.

Anyway, my sodium level was low. Doc said, "Cut back on fluids." So I did. Didn't help. Doc said, "Add salt to your diet, too." I did, and it was still low. I added even more salt, and the level came up a tad. (I was at 132, normal is 136) Doc said, "You need a physical." I said, "Oh, well. I'm broke. Can it wait 'till next year?"

He also mentioned that some cancers deplete your sodium. That's just what I wanted to hear. For now, I'll let it ride. I'm happier when I'm floating down the river of de Nile.

"Ye are the salt of the earth."
I guess I'm not. (in my flavorable opinion.)

On the bright side, we're celebrating Christmas today with my folks, and the rest of my family. I have but little to give. My time and my attention they can have, and I guess that's better than nothing.

Thanks for listening, Mariana.
Luvz and hugz to you!

kj said...

mariana, hahaha, i am a whiz at 'wheel of fortune' on television. do you have that show?
i am good at it because i know the words from their configurations, shapes of the phrases. i ususally figure out the whole before the pieces.

mariana, my friend, i have become aware of a problem i have with your blog. this is the problem: your comments are as interesting as your essays! so i never leave enough time to digest all this wonderful exchange of information.

but i am working on it.,...

happy happy new year, mariana. thank you very much for your friendship, which i treasure.


Anonymous said...

"Salt is fortified with iodine. I forget why."

But I do not forget!

As evidence in favour of the aquatic ape theory, we need a decent supply of iodine in order not to have retarded brains as is found in inland Africa sometimes, where seafood and salt is scarce.

Mariana Soffer said...

thank you very much, I wish you also a great one, and think that what you said regarding dawn is really cool and nice.

I am glad you found interesting stuff, I valorate your opinion very much.
Singing is a magical stuff.

I believe individuals has many similarities, wich I sometimes think of as universals in humanity, such as the wanting to be understood by others. We also have particularities, and we have kinds of people who are more alike (maybe due to a similar brain structure) that share more commonalities among them than with others.

I want to learn more about how we store, collect, and process things, it is amazing, I like researching about it. My pleasure that you read this.

Mariana Soffer said...

I do not think WOrds are exactly the same, I think that in a certain point of our processing they are treated as equals.

Happiness for you too and thank you very much, I like your funny style, it is refreshing for the mind.

Mariana Soffer said...

Lucy in the Sky:
I am happy you like them, indeed. I guessed you where interested in language issues because how well you write, and how you tell the things that you want.
I am learning linguistics but I have not been doing this for long, I am just starting to get some stuff.
It is a great compliment for me telling me that I am clear, it is one of the bests!

Mariana Soffer said...

But you meant to contribute anyway (bad joke).
I wish you a happy new year too. And I can tell you that for me it make sense, and pretty clearly.
Be well my friend!

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks my friend! wish you picture it well.

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks, I do also appreciate a lot my dear blogging friends, they teach me a lot with what they say, it is amazing sometimes how they enlighten me and make me understand.
Jon and t, are great! but you are as well.
Let me check that pal, I never heard what he said. Do you think it is worth it, or just controversial and with no enough insight?
Thanks to you my friend!

Mariana Soffer said...

Rinkly Rimes:
I completely agree, but sadly I do not have kids, neither I teach, but I am planning to do some observations on grown ups regarding learning language things. Please share the things you found that you consider interesting if you feel like it.

Mariana Soffer said...

Dave King:
My pleasure to share it with people like you. I also must confess I did not know many things till I started doing research and wanted to write some more about it.
Hugs for you my friend.

Mariana Soffer said...

Interesting fact, but I was thinking that the problem might be that they are malnourished, not just the salt deficit in itself. Just thinking, I might be wrong. Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

J said...

Mariana, according to this

which said that iodine deficiency can be a damaging thing in itself, and is more common away from the sea.

A little bit off topic, though you did make me wonder about the growth of the brain in earlier posts, and how it grew language areas- which must have gone together with nutritional factors to allow the growth.

(I was anon by mistake)

Rick said...

Hi Mariana, and again Happy New Year.

I thank you for this posting because it gives me something to think about. Sometimes I think that Heisenburg would love the study of language.

J said...

(However, I don't know how good a scientist the writer of that book is. I should be quiet until I know my facts.)

Uncle Tree said...

Thank you, Anonymous!

About 4 years ago, I read a book that attempted to explain the aquatic ape theory, although I don't remember any mention of iodine as a key, or as evidence in support of the theory. The theory itself seemed plausible to me, but I'm more gullible than I am scientific.

If dolphins did it, I can't see why it wouldn't have been possible for other mammals to have done the same. I imagine the theory has been thoroughly debunked by now, but I haven't felt the need to research it any further.

I am in no way related to the author, but his name made me pick up the book one day when I was browsing the library for a 'sign from God'. (I did say 'gullible', right?) Since I mentioned it, perhaps Mariana will allow me2 post it here.

"Beyond Supernature" (1988)
by Lyall Watson

which led me to:

"The Naked Ape" (1967)
Gregory Morris (zoologist)


Thank you, Mariana!

J said...

Dehaene gives some talk here, BTW Mariana

Andy Coffey said...

Wonderful Post Mariana,

And what a lovely community of thoughtful people who love you (and love to be loved by you.) Your hard to resist!

This subject of language was brought to my attention yesterday, as I lay down a wood floor, in one of my clients houses. As I happily worked (putting down wood floors is fairly fun, in the spectrum of carpentry duties) my pleasure was enhanced further by my Christmas present, a Kindle. And best of all, the Kindle had automatically that morning downloaded a New York Times: and it was Sunday! So I had the Kindle reading the Sunday times, more or less cover to cover (yes, the first time I'd ever done that!)
At some point, one of the articles began talking about language, and reading. It spoke about reading having only recently developed (it is thought) within the last few thousand years. Something in the brain changed to allow for it. And the shapes of the letters are frequently similar across many languages if you cross reference their meaning and appearance. There is even research across primates that seems to indicate that the shapes of our "physical sounds," our letters, have meaning, that endures throughout the primate line.
For me, reading is the ultimate private realm, which shows not only the depths to which our separate selves can dive, alone, but also when, on occasions such as your blog, we can share some of this arena, a fidelity and common purpose is fostered between us, that is much more difficult in our non lettered hours.
Thank you, Mariana.

Chrisy said...

So complex...I enjoy the way your mind works dear girl...

Harlequin said...

Mariana--- Dreyfus is definitely worth the read.... he has practically revolutionized research in cognitive sciences and learning over the past 20-30 years.... quite the character!

Ted Bagley said...

There is reading and then there is reading what is read.

Mariana Soffer said...

Uncle Tree
You are right, I heard it, but I did not make the connection, now it makes sense, I actually like the joke, I think I could made it myself actually, dough not in a second language, just let me try, probably I will seriously embarrass myself here, but I do not care: If your jokes do not taste good enough you can condiment them with complicated words so they wont be understood instead of being considered bad. (Yeah awful joke, it looks like I am drunk even dough I did t have a sip in almost 2 months).

Well I think I know why I am like this, it is because a couple days ago a friend's daughter died of cancer (sorry if I tell it to bluntly), so I guess that present’s me from thinking straight, besides I think it is such a coincidence you told me this almost at the same time, we are connected I guess.

Well, I try (if I where you) to take a decision and not think of that, whether you can do the test by getting a loan, don t do it, do only a part. Seriously try not to get trapped in your head, that can be an even worst torture than the pain you might get if you where sick indeed.

Changing the subject, I think you have a lot to give, you are an incredible guy, and I am sure people appreciate that and like to be around you. You are a very wise and talented guy.

Sorry for taking so long to reply, I think I will also email you so you can check my reply.

Mariana Soffer said...

I did watch it long time ago, the American version dough, we do not have one like that in Argentina right now, I guess we never did actually. Interesting how you figure things, I like to know how different people work inside their head, specially the people I care for and know something about.

I know you are right about the problem, I do not know what to do with that, actually suggestions are more than welcome, I thought sometimes about doing a summary of the replies, but I guess things will get lost, and I do not feel I can decide which ones are interesting and which ones are not. I get lost myself in trying to follow the whole thread.

Thank you very much for your amazing kindness, It makes me feel good and more relax (yes, it has that effect on my mind).

Happy new year for you, and the best of lucks!
(and by the way thanks a lot for your neat )

Mariana Soffer said...

Andy Coffey:
First of all thanks a lot for you nice words pal.
I remember that was your job, I think it is interesting, somehow I picture you in a kind of oriental practice doing that.
So you got a kindle, I thought about buying one so many times, but I never did in the end because I know I prefer paper more than screen, even dough I can not deny it is a much more practical device to carry information and that. So I end up printing lots of pages which end up being mixed up, unless I stapled them and I store them in my desktop, but I hardly reuse the printed copy because I can not find a proper way to order all the academic papers and other stuff.

Very interesting what you share about the article, I specially liked the theory related to the shape of our sounds, it is a completely new idea for me, thanks for sharing all of that, including your personal thoughts about reading, which are also very interesting for my mind.

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks you very much, that is really nice from you. But as I was telling KJ, I think I need to do something with this long commented post, cause they are getting confusing (kind of).
Cheers to you pal

Mariana Soffer said...

Ted Bagley
I like what you said, It is kind of a meta-action, the second one, which I kind of relate to the work I am doing now, Opinion mining, cause I try to automatically read what it is being read by the people about the post companies write.

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks a lot for the recommendation, I already downloaded several pdf with his work, one regarding skill acquisition, if computers can learn, and several others, for what I started reading it seems pretty need, thanks a lot for recommending!!

Mariana Soffer said...


Sorry guy's as you've seen some of your comments got trapped so I could not publish them before, such a pity.
It was a problem with the spam detector, it thought many of your posts where spam, my god I hate that.

Anyway I want to thank you hugely to all of you. And please recommendation are more than accepted for a better way of leading this amazing conversations and suggestions of yours.

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks a lot anyway for all that great info, I liked a lot the talk by the way, and do not worry about not knowing if the author is accurate, you just write about it anyway and do as you did, just warn us about that possibility. We all could be wrong anyway.
Take care and sorry due to my mixed posting of your comments.

Mariana Soffer said...

Uncle Tree:
Thanks a lot to you once again (during this day), you are more than welcome to post anything (only you dear uncle), you can email me if you want to, you can do as you prefer.
By the way it is interesting what you say, let me jump from one thing to another, I been reading lately about swarm intelligence, which is a way computers can "learn" that is based on the communities or groups of individuals way to function, a classical example would be an ant colony or a bee one. Also many marine specimens behave like that. I was fascinated by a book about an ant colony and another about a bee one. The way they transmit each other information, and the role they play in their swarm.

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks to you for participating here, anyway I was having doubts if you where referring to the guy of the uncertainty principles or if I misunderstood what you meant.
Hugs anyways

kj said...

mariana, i need your address again. send by email?

i am not giving hints. :)


Uncle Tree said...

Thank you for the advice, Mariana!

I do try to pay more attention to those things I can control, and not worry too much over what might, or possibly could happen. Life can be a crap shoot(gambling).

Sorry to hear about your friends daughter. Damn, that must be a rough situation for a mother to deal with. That is not an imagined problem, that's for certain.

Swarm intelligence sounds an awful lot like the idea Carl Jung had about a collective consciousness, of which you don't believe in, if I remember correctly.

Where does an individual begin? Where the collective leaves off. Those little bees would be nothing without their Queen. I wonder how that relates to human beings. "Mother boards"?

You got the joke right, sister. He-he.

Baffle them with bullshit, is how that goes. That is, if they cannot be convinced otherwise. I think I'm guilty of that, no doubt. Isn't that what fiction is all about?

And thank you for the kind compliments! I won't let them go to my head. Love you, too, sweet niece! Thanks for being a friend!

Mariana Soffer said...

KJ: You are incredible, here I go by email.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing to add further. Everyone has said everything! But....Ha! I am thinking about people who are born wothout ever hearing words/language and have no knowledge of such. Yes they think in pictures. Deaf Sign Language is very much pictures.For example..... to say a sentence in the English Language a Deaf person would probably only sign one or two words to incorporate the whole.Poetry is more visual than prose, I believe too.But isn't funny not a lot of Deaf people (born Deaf,(that I have been in contact with)write or read Poetry.
You have made me think again Mariana *dance*

geek said...

We really don't need to spell correctly, then? LOL..

It's an interesting read. I wonder how dyslexics would fit in this topic.

Mariana Soffer said...

I am happy you stepped by and I had managed somehow to make you think, maybe what you say about poetry is due to a lack of melody in the visualization, you need some kind of melody I guess not a musical one but the sounds generated by words kind. Well this has a much more to explore, but you did add some very valuable thought to be done and reflected upon.
By the way I was thinking that for deaf people language is not only visual but also movement, the too things are combined, you could say movement is visualization in time, but I am not so sure about that.
Thanks a lot my pal!

Mariana Soffer said...

My FRIEND, happy to hear from you, I meant to write, but soon you know what is going on with me cause I plan to post it, but probably surgery, that is why I have been away so long.
And it is true what you say about dislexics, failures in systems usually give us clues about how they work.
Hugs and love!

J said...

Mariana, mention of surgery sounds ominous. I won't poke my nose in but just to say I hope things will have a good outcome. I understand that good social vibes is good for healing so I hope you get as much good vibes as possible!

Anonymous said...

I think it is difficult to read sometimes. i stated to study I will read you bloggg. I learn more there. The teachers are full of shit. You are smarter then them i think. They always suld when I ask they sight. I ask a lot of wuestons. I always ask lots of questons I have to I learn olny if I ask wuestion.

foam said...

dn't kow if aynbdy psoetd tish arleady

but ..

Accdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. If you can raed tihs, psot it to yuor wlal. Olny 55% of plepoe can. Tahnkoyu =)

Mariana Soffer said...

Thanks a lot! you are a really kind mind, I am going to be perfect, I am not even afraid, no risky stuff

Mariana Soffer said...

Of course it can be, first there are many times when it is difficult to focus, either cause you have tons in your mind, cause you are not use to do it, cause you are depress, hyper and many other possible causes. I am glad you chose mine, thanks, dough I recommend you to skip the posts that are to difficult for you due to technicalities maybe like the one about opinion mining can result on many people.
Also thanks for the compliment regarding the teachers, I do not think smartness is the problem, is caring about what you do, being passionate and generous (related to wanting to share). But yes there is full of mediocre stuff in schools/teachers and so on, like any many other fields also.
I agree that to learn we all need to discover how we can do it for real, for me is a mix between practicing, writing about it and also, like you, asking about were to start with something and how to deal with the things I am stuck with. Feel free to ask, is a pleasure for me, the worst that might happen is that I might take some time to answer it, but maybe another visiting soul will do it in the meantime.

Mariana Soffer said...

Nice to hear from you dude.
Well at least you mastered the skill of shuffling the words good enough for poetry, that is a good start I think.
I could read it perfectly, great add to this post darling!

J said...

I just got round to reading the articles at the bottom of your post and I think there is some truth in saying that a lot of internet use affects the ability to read deeply long passages of text, that the brain starts to want to skim and link instead, and I have heard other people say the same thing too.

Mariana Soffer said...

I am glad you found that articles interesting, I still have lots of thinking to do about that subject, If you find some more interesting sources that talk about it please let me know.