Pierre Pica: "Geometrical foundations of object classification"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Blåsenhus - Betty Pettersson Hall (14:031)
  • Organiser: Department of Psychology
  • Contact person: Gustaf Gredebäck
  • Seminarium

The General Seminar

(NB, new venue)

Gästprofessor Pierre Pica, UFRN, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, och CNRS, National Center for Scientific Research in Paris: "Geometrical foundations of object classification. The case of Mundurucu."

In recent work, ((Izard et al., 2011), Izard, Pica, and Spelke (Submitted)), we analyse the perceptual foundations of Euclidian geometry in humans. In particular, we examine the evidence for two types of geometries, one dealing with rigid objects, the second concerning non-rigid ones. In this talk, I would like to draw a parallel between the two geometries, and two types of classifiers found in the Mundurucu language, spoken by an indigenous population of the Amazon. We show that it is possible to divide objects into two categories: one dealing with flexible objects, the other dealing with rigid ones. We show that classifiers can be conceived as precursors of geometric entities and this surprising discovery can provide evidence for knowledge of geometry to be derived from knowledge of objects.

Professor Pica is a linguist currently working as a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). For many years, he has studied the Mundurucu, an indigenous people of Brazil living in the Amazon River basin. On site in the Amazon, he has studied both their language and its interaction with core cognitive abilities of counting and geometry. This research has led to several high impact publications in journals such as Science and PNAS.