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Is Reduced Visual Processing the Price of Language?

Department of Linguistic, Literary, and Aesthetic Studies, University of Bergen, 5007 Bergen, Norway
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Baingio Pinna and Amedeo D’Angiulli
Brain Sci. 2022, 12(6), 771;
Received: 9 May 2022 / Revised: 6 June 2022 / Accepted: 8 June 2022 / Published: 12 June 2022
We suggest a later timeline for full language capabilities in Homo sapiens, placing the emergence of language over 200,000 years after the emergence of our species. The late Paleolithic period saw several significant changes. Homo sapiens became more gracile and gradually lost significant brain volumes. Detailed realistic cave paintings disappeared completely, and iconic/symbolic ones appeared at other sites. This may indicate a shift in perceptual abilities, away from an accurate perception of the present. Language in modern humans interact with vision. One example is the McGurk effect. Studies show that artistic abilities may improve when language-related brain areas are damaged or temporarily knocked out. Language relies on many pre-existing non-linguistic functions. We suggest that an overwhelming flow of perceptual information, vision, in particular, was an obstacle to language, as is sometimes implied in autism with relative language impairment. We systematically review the recent research literature investigating the relationship between language and perception. We see homologues of language-relevant brain functions predating language. Recent findings show brain lateralization for communicative gestures in other primates without language, supporting the idea that a language-ready brain may be overwhelmed by raw perception, thus blocking overt language from evolving. We find support in converging evidence for a change in neural organization away from raw perception, thus pushing the emergence of language closer in time. A recent origin of language makes it possible to investigate the genetic origins of language. View Full-Text
Keywords: language origins; language evolution; perception; vision; cognition; recidation; self-domestication; cave art language origins; language evolution; perception; vision; cognition; recidation; self-domestication; cave art
MDPI and ACS Style

Johansson, C.; Folgerø, P.O. Is Reduced Visual Processing the Price of Language? Brain Sci. 2022, 12, 771.

AMA Style

Johansson C, Folgerø PO. Is Reduced Visual Processing the Price of Language? Brain Sciences. 2022; 12(6):771.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Johansson, Christer, and Per O. Folgerø. 2022. "Is Reduced Visual Processing the Price of Language?" Brain Sciences 12, no. 6: 771.

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