English Subtitles for What If You Were Never Taught Anything?

Subtitles / Closed Captions - English

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At a young age, children begin to understand the world around them through observational learning -- where young children observe the actions of others and mimic them. In a famous study, called the Bobo Doll Experiment, children observed adults both verbally and physically abusing a doll. Later, when the adults were not present, the children who saw the aggressive behavior reacted similarly.

So, it’s clear that observation facilitates learning. But what if you didn’t have anything to observe, or anyone to teach you? In other words, what if you were never taught anything? To begin, let’s discuss what if would be like if you were missing something as fundamental as language. Understandably, this is a tricky thing to study because, ya know, it’s incredibly

immoral to isolate a person for the sake of scientific research. But sometimes, due to horrible circumstances, scientists are able to study the brains of children who have been raised with little to no human contact. And the most famous of these feral children is Genie Wiley. Genie spent the first 13 years of her life locked away in a small bedroom in her parents’ home.

In 1970, her parents were charged with child abuse and Genie began rehabilitation with a team of psychologists and linguists. There, she was taught words and became very intrigued with the world around her. And scientists were using her experiences to answer the following question: if a person is deprived of language throughout their childhood, can they ever learn enough to be able to communicate well?

At first, the answer appeared to be yes. Genie quickly began to learn new words for the objects around her and even say phrases with two or three words similar to how toddlers speak. However, from there, her ability to communicate verbally plateaued. This is because she could not learn grammar, which linguist Noam Chomsky believes separates human language from the communication of animals.

It appeared that Genie had passed the critical period of learning human language, which is thought to end around puberty. Scientists have hypothesized that, after a restricted developmental period where the nervous system is particularly sensitive to the effects of a certain experience, in this case, language, it is nearly impossible to learn it. And the same effects have also been shown when learning sign language after the critical

period. You know the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” You can think of that as the dog passing its critical period for learning new actions. Now, you’re probably wondering why there is a critical period in the first place. According to Eric Lenneberg, the linguist who popularized the critical period hypothesis, the function of language tends to settle in the left hemisphere of the brain after the

critical period. And it’s thought that the brain loses some of its plasticity after this lateralization. So, if you haven’t learned language until after this point, it may be harder for your brain to learn the new material. And sadly for Genie, she was already past that point. However, while Genie would never be able to effectively use language, she was able to

quickly learn other things, such as how to use the toilet and dress herself. And she was also incredibly fascinated by the world around her. So maybe there is still some hope for those who have never been taught anything. Language may have a critical period, but some actions may still be possible to learn through observation no matter the age they’re introduced. Is there anything else you think you only have so long to learn?

Let me know in the comments below! Quick reminder that Life Noggin now has a channel that focuses entirely on the science of video games! Is the time travel in Overwatch possible? Check out Play Noggin! Make sure you come back every Monday for a brand new video.

As always, I’m Blocko and this has been Life Noggin. Don’t forget to keep on thinking!

Video Description

Education is essential, but what would happen if you never learned anything?

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