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“Do the languages that we speak shape the way that we think?” LERA BORODITSKY’s TED Talk—viewed nearly 8 million times—explores how people view the world differently, based on their linguistic backgrounds. Boroditsky is a celebrated cognitive scientist and one of the “25 Visionaries Changing the World” (Utne). In her fascinating, playful, and richly detailed keynotes, she examines the timely overlap of language, intelligence, and human behavior.
Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human. Appreciating its role in constructing our mental lives brings us one step closer to understanding the very nature of humanity. — Lera Boroditsky
In her talks, speaker Lera Boroditsky leads audiences on a mind-expanding tour of human cognition, asking and answering the question of how we get so smart. “Language guides our reasoning,” says Boroditsky, an associate professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego. She previously served on the faculty at MIT and at Stanford, and is the Editor in Chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. The crux of her talks is to encourage audiences in thinking about how this knowledge of language applies to their own lives—from work culture, to habits of creativity and innovation, to how we parse our daily interactions with friends and strangers alike. Language affects how we understand each other interpersonally and collaboratively—the bridge from one mind to another. With dry wit and fun, memorable examples, Boroditsky teaches us to see that language, like intelligence, is a living thing “that we can hone and change to suit our needs.”
Boroditsky’s research, which combines aspects of linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology, has been covered in the popular press, and she is a sought-after keynote speaker at conferences, like TED, and for corporate and educational gatherings. She is also a Searle Scholar, a McDonnell scholar, recipient of an NSF Career award, and an APA Distinguished Scientist lecturer. She went to graduate school at Stanford University, where she obtained her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology.
There are about 7,000 languages in the world, all with different vocabularies, sounds, and alphabets—but how do these structural differences influence how we interpret the world? Studying these complex contrasts in human communication is the work of cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky. Understanding differences in how we think—through the lens of language—is a powerful tool to learn how we connect with one another, build communities, and share common experiences. In fun, memorable talks, Boroditsky shares stories—like an aboriginal tribe who uses directional orientation as a greeting, versus “hello”—that illuminate how languages are more than words to describe our surroundings: they actually change the way we think. How do languages evolving affect human evolution? And how is the digital age disrupting and reshaping those pathways? Boroditsky uncovers how better understanding language make us more creative, relatable, and fluent in conveying our intentions and ideas—and sharing our stories—with the incredibly diverse world around us.