By Bermudez J.L.

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Chomsky’s approach to linguistics exploits the concept of information in a very different way. His Syntactic Structures pointed linguists towards the idea that speaking and understanding natural languages depends upon information about sentence 24 The prehistory of cognitive science structure – about the basic rules that govern the surface structure of sentences and about the basic transformation principles that underlie the deep structure of sentences. In the work of the psychologists Miller and Broadbent we find the concept of information appearing in yet another form.

These information channels can only process around seven items at the same time (or, to put it in the language of information theory, their channel capacity is around 3 bits; since each bit allows the system to discriminate 2 pieces of information, n bits of information allow the system to discriminate 2n pieces of information and 7 is just under 2 3). At the same time as identifying these limits, Miller identified ways of working round them. One way of increasing the channel capacity is to chunk information.

The subjects were asked to report the stimuli in any order. Broadbent found that they performed best when they reported the stimuli ear by ear – that is, by reporting all three presented to the left ear first, followed by the three presented to the right ear. This, and other findings, were explained by the model that he subsequently developed. 6. Information comes through the senses and passes through a short-term store before passing through a selective filter. The selective filter screens out a large portion of the incoming information, selecting some of it for further processing.

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