Louder Than Words

  • by Benjamin K. Bergen
  • Narrated by Benjamin K. Bergen
  • 8 hrs and 1 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Whether it’s brusque, convincing, fraught with emotion, or dripping with innuendo, language is fundamentally a tool for conveying meaning - a uniquely human magic trick in which you vibrate your vocal cords to make your innermost thoughts pop up in someone else’s mind. You can use it to talk about all sorts of things - from your new labradoodle puppy to the expansive gardens at Versailles, from Roger Federer’s backhand to things that don’t exist at all, like flying pigs.
And when you talk, your listener fills in lots of details you didn’t mention - the curliness of the dog’s fur or the vast statuary on the grounds of the French palace. What’s the trick behind this magic? How does meaning work? In Louder than Words, cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen draws together a decade’s worth of research in psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience to offer a new theory of how our minds make meaning. When we hear words and sentences, Bergen contends, we engage the parts of our brain that we use for perception and action, repurposing these evolutionarily older networks to create simulations in our minds. These embodied simulations, as they're called, are what makes it possible for us to become better baseball players by merely visualizing a well-executed swing; what allows us to remember which cupboard the diapers are in without looking, and what makes it so hard to talk on a cell phone while we’re driving on the highway. Meaning is more than just knowing definitions of words, as others have previously argued. In understanding language, our brains engage in a creative process of constructing rich mental worlds in which we see, hear, feel, and act. Through whimsical examples and ingenious experiments, Bergen leads us on a virtual tour of the new science of embodied cognition. A brilliant account of our human capacity to understand language, Louder than Words will profoundly change how you read, speak, and listen.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Outstanding exploration of the origins of meaning

Another great example of the benefits of reading your own book, Benjamin Bergen explores an amazingly complex and convoluted topic in clear and simple terms that anyone can understand. His passion for the topic is plain for all to see and his depth of knowledge of relevant literature is impressive. As a lifelong addict of meaning, I am a natural place for Bemjamin's thesis to receive an enthusiastic listen but I suspect most people with even a passing interest in how we communicate and make sense of our respective worlds will find this a highly rewarding purchase. Thankyou, Benjamin, for the extraordinarily focused effort that must have gone into writing this book!
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- Nigel

Fun But Technical--Glad I Got It On Sale

It was my fault--I'm the kind of doe-eyed dreamer who stares at clouds and sees not sheep but turtles smoking cigars whilst teetering on balancing balls. I guess I thought this book, "Louder Than Words" would have more whimsy on why we give meanings like this to the world around us.
Don't get me wrong. It's a fun book and is filled with wonderful examples at the beginning of each chapter designed to get you to really delve into the concepts to be delivered. It's just that all of that is then followed by verrrry technical and involved studies. Verrrry interesting but holy cow! You'd better have the proverbial "thinking cap" on; you know, the one your fifth-grade teacher always told you to put on because she was about to say something beyond you. Here, you'll hear about "embodied simulation" and neuron bonds. Things of that ilk.
As a writer, I found it fascinating: Who doesn't need to know about how to get the most out of your words? About how to get the most out of your projected imagery? Meaning is key. As a reader, it made me think about how we all parse together words and fit them into neat little bundles of cognitive reality. As a layman, it had me inspired but scratching my head at times 'cause a lot of it is fairly ingenious studying.
It's not all technical, and it's all framed well. I appreciated the humor too. A sloth on quaaludes?!? You've got me hooked because that bit of imagery? I can bring a WHOLE LOT of meaning to that right there.
Very fun, but I'm glad I didn't spend a whole credit on something that was a bit more technical than my whimsical cloud-gazing mind was expecting...!
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- Gillian

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-02-2014
  • Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC