Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

"The language of geometry: Fast comprehension of geometrical primitives and rules in human adults and preschoolers"

Abstract : During language processing, humans form complex embedded representations from sequential inputs. Here, we ask whether a " geometrical language " with recursive embedding also underlies the human ability to encode sequences of spatial locations. We introduce a novel paradigm in which subjects are exposed to a sequence of spatial locations on an octagon , and are asked to predict future locations. The sequences vary in complexity according to a well-defined language comprising elementary primitives and recursive rules. A detailed analysis of error patterns indicates that primitives of symmetry and rotation are spontaneously detected and used by adults, preschoolers, and adult members of an indigene group in the Amazon, the Munduruku, who have a restricted numerical and geometrical lexicon and limited access to schooling. Furthermore, subjects readily combine these geometrical primitives into hierarchically organized expressions. By evaluating a large set of such combinations , we obtained a first view of the language needed to account for the representation of visuospatial sequences in humans, and conclude that they encode visuospatial sequences by minimizing the complexity of the structured expressions that capture them. Author Summary The child's acquisition of language has been suggested to rely on the ability to build hierarchically structured representations from sequential inputs. Does a similar mechanism also underlie the acquisition of geometrical rules? Here, we introduce a learning situation in which human participants had to grasp simple spatial sequences and try to predict the next location. Sequences were generated according to a " geometrical language " endowed with simple primitives of symmetries and rotations, and combinatorial rules. Analyses of PLOS Computational Biology |
Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadata

Cited literature [67 references]  Display  Hide  Download
Contributor : Pierre Pica <>
Submitted on : Saturday, March 25, 2017 - 5:01:33 PM
Last modification on : Monday, July 12, 2021 - 1:24:02 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Monday, June 26, 2017 - 12:59:29 PM


Publication funded by an institution



Marie Amalric, Liping Wang, Pierre Pica, Santiago Figueira, Mariano Sigman, et al.. "The language of geometry: Fast comprehension of geometrical primitives and rules in human adults and preschoolers". PLoS Computational Biology, Public Library of Science, 2017, 75, pp.1 - 1. ⟨10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005273.s007⟩. ⟨halshs-01495585⟩



Record views


Files downloads