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How Language Shapes the Way We Think | Lera Boroditsky (ep. 448)

Lera Boroditsky

John O’Leary welcomes cognitive scientist and award-winning researcher Lera Boroditsky to the Live Inspired Podcast to share how language shapes the way we think.

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?

Lera Boroditsky is a cognitive scientist recognized for studying how the languages we speak shape the way we think.

After emigrating to America from Belarus, Lera learned English and began to recognize how differences in languages can shape an argument and exaggerate the differences between others.

Today, Lera shares how people view the world differently, based on their linguistic backgrounds and how her research has provided influential insight in the fields of psychology, philosophy, and linguistics.

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  • During the fall of the Soviet Union, Lera + her parents left Belarus for Chicago.
  • The joy of thinking: Lera’s high school European History teacher led debates + helped students discuss complex topics. Lera noticed how often extremely important ideas that we base society around are negotiated in language.
  • Linguists Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker
  • Language can cause you to think in different ways because human language + their structures are so diverse.
  • Even the direction language is written makes a difference in how your brain organizes concepts and how you speak.
  • Watch Lera’s TED Talk here.


Did you enjoy hearing from a TED speaker? You’ll love our TED Speakers playlist. From happiness expert Shawn Achor to bestselling author Brené Brown, this playlist highlights the thinkers, doers and idea generators. Listen to the TED Speakers playlist now.


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  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
    A. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.
  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. Continuously be open to things being different than you think they are. Also, the lack of entitlement that I had when I came to America as a refugee from the Soviet Union.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. Nothing.
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?
    A. A completely random person from the future.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    A. Try to find the smartest people that you’re most scared of and go talk to them.
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
    A. Don't listen to older people.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?
    A. I’m just a human person curious how the world works.