Recursion is an umbrella term that is used to designate the process of embedding a structure within another structure of the same kind. This process enables the possibility to generate structures with infinite hierarchical levels using a finite set of rules.
Recursive structures have been claimed in visual art (Eglash, 1997), music (Jackendoff & Lerdahl, 2006; Lerdahl & Jackendoff, 1996), architecture (Eglash, 1998), humour (Eisenberg, 2008), second-order theory of mind (Miller, 2009), problem solving (Schiemenz, 2002), action sequencing (Pulvermüller & Fadiga, 2010), syntax (Karlsson, 2010; Mithun, 2010; Roeper, 2009), prosody (Hulst, 2010; Hunyady, 2010), and conceptual structure (Hofstadter, 2000; Picard et al., 2010). However, it is not known to what extent these structural properties are perceived as cognitive meaningful to observers in the different domains.
Language is the domain where the usage of recursion is more widespread (as in sentences such as ‘[I think that [he thinks the world is flat.]]’). This lead Hauser, Chomsky, & Fitch (2002) to propose that the usage of recursion in non-linguistic domains, such as in music and spatial perception, would be parasitic on language.
Our goals are
1) To investigate whether the usage of recursion in different domains (visual and auditory) activates brain areas associated with linguistic processing; and
2) To assess whether different domains recruit the same ‘recursion module’, or whether different modalities can recruit domain-specific resources to perform the same ‘recursive-type’ operation.