On Processing Language

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by nycphotography, Nov 2, 2005.

  1. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    Unfortunately, I don’t know 3 words of French, so this discourse is going to be in English. I apologize.

    The discussion on the surface is about "procès d'intention", or the "assumption of unstated motives."

    But underneath, it's really about a subject that I have spent years studying, and for which I have built my own model that illustrates and diagrams it in great detail. (Honest. It's 37 a page document.)

    The subject is psychology and identity. I'll limit this discussion to the parts of it that apply directly to learned communication patterns.

    While the entire model is quite complex, I'm going to strip it down (as much as possible) to just the parts that are relevant to this concept (namely assigning intent to words and then proceeding to act based on it). Realize that this will probaby leave gaping holes, but try to consider that the complete model does address them.

    We all have some core identity which we have adopted, either consciously, or unconsciously, the various elements of which we have varying degrees of comfort or satisfaction.

    We also have all learned to process the world around us through our incredible biological brain, which just happen to be 100% pure pattern processing devices.

    We consciously concoct our theories (about any everything), and by trial an error we verify or contradict them through our experiences.

    When communicating as a presenter, we create a message from a set of abstract concepts that are passed automatically through a very complex set of (learned) output patterns where it is then turned into some presentation of the abstract concepts. Whether that presentation is a sentence, a scream, an expression, or whatever. We depend on and expect our output patterns to reliably package our concepts into a message, but they are by definition unable to convey the message perfectly to all recipients all the time. Note that this presentation is built using our own, ahem, "funny notions" about the good and bad connotations of every aspect of the presentation.

    When we receive those messages, they are passed through a very complex (learned) input filter (patterns) where they are abstracted into the conceptual messages that we actually perceive. Note that due to this abstraction process, we never truly perceive anything as it really is in total. We can only perceive some part of it (um, I think Kant expanded on this). Note that this perception is built using our own, ahem, "funny notions" about the good and bad connotation of every aspect of the message.

    Further note that no two people will ever have exactly identical sets of "funny notions". More importantly, there are many major groups of similar "funny notions" which are shared by people with similar interests and experiences (set theory w/ millions of sets and intersections of sets). Our own "funny notions" are really learned patterns for interpreting the world around us, and are part of our individual identities, which are as unique as our fingerprints.

    So our brain instantly categorizes (filters using set based distinctions) things to give us an approximation of reality.

    Oops, I forgot to mention that based on our own "funny notions", some messages cause discomfort. So, our brain tries to help us out by sorting those messages into sets that will cause comfort and avoid sorting them into the sets that cause discomfort (based on the mechanics of Biological learning systems).

    Hmm. It's a miracle we're able to communicate at all!

    Anyhow, now we have interpreted some abstracted version of some communication that someone issued for some purpose. At this point, we have two choices... seek more information, or act based on what we have.

    Academics tend to do the former endlessly. Activists (and other TRUE BELIEVERS) tend to do the latter instantly. And most of us just try to get to the latter with as few iterations of the former as possible (with the real knack being in how to know when we know enough to proceed).

    But the simple fact is that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY that we can consciously process each and every detail we receive, no matter how long we keep looking. Consider: How many "details" must your brain process simply to stay standing? commands to muscles, signals from nerves, inner ear, visual signals... all done automatically in the background.

    Well guess what... "Autopilot" is how we process everything we do!!! Ok, its actually ALMOST everything, but the almost is so near to all as to be worth omitting just for effect.

    So when we assign motive to someone based on what they say, we are doing so automatically and subconsciously, based on thousands of learned patterns. Examples that come quickly to mind: What do people usually mean when they speak in the 3rd person? What do people usually mean when they use the word "yada"? What do I already know about this person? What do I know about other people who, like person, are in set XYZ? And so on.

    And so the brain, automatically, and without asking for permission, fills in the blanks.

    It's human. It's unavoidable. And in fact, its the best thing about our brain. Can you imagine driving your car if our brain worked any other way?

    So the question isn't really whether its good or bad to assume the intent behind the words. We all HAVE to do that, just to communicate in the first place. The only real question is "how ACCURATE are your/someone’s assumptions, and what are you/they actively doing to make them MORE accurate."

    Prejudice itself is not a bad thing. In fact, its the best thing there is (because without it we simply could not exist).

    Blind prejudice, however, is truly evil. In fact, its the worst thing there is (because it fully stops further learning).

    And in the end, the amount of illumination to bring to something all boils down to a value judgment: Is it worth it (in terms of the scarce resources I am managing) to dig/explain/argue/explore further (which is also based on one of our "funny notions". Some people are more interested/willing than others.)

    Sorry if the long message was overwhelming, but I think this all very much addresses how we "process the intentions". ;)

    And by the way, in America, we say someone's "knee jerked too fast" when they jump to conclusions, or assume faulty intent.
  2. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I think I remember a (humorous) text which was related to this subject. I'm trying to get it. If I find it, I'll try and translate it and post it here (just 10 short sentences). I think the subject of the text I'm referring to is more or less :
    For the time being, I'll have to read your post again and again to be able to comment. :)
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    So that's what happens.

    I speak as a seasoned observer of human behaviour in group situations.

    Watching "experts" think they understand what someone else is going to say, and closing their minds to what they are "actually" saying, then responding based entirely on what they "knew" was going to be said, and not what was "actually" said.

    The result is two groups of people arguing vociferously that black crows are black, and disagreeing on every point.

    The cleverer the experts need to be, the more closed their minds will be to the possibility that they might be mistaken.

    So, doctors, lawyers and academics are the worst.

    Retiring into deep thought.
  4. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I've found it at last. Here it goes
    Source : l'Encyclopédie du savoir relatif et absolu, by Edmond Wells (which is really a character from Bernard Werber's - French writer - novels)

    Attempted translation :
    If you add what I think, what I mean, what I think I'm saying, what I'm actually saying, what you want to hear, what you think you're hearing, what you're actually hearing, what you want to understand, what you think you understand, what you actually understand, there are ten possibilities for us to have difficulties to communicate. But let's try all the same...
  5. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    Hey, thats exactly on point. Thank you for posting it.

    It seems the entire subject is one big yawn to most. Why do you think interest is so low?
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I guess that it takes a particularly eccentric and analytical observer to wonder about this question - and probably even more eccentricity to want to read about it.

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