The Semantic Differential
In many adults, the verbal semantic mechanism is so dominant, the earlier modes of representation of meaning so unavailable to introspection, that long-term memory of events before the 7th or 8th year of life is limited to a few fleeting instances involving strong emotional impact or poignancy, such as starting school or a Christmas memory. This is suppression of long-term memory in addition to that of traumatic or 'unexperienced' experience. The latter problem suppresses to a large extent the first, emotional phase of development - memories before the age of three. The suppression we are considering here is of the second, descriptive phase of development.
Inner and outer speech develop in ways that are complementary but different. Outer speech becomes richer, more detailed and follows more closely to the ideal model of the language. Inner speech becomes less and less complete. Parts of words and even entire words disappear and words are elides (mixed) into one another - inner speech becomes telegrammatic. With maturity comes a point where inner and outer speech have become separate languages with different syntax. Transfer from inner to outer speech poses many of the same problems as translation between two languages.
In people who are creatively fluent, especially fictional authors, the social/associative model of descriptive language is still available to introspection, consequently the translation from inner to outer speech is fascile. These people often experience spontaneous flashbacks to early childhood that are so vivid as to constitute an active reliving. As such, by providing a route back to the feeling Self, these are peak experiences leading to a greater integration of the mind and body.
One route to healing the split between mind and body is to recall with sufficient detail, a period of childhood in which you were a body-mind. The important period is between 3 - 6 years of age. Before three, you were much more a body than a body-mind - like an animal, the cortex as yet having only a limited role to play.
The meanings of words during the middle phase of language development are represented in the mind as an aggregate of subjective responses. That is, meanings are defined in terms of their position on a continuum between polar adjectives, such as 'Good - Bad', or 'Kind - Unkind', and so on. So they are 'felt' meanings, defined not by other words but in terms of the subjective experience of these qualities.
There are three main dimensions within which these subjective 'semantic differentials' can be classified:
- Evaluation (e.g. Good/Bad, Kind/Unkind, Beautiful/Ugly, Happy/Sad)
- Potency (e.g. Strong/Weak, Large/Small, Heavy/Light, Deep/Shallow)
- Activity (e.g. Active/Passive, Fast/Slow, Hot/Cold, Noisy/Quiet)
Any word can be rated on a scale from 1 - 7 in relation to one of the polarity adjectives. Thus 'soldier' may be rated as +2 Good, +7 Strong and +7 Active; whereas a 'sheep' may be rated +3 Good, only +1 Strong and +3 Active.
If one considers evaluative scales to be one dimension, potency scales a second, and activity scales a third, the three dimensions make up a semantic space. By semantic differentiation, then, we mean the successive allocation of a concept to a point in the multi-dimensional semantic space, by selection from among a set of scaled semantic alternatives. Difference in the meaning between two concepts is then the difference in their respective allocations within the semantic space.
To apply the Semantic Differential, a profile of a word is made using 21 Scales (see below), each defined by polar adjectives. The method is to attribute the qualities of a given word on a seven-point scale (from +1 to +7) towards the adjective in the right column. So, for example, +1 Good would represent 'definitely not good, i.e. bad', and +7 Good would represent 'extremely good'.
Each of the words on the following Word List should be defined on this basis. The words are not designed to be stimulating 'buttons', but are intended to give practice in the Semantic Differential technique.
Further words may be added to this List; to define a thousand words by this technique will bring about a considerable rehabilitation of the encoding mechanism of the brain (making it a better tool for you to use), as well as enhancing long-term recall and mental imagery. With practice you can change from the 7-point scale to a 9-point scale, and then to an 11-point scale, to further enhance your ability to differentiate.
THE SEMANTIC DIFFERENTIAL
|Evaluation -||+1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7||Evaluation +|
|Bad||— — — — — — —||Good|
|Cruel||— — — — — — —||Kind|
|Ugly||— — — — — — —||Beautiful|
|Sad||— — — — — — —||Happy|
|Negative||— — — — — — —||Positive|
|Unpleasant||— — — — — — —||Pleasant|
|Worthless||— — — — — — —||Valuable|
|Potency -||+1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7||Potency +|
|Weak||— — — — — — —||Strong|
|Small||— — — — — — —||Large|
|Soft||— — — — — — —||Hard|
|Light||— — — — — — —||Heavy|
|Shallow||— — — — — — —||Deep|
|Submissive||— — — — — — —||Assertive|
|Simple||— — — — — — —||Complex|
|Activity -||+1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7||Activity +|
|Passive||— — — — — — —||Active|
|Relaxed||— — — — — — —||Tense|
|Slow||— — — — — — —||Fast|
|Cold||— — — — — — —||Hot|
|Quiet||— — — — — — —||Noisy|
|Dim||— — — — — — —||Bright|
|Rounded||— — — — — — —||Angular|
The following attributes may also be discerned:
- Towards you or away from you?
- Location? (Above, below, behind, in front, left, right? Near/far?)
Move on to Awareness Exercises
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