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Verbal Meaasges And Myths Essay, Research Paper

Verbal Messages and Myths Sapir Whorf hypothesis General Semantics The meaning of meaning [Activity] Q. What were the key components of Shannon & Weaver’s information theory that were discussed last week? Myths Communication is a panacea Communication improvement is not the magical answer to everything. Sometimes it is. But there are some situations where it isn’t. For example, in a relationship where a woman is getting abused, ending the relationship is probably the best course of action. Trying to listen more empathetically to his excuses for treating her bad may simply just nurture the illusion that this relationship is worth maintaining. Similarly, sometimes more communication aggravates differences between people and expose qualities in others that we may find unappealing. Communication is a tool In the hands of someone skill it can be very advantageous and can be used to help solve many problems. It is not however an end in itself. It is merely a means to an end. So will communication solve all your problems? No because not all problems are communication based. Communication can breakdown. I don’t believe that this conveys the right meaning. Yes it is true we don’t always receive messages the way they were intended, nor do we always achieve our goals. And a failure to achieve our goals may even occur when communication between the parties is exemplary. [Segment from Cool Hand Luke] Is this a failure to communicate? I believe that what we have here is not a failure to communicate, rather is is defiance of an oppressive authority. The warden has not achieved his goal, namely to force Luke to conform to his prison rules. Luke’s act of defiance is a test of wills and a rejection of the warden’s power not a communication breakdown. We sometimes draw the mistaken conclusion that disagreement constitutes a communication breakdown. I may understand your message perfectly but simply dislike what I am hearing. In this case, what we have is a difference of opinion not a communication breakdown. Communication encompasses a set specific skills The skills orientation to communication assumes that if we learn a few magical things then we will be better communicators. Who agrees? Who thinks the story is a croc? [The golfing gorilla story] Communication does not exist in a vacuum. Learning how to express your feelings might be a useful skill in some instances. Expressing any feelings uncritically no matter how hurtful, shocking or self-indulgent is the act of a petulant child not a mature adult. Communication is also about being critical of all factors in the communication process. It is much more than learning just skills. Skills knowledge needs to be imbedded in knowledge of the whole thing, the game if it is to be truly useful. The study of verbal messages are usually divided into 3 disciplines: 1.Syntactics 2.Semantics 3.Pragmatics Syntactics investigates the relationship between words. Semantics has to do with the relationship between a word and its referent. What does the word mean? Two kinds of meanings are then looked at:- Denotation – the direction in which the word points and connotation – the texture or emotional tone that goes with it. Pragmatics focus on the effect of the message the relationship of words to behaviour. Today, we are going to look at semantics and pragmatics in more detail. Information theory is a syntactic theory. The meaning of meaning is a semantics theory. The coordinated management of meaning is a pragmatics theory. Taking a step back: Definition Communication is a systematic process in which individuals interact with and through symbols to create and interpret meanings. Process – change, motion Systematic meaning that it involves a group of interrelated parts that affect one another. Symbols are abstract, arbitrary and ambiguous representatives of other things. Human communication involves individuals who use symbols to interact with themselves and each other. Meanings are perhaps the heart of communication. Meanings are not intrinsic, they are created. We construct meaning by working out what is represented by the symbol. Playstation General Semantics Richard’s theory of meaning of meaning is a theory that falls into the category of semantics. Semantics is the branch of linguistics (the study of language) that is concerned with meaning and the connotations of words. Semanticists have the goal of improving everyday communication by discovering ways in which words distort, obscure, and complicate understanding between people. They believe that understanding what acts as a source for misunderstanding and miscommunication then allows for developing strategies for avoiding or correcting and in turn improving communication. So semanticists put forward a series of ideas about language and propose remedies for misunderstanding. A cat hissing is a signal of anger and warning of possible attack. Red berries are often a signal that a plant is poisonous. Lightening is a signal of thunder. In each of these (hissing, red berries and lightening) is directly related to what they represent. A clear relationship exists between signals and their referents and the meanings tend to be clear, unvarying and unambiguous. General semanticists promote the belief that symbols are different from signals. Symbols such as words, art & music have no direct or natural relationship with what they represent. Symbols are arbitrary ways of representing reality. E.g. terms from Full Monty … what does “the full monty” mean? Doing the Monte Carlo, a complete breakfast of beans, toast, eggs, bacon & sausages, doing something to extremes, going all the way & getting ya gear off. Symbols are abstract because they are not concrete or tangible. They stand for ideas, people, situations but they are not themselves the concrete ideas, people or situations. They are imperfect, partial ways of designating the raw reality of experience. Symbols are also ambiguous because their meanings are unclear and variable. The symbol or word can mean two different things when used in a different context. For example – I love you, I love beer, I love this pair of shoes. Try this: Write your definitions for each of the following words: 1.Marriage 2.Faith 3.Prejudice 4.Feminist 5.Welfare 6.Affirmative action Compare your definitions with the people around you. How do your meanings differ? These three properties of symbols (arbitrariness, ambiguity + abstractness) explain the potential for misunderstandings when we use words to communicate. Richard’s meaning of meaning Richard’s uses the semantic triangle to illustrate the arbitrary and indirect relationship between words and their referents. Notice that the line between the symbol “cat” and the actual referent of a particular cat is dotted to indicate that the two are only indirectly related. There is no natural absolute connection between the symbol and the referent. Symbols are connected to referents only by indirect, agreed on conventions of how to use words. So all of this leads to the popular communication axiom: meanings are in people, not words. Richards (1936) argues that the key to understanding (and misunderstanding) is CONTEXT because the meanings change as symbols move from one context to another. For Richards, context is a very broad concept. Context refers to more than specific sentences or communication situations. It also includes thoughts and feelings that we have in a situation, history between communicators, the relationship within which the communication takes place and so forth. Context – is then the entire field of experience that is related to communication. To complicate matters further, each person has his or her unique field of experience that gives rise to personal meanings. Perhaps you have personal experiences about being fooled by language by relying on what you think the word or symbol means without checking the context. Marketing of a milkshake to the diet conscious. No actual difference between the two. The name however influenced sales. Skinny Shakes vs. milkshakes What are some remedies for miscommunication? A number of practical techniques for improving the clarity of communication have been generated. 1. Adopting an extensional orientation This means observing and paying attention to objective particulars that distinguish phenomena from one another. This allows us to ground meanings in observation, facts, and actual referents rather than in abstract language and personal fields of experience. Five other are: Indexing Definitions Etc Metaphor Feed forward Indexing Misunderstandings often occur because people use symbols in a fixed unchanging manner when the reality is that things have changed. My grandparents are a good example of this idea. I don’t know if this is your experience too, but I get Christmas presents that I would have liked when I was 12 or 15 years old. They seem to be caught in a time warp and fail to see me as being different to how I am now. Their reference to Virginia is who I was at 12 or 15 rather than who I am now. To remedy the fixity of symbols, general semanticists recommend that we index terms to specific dates, situations and so forth. Virginia (at 12) liked soft toys and chocolate for Christmas, but Virginia (at 20 something) likes gold, champagne and house renovation items for Christmas. Similarly we could use social situations. Virginia (socially) is outgoing, vivacious, loud and silly, but Virginia (at work) is professional, & comparatively quiet. Indexing terms is a way to remind ourselves that meanings vary and change across time and circumstances. Definitions Definitions act as symbol substitutions. They are words used in place of another word to explain the thought in a person’s mind. Richard’s considers that definitions act to describe ideas in people’s heads rather than to define a truth that is “out there”. Try this: Write down what you consider love to be. We will compare this definition. The remedy recommended is to remember that it is never sage to assume that what you think is what is meant and that you should make extra efforts to secure the “facts” by asking more questions or by seeking clarification. Etc Another recommendation from the general semanticists is that we constantly remind ourselves that symbols are abstract and that they don’t capture all of the referent that they attempt to represent. To remind ourselves of the incompleteness of symbols they suggest using the term etc, continuously. For example: I met an understanding person, etc. Gee, that was awesome, etc. Metaphor Richard’s believed that language is metaphoric, considering it almost impossible to speak more than a few sentences without using a figure of speech. Metaphors are the very stuff of language because we think in pictures. The very successful Pictionary-Hoyts campaign was based on the use of metaphor. Metaphors are created when we pull out 2 dissimilar pictures and put them together. Richard’s suggests that using metaphors is a powerful way to share what you mean. Sometimes the use of metaphor fails but it seems that the greater the apparent contradiction between the images, the faster the arrow or metaphor will fly when released. What did I mean when I coined this metaphor? I am tired of people pissing against the wall and call it a painting. How about this one? You could direct us like an orchestra rather than standing up alone and beating your drum. [Give out metaphor handout] Feed forward Information theory told us that feedback is the effect of the receiver on the source. Feed forward works in the opposite direction. It is the anticipatory process of acting as our own first receiver so that we can pretest the impact of our words on the audience. The idea here is that if we are more careful in planning communication then perhaps we will have fewer misunderstandings that require repairing. General semantics is no longer a really dominant theory. Its heyday was the 1920s to 1940s and since then it hasn’t received much attention. This is somewhat surprising as many of the basic ideas inform current theory and teaching. Try this: Given the endurance of some of the concepts that general semanticists developed, why has the theory not stood the test of time? 1.To simplistic – not practical in real life, advises quick easy fix for highly complex situations. 2.Misrepresents the character of symbols and language – general semantics views language as representing the world or a concrete reality. Thus theorists who adopt this perspective seem to suggest that all language does is represent what already exists. The counter argument here is that language is not only representational, that it is also presentational. In other words, that language doesn’t reflects reality it creates the reality which we believe. This view is embodied in the Sapir Whorf hypothesis and it suggests that language structures , our perception of reality. [Show Sapir Whorf hypothesis cartoon links to the chicken & the egg story] Representational – reality is represented and reflected in our language. Sapir Whorf – language structures our perception of reality. The structure of a cultures language shapes what people think and do. That is that the “real world” is generated, constructed around the language of a group. [Presentational] Sapir Whorf’s theory of linguistic relativity counters the assumption that all languages are similar and that words merely act as neutral vehicles to carry meaning. Symbols – the unique capacity to communicate and we can talk ourselves into trouble. 3.Lacks Applied Value – because meaning often isn’t based on concrete material or phenomena, it isn’t always possible to follow the advice given by the general semanticists. Pearce & Cronen’s CMM

Coordinated management of meaning theory (CMM) is not an easy theory to explain in a concise manner. This one is exceedingly difficult to summarise. I’m going to give it a go but I seriously recommend that you do some out of class reading on this one. Especially since it is also a little confusing as the authors themselves are still trying to get it right. So I am working from the perspective that you have either read the article in the 2nd edition or Ch. 6 in the 3rd edition or that you will do so. CMM theory comes from the perspective that as people try to make sense of their world, they act on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to events. Person in conversation co-construct their own social realities. Okay, so far this isn’t startling new news. The next point raised is that the individual interpretations of people may not coincide. So communication failures are inability of the parties to mesh their disparate interpretations. Pearce and Cronen challenge the cause – effect language of behavioural scientists and borrow ideas and terms from linguistics, philosophy and interpretive psychology. CMM is again a type of umbrella theory. It paved the way for a number of other theories. Today, many theorists hold that the join use of language creates, shapes and limits the diverse social world which is our reality. CMM is perhaps the most comprehensive statement of social construction and because of this I felt it was important for us to give it some time. This theory is a challenge of the information transmission model of communication which we looked at last week. CMM is a humanistic theory. Information theory CMM Quest for knowledge Exercise of curiosity Social world as singular Social world as plural Spectator knowledge Participant knowledge One looks from the outside in, the other from the inside at the inside. Covering the skeleton of the theory. CMM suggests that coherence is achieved via a hierarchy of meanings that provide multiple frames of reference. That rules form and are applied to the interpretation, sense-making process. That things don’t always run smoothly like anticipated which leads to mystery. Conflict is the result of a cycle based on unwanted repetitive patterns. 1.The experience of persons in conversation is the primary social process of human life (Talking / conversing is everything). 2.Persons in conversation are engaged n language games – (Wittgenstein calls this word playing). Language is the single most powerful tool that humans have invented for the creation of social worlds. 3.Persons communication are acting in a context, working out hoe to get on in life. Communication is action. We are not just talking about the world, we are participating in the world. 4.The actions of person in conversation are reflexively reproduced a the dialogue continues. Actions bounce back and affect us. [Show Eschers picture - Bond of Union. Transformation.] We tell stories but stories are not just our lives they are an attempt to achieve meaning or coherence in life and they are the ways that we try to coordinate our lives with others. Pearce and Cronen try to define the scope of these stories while acknowledging that the stories we tell are open to many interpretations. CMM – speech acts, episodes, relationships, self-concept, culture Speech acts only make sense when they are considered within the multiple contexts or frames of specific episodes, the relationship, self-identity and culture. These 4 frames shape and are shaped by what is said. Try this – have a go a defining these frames in pairs. Each frame is briefly defined as: Episode – a communication routine with definite rule and boundaries. Relationship – the relational context. Self-concept – images that we have of who we are Culture – our norms and values CMM suggests that these frame form a hierarchy of increasing influence on the story and that they also reflexively impact upon the story. The order of importance of the frames varies across people and situations and the interpretive trick is to figure out which context is dominant on any particular conversation. Coordination – the process by which individuals collaborate in an attempt to bring into being their vision of what is necessary. Logical force – logics of meaning and action. Constitutive rules – rule for meaning that are guides for coherence. Regulative rule – rules for action that are guides for coherence. Mystery – unexpressed stories that remind us that life is a bit of a mystery. [The picture of it all is the Atom Serpentine Model - show this as OHT, also in 3rd edition] Summary What do you need to know and ponder about: Richard’s meaning of meaning theory and what it means The Sapir Whorf hypothesis What ideas do these two theories contribute and what does this mean? Non-verbal is an umbrella term for a wide range of communication acts. The label covers; facial expression, gestures, posture, direction of eye gaze, tone of voice, touch spacing, clothing and accessories and the systematic use of time. This is a huge area of study and we are just going to take a look at some of it. First some terms: Kinesics – is the study of communication through body movements. Haptics – is touch communication. Proxemics – is the study of spatial messages. Under the banner of proxemics, we will take a look at 3 ideas: 1.Protection theory 2.Equilibrium theory 3.Expectancy violations theory In tutorials you will take a deeper look at expectancy violations theory. We will also look at some interesting video footage. Some of it is a little damaged and dated but the ideas are still pertinent and interesting. First Up … There are 5 groups or types of body movements that add meaning to communication. 1.Emblems – directly translate to words or phrases e.g. “Come here”, wave, hitchhikers sign. 2.Illustrators – accompany and literally “illustrate” verbal messages, e.g. circular hand movements when talking of a circle, hands far apart when talking about something large. 3.Affect displays – communicate emotional meaning, e.g. expressions of happiness, surprise, fear, anger, sadness, disgust. 4.Regulators – monitor, maintain or control the speaking of another expressions, e.g. facial expressions and hand gestures indicating, “keep going”, “slowdown” or “what else?”. 5.Adaptor’s – satisfy some need, e.g. scratching one’s head. Often these things all get used together. Try this: watch a segment of video 3 times and jot down what you notice – body language. First with sound: then without. Spatial Messages or Proxemics Distinguishes four distances that correspond closely to the major types of relationships: intimate, personal, social, public (Hall). Intimate: Eye contact. You experience sound, smell, & feel the other’s breath. 0 – 18 inches. Personal: 18 inches – 4 feet Social: 4 – 12 feet Public: 12 – 25 feet What are some other factors that might influence distance? Gender – females sit and stand closer to each other than males do in same sex dyads – people approach women more closely than they do men Age – distances increase with age – people maintain closer distances with peers than with persons much older or younger Race/ethnicity – some cultures maintain closer distances than others Personality – introverts and highly anxious people maintain greater distances than do extroverts Relationship Characteristics – familiarity – persons familiar with each other maintain closer distances – liking – people who like each other stand closer – status – the greater the status difference, the greater the difference maintained Context Characteristics – formality – the more formal the situation, the greater is the space maintained – purpose of: shorter distances are maintained for cooperative interaction tasks than for competitive tasks – space – the greater the space, the shorter is the availability difference Three Ideas About Space 1. Protection Theory 2. Equilibrium Theory 3. Expectancy Violations Theory Protection Theory Holds that you establish a body buffer zone around yourself as protection against unwanted touching or attack. This body buffer zone shrinks and expands depending on whether you feel secure or threatened. Secure – Shrinks – Threatened – Expands Equilibrium Theory Holds that intimacy and distance vary together: – the greater the intimacy, the greater the distance – the lower the intimacy, the greater the distance In my opinion, this theory doesn’t suggest anything for a wow response. It just suggests that you maintain close distances with those whom you have close interpersonal relationships and that you maintain greater distances with whom you do not. After “ragging” the idea a bit for it being obvious or common sense, I think it’s important to make some brief comment about it. Expectancy Violations Theory Expectancy Violations Theory (Burgoon) is a model about personal space violations. Burgoon defines space as the “invisible variable volume of space surrounding an individual that defines that individual’s preferred distance from others”. She says that the size and shape of our personal space depends on our cultural norms, and individual preferences but that the space is always a compromise between the conflicting approach – avoidance needs that we have as humans for affiliation and privacy. Unlike the four distances arising from Hall’s research, Burgoon doesn’t suggest that we should conform distance or use of space with status of relationship, context and so on. What she says is that violations of these personal space “rules” are arousing. She also suggests that at times violating social norms and personal expectations is a superior strategy to conformity. She says that “the greater the discrepancy between our expectation and reality, the greater the stimulation”. The stimulation or the effect of stimulation could be very different in each instance. On this issue Burgoon suggests that your response to a space violation will come down to perceived reward potential or reward valence. Reward valence of a communicator is the sum of the positive and negative attributes that the person brings to the encounter, plus the potential he/she has to reward in the future. Distance violations by themselves are highly ambiguous and require “their victims” to search the social context for other clues as to their meanings. Status, ability, good looks; these types of things enhance perceived reward valence. Words communicating acceptance, liking, trust, appreciation, are also perceived as good. So a violation embedded in a host of favourable signals are perceived positively. “Ugliness”, disinterest, disapproval, rejection are turn offs and when they are part of a breach of space etiquette we are more resistant or negative with our response. Now Burgoon has continued studying and 15 plus years down the track has found some ‘universals’ which are worth considering when you interact with other people. 1. She no longer thinks that these violations are just about space, rather now these violations follow with nonverbal behaviours in general. 2. Some behaviours have clear meanings, some don’t. The model only comes into play when the meaning of the non-verbal behaviour is uncertain. If the non-verbal message is clear then we don’t bother analysing further. 3. Recognition that non-rewarding communicators fare best when they conform to others’ expectations. When in Rome, stand (behave) where the Roman’s expect you to stand. 4. Elimination of the threshold of treat. Burgoon originally postulated that this threshold existed. Subsequently, she has dropped it from the model as she never found research support for it. What she did find was that close encounters of the surprising kind are welcome, providing the violator is viewed positively. 5. Awareness of the surprising potential of a distance too far. Burgoon’s very first experiment found that positively valenced communicators who kept their distance achieved their goals better than those who set up normal conversation spacing. At first she thought the space contributed to perceived higher status. Now she thinks it has to do with arousal and causing the person to search the context for explanation. I guess what she’s saying is don’t arouse someone if you want them to just do something without questioning the instruction or searching for secondary messages. Where we are today: Nonverbal Messages — the sign Semiotics What do signs mean? How do signs change meaning? Do all signs have meaning? Semiotic Theory The study of signs – The nature of signs – Their impact on society – The laws that govern them The science of the lie – All signs stand for something else – Signs can be used to tell lies or the truth How signs are differ from words Richards’ Meaning of Meaning Theory: Words are symbols without meaning Barthes’ Semiotic Theory: Signs always have meaning Barthes’ Semiotic Theory: The sign is its meaning Sign = signifier + signified – Signifier is the image you see – Signified is underlying concept A semiotic system is a tightly woven, closed system Mythic or Connotative Sign Systems Signs that are built off pre-existing systems Example: Queen – denotes “Monarch, ruler” – connotes “oppression” – connotes “figurehead” “Model” A model is a person with a body well-suited to displaying clothes to their best advantage (Denotation: model is marketing tool) What do these second order signs do? “They bless the often chaotic and unjust state of a society by making it appear natural, inevitable and eternal.” They support the culture because they “transform history into nature”. Why study them? To “deconstruct”: – Not to find original meaning, which is lost – To expose their falseness – To uncover the underlying cultural values which they support Do all signs have meaning? “Empty” signs: – May still exist but are replaced by other cultural icons – World leaders with superstars Business Writing Some points: What is at stake – to whom? Should you send a message? What channel should you use? What should you say? How should you say it? Who is your audience? What affect? What objections or reactions? What else? Organise your information to fit your audiences, your purposes, and the situation. Make you document visually inviting. Revise your draft to create a friendly, business like, positive style. Edit your draft for standard English; double check names and numbers.


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