I like these – I’m not so keen on these

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And there you have it, in front of your very eyes and with nothing up my

sleeve. You saw that the cards were arranged into a line according to that

construct without words, and before your interviewee changed his or her

facial expression. So, it’s possible to have constructs without words, or any

other sort of symbolic expression.

Ah! But is it possible to communicate constructs without some form of symbolic

expression? Well, no: notice the function of the smile and the grimace in

hinting at what the construct might be, and for indicating which pole was

preferred.

That’s fair enough: you can’t communicatewithout symbols.But before we go on, let’s

examine that assumption about the need for symbolisation. Before the act of communication,

is it possible to have constructs without relying on some form of symbol?

Opinions differ on this. Some people point out that to construe is to differentiate (‘in

what way are two the same and one different?’), and that differentiation involves

choice, some of it deliberate and explicit, but some of it less so and without any

symbols being involved. They argue that choice is defined as a selection between

alternatives, and that selections can be made without awareness. The pupil of your

eye dilates more when you see an attractive person than an unattractive one, for

example, and this is an act of construing asmuch as if it were consciously and deliberately

made. In linguistics, Saussure (1915/1983) provides an early, systematic

exposition of the argument that it is simple contrast (between a sign and all the signs

not beingused to expressthe thingbeingsignified), bereft of deliberation, whichlies at

the heart ofmeaning.

Otherswould suggest, in contrast, that symbolisation hasto exist beforeawareness.It

is essential in order to engage in the organisation and reorganisation, called ‘information

processing’, required for the processes of memorisation, storage, and recall.

Something which represents an attractive face as distinct from an unattractive face

has to be processed, or stored in memory, and what is that something other than a

symbol? It certainly isn’t the face itself.

Both viewpoints would concede that, regardless of all this, attractiveness lies in the

eye of the beholder and that all beholders differ in their experience! In other words,

that what matters just as much in a representation is the background, history, and

personality of the person making the distinction.

And both parties would certainly agree that the medium in which symbols are

expressed need not be verbal. We’ve all encountered algebra; and those who are

familiar with mathematical logic will be aware of other non-verbal symbol systems in

which deduction, reasoning, and hence the recognition of similarities and contrasts,

are possible.What’s being said, then, is that it’s certainly possible to have non-verbal

constructs, but that theexistence of someformof symbolsystem, verbalorotherwise,

is essential for any work to be done.

Thank you! Now, to summarise all of that in practical terms. There’s no doubt

that verbal symbolisation is particularly efficient. Also, non-verbal construing,

as in the case of the photographs above, is only possible because the people

doing the construing are old enough to have developed language already. This

enables them to represent, or encode, the distinctions and similarities which

make up a construct more effectively than if they’d never learnt a language.

Yes, that’s plausible.Kelly talked about pre-verbal construing in this exact sense. It is

construing, it does occur, but it’s inchoate. It’s not expressed in consistent verbal

symbols and is thereby ‘primitive’ in nature (Kelly,1955/1991: 465).

Okay. Now, let’s go back to communication. In order to be sure about what the

construct is, even if the interviewee has been proceeding without words, you

have to question your interviewee. Suppose, for example, the photographs

were arranged into two heaps which grouped the paintings as follows:

Those in which colour, Those in which colour, composition,

composition, and form are used – and form are used to show what

to convey the essence of a people, places, events, and things

concept, mood, or idea look like

You’d then have a fair notion that the construct in question is