Tuesday, August 15, 2006



Link to Liane´s work criticizing Susan Blackmore

I must really apologize a lot, I have forgotten to post here link to one of Liane´s works, the one which I consider extremely useful. Liane criticizes Susan Blackmore´s ideas in her book "The Meme Machine". As I also do not fully agree with Susan I am really happy to have found someone who does not agree with Susan too.

This is the link


and this is the link to Liane Gabora´s doctorial thesis




I have found Liane Gabora in internet and I was absolutely impressed by her way of thinking. Here I would like to post something about her and , of course, I have added a lot of my ideas to the topic. I hope you will find that interesting.

Liane Gabora
Professor and excellent thinker

Contextual theory of concepts, States, Context, Property,(SCOP) formalism, memes – memetics, signs -semiotics

Links to her website

Liane Gabora's Home Page
A contextual Theory of Concepts, pdf

Many months ago I exchanged few emails with Susan Blackmore, a British professor, known for her book “The Meme Machine”, where she writes about her ideas on memes. I do not fully agree with Susan’s ideas and therefore I was extremely happy to have found professor Liane Gabora’s website on the internet. Liane also sees shortcomings in Susan’s approach, as I do. By the way, you may find my emails to Susan Blackmore and her electronic answers to me on my blog.

This was a reason why I started to read Liane´s papers published on her page in internet. What struck me the most was her paper on contextual concepts. This is great idea how to explain specific phenomenon of human communication. I have a bit different approach to this phenomenon and am going to describe Liane´s way of explaining it and then my approach to the problem.

Liane Gabora's Home Page contains many links to her publications. When you follow this link http://www.vub.ac.be/CLEA/liane/#Concepts you will find the way to her ideas; first only a short beginning to a paper on “A Contextual Theory of Concepts”, co-written with Diederik Aerts, then there is link to her pdf file in full length ( PDF).

In chapter 2 she defines what the theory is about, and it is about states, concepts and properties, and she calls that “The State Context Property Formalism”. In chapter 2.2 she describes her experiment. I will try to cut it short and express in simpler words.

Liane used two sentences, first one “The pet is chewing a bone” and second “The pet is taught to talk”. People connect the first sentence more with a dog than with a parrot, and the second sentence is linked to parrot more than to a dog. This seems absolutely obvious, but the idea behind is striking. It means that words we use, never stand alone but are linked to something, which Liane calls concepts.

Now I would like to explain my idea on this phenomenon. As my life forced me to study languages and make daily use of them I have found out that different nations describe the same feelings in a more or less different way. We are all only humans, be it British, Germans, Americans, Czechs, Croats, Slovaks or Russians. The interesting thing to observe is, that because we are all humans we have pretty similar or even absolutely the same feelings, but we do express them slightly or severely in a different form, using different words.

Sometimes this difference is so huge, that when you translate, say, a sentence in Czech into English, no English speaking person would understand, and vice versa. This is basically valid for all languages and all people. The reason for this is what I call coding and decoding of our ideas, memes, into signs, words; and the differences in what Liane calls concepts in different languages and what I describe as inner evolutionary dynamics of any system, therefore also of languages. In simple words, this means that every native speaker can express his or her ideas only in such a way that the language allows; be it due to words or due to grammar.

I will try to explain this using one simple example showing the differences in what languages do and do not permit. All human beings have feelings and they feel the necessity to express these feelings so that the other person can understand that, and we communicate in words and languages. So if an English native speaker wants to express his feelings to a ship e.g. then the ship will be referred to as “SHE”. An example could be the sentence:”She is a mighty fine vessel.” Such a way of expressing feeling is allowed in English but absolutely impossible in Czech. The Czech language must have other systems how to express the same or close to same feelings; and it has, it uses diminutives instead. There are diminutives used in English as well as in German but seldom in order to express feelings. It is used mostly only with names of persons, John – Johnnie. English can use also some other diminutives, but they mostly do not express feelings, like book - booklet, whereas in Czech this would mostly express feelings.

So every language must be seen as a system of coding and decoding our ideas and feelings, well, our memes, which we want to express. But every language developed more or less differently and therefore the coding and decoding is different.

I see even more differences in human way of coding and decoding memes for transporting them to other humans. I think that there are differences within one language, depending on the person’s surroundings, experiences, and development within the time of person’s life.

I see differences in how males code and decode their memes contrary to female way of doing so. Therefore we have problems of understanding each other, and of course I am not the only one who thinks so: the book “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus” attempts to identify and explore this.

As my ideas developed on the basis of languages I apply the word “emotion” to that what Liane calls concepts, at least I think so. Because I have found out that humans have basically the same feelings, emotions, but they use different words and grammar to express these feelings and emotions, I think there are two basic ways of how our brain works. One is what I call emotional thinking and acting, opposed to logical thinking and acting. I also believe that we have minimum two different types of memory, one is logical and the second is emotional memory.

I believe the emotional memory is created on manifold repetition of logical thinking, and the linkage of one thing to another. Building parallels. If somebody cheats you the first time you most probably will not notice, when somebody uses the same system of cheating the second time you may have a slight “feeling” of something improper, but still you will be cheated, the third time you most probably recognize the system and you will successfully defend yourself.

There is another aspect of coding and decoding signals, words or type of behaviour. Just imagine a marriage swindler. He uses certain type of coding in purposely misleading way. He hits the emotions with completely different purpose. Women do trust such men as these men have learned to pretend, send out, to broadcast such codes that the respective female victims decode in an absolutely different way.

How is it possible that some people learn to misuse the way of coding in our communication? Well, I believe at first it just only happened without bad purpose. Imagine the following story:
A person goes shopping, buys several different types of, say, shirts. The cashier only by mistake does not notice one shirt having the same colour as the shirt above and does not add this shirt price to the total sum. Thus the person has got a certain advantage, got a shirt and did not have to pay for it. But this was not on purpose this happened just by accident. Next time the buyer can make use of this again this time on purpose, the purpose of getting an advantage.

Another example of coding and decoding and forcing the recipient of the code think in a wrong way is advertising. At present time advertising mostly aims only at emotions and almost no logic at all. But the codes used by the advertiser, aiming at emotions of the recipient of advertising, or of the code implemented in the advertisement are on purpose misleading. The funny thing is that we, humans, are more sensitive to misleading codes aiming at our emotions than similar codes aiming at our logic.

There are few problems about emotional memory and emotional type of thinking, as oppose to logical memory and logical type of thinking and that would be the answers to the questions, how is emotional memory created, where it is stored opposite to logical memory and logical type of thinking and so on. I cannot give answers to these questions; I think this will need a lot of research in neurology, psychology and many other sciences. But I believe to have found parallels of my emotional-logical approach based on language coding to Liane´s theory of contextual concepts.

I would like to stop here so that the article won’t get too long. But anyway, I believe this is a good topic for further studies or thinking about. I hope Liane will agree with me at least in some respect.

Remark: This is the second version of my work corrected by Liane, for which I thank her very much.

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