Communication in Everyday Life Lecture – November 8 , 2013th
Cognition and Communication
In discussing cognition – thinking – we are really talking about how we name
our perceptions –the images in our mind
We’ll speak to 2 questions about this process:
o Do we use many approaches to a problem or a few?
Complex thinkers or simple?
Do we use many ways to name images or few in our talk?
o Do we distinguish between inferences and observable facts?
Cognition: words and the symbolic process
The elemental problem:
The word symbols we use can’t fully and accurately represent the things they
Things (the world) = complex and dynamic. But the symbols we use to name
them = simple and static
We tend to use simple terms for complex subjects – like other people
And we forget the word is not the thing/person it represents
We leave out information as we move from specific to general
o George is 5’9”, 160 lbs, Grad student from another country.
Highest level abstractions can be powerful, positive
o George is a really great guy
Or they can be our worst language – stereotypes
o George is one of those…we all know about them. We shouldn’t be
helping these kinds of people with their education.
Thinking and Abstracting
Why would we want to talk like this?
We can intentionally inspire or inflame
o Abstract generalities can move others emotionally and make us sound
Remember those emotional markers in our cognitive
unconscious (+) and (-)
o But we most often use abstract – low content, low-detail words –
because it’s easier and faster – less work for our conscious mind
We said in a previous lecture that conscious thought was effortful, slow,
controllable, and flexible.
And we can do that under some circumstances
Studying, writing essays – which concepts work here, which don’t, how can
we use them to interpret this piece of dialogue Thinking and Talk
When we focus it to think, the conscious mind burns a lot of energy and it
o (that’s why writing essays is so hard and studying is so draining)
To think about what we’re saying – we would have to consciously
o Pay attention – hard work
CM (Conscious mind) is easily distracted
Wired to See, Not Think
While talking, our thoughts and words need to flow
o Effortless speed is essential
So the conscious mind (CM) hands over much of the work of talk to the
cognitive unconscious (CU)
o Its wired to work efficiently and quickly
The CM uses the constant flow of data from the effortless, perception process
of the CU to till in the blanks. To give it something to say. We don’t “think”
before we speak, we “see”.
WYSIATI – What You See Is All There Is!
WYSIATI and TALK
The CU instantly draws upon its past experience and upon whatever info is
o We size up a new situation very quickly – figure out who is there and
what’s going on and,
o (Perhaps most importantly) guess what’s going to happen next using
the schema from our early learning
o If we didn’t, our mind would slow down to the point that we would
seem “lost in thought” every time we tried to speak.
Our lazy CM lets the CU use a number of shortcuts – heuristics – to get
through our daily talk without hesitation
o Accessibility: ease with which something comes to mind makes it
true. If it comes to your mind quickly, it must be so.
o Taking things at face value: if you believe it – info is valid – the
danger of Internet slander.
o Representativeness: How similar is A to B – Stereotyping – Looks
like a duck, walks like a duck – must be a duck – and you act like you
know this for sure – even though you may only have seen a picture of
a duck. We don’t want to have to go through the effort about making
choices that make sense. We just instantly see it, if it fits, then that’s
what we think it actually is. Based on past personal experience, not
whats actually happening
Another shortcut – heuristics – to make a judgment or decision
o Framing – how things are put.
If surgeons tell patients procedure has a 15% failure rate more
will say no to it than if they say it has an 85% success rate. o Verbal Priming – verbal cues – previous thoughts alter next thoughts
Positive priming – tell people success stories about others
just before they do test – and they do better