Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A potential problem for communication

Words, generally, are used to reference things or ideas -- no kidding, right?

Well, it gets a little more complicated.

Imagine a triangle: you, the word "ball," and an actual basketball.

The word "ball" has a real-world point of reference.

Now, let's say we could monitor the minds of three people, and we can know exactly what images and associations they "see" in their minds when a specific word is spoken.

So, I say the word "ball."

Person One sees a basketball -- it is round, circular, and it bounces.

Person Two sees a football -- it is not round, but it is an inflatable athletic item that bounces.

Person Three sees a grapefruit -- it is round, circular, but is not useful for athletics, at least not games that last very long.

In the above example, the same, common, every-day term -- "ball" -- unwittingly has become part of a communication breakdown.

So I am not attempting to define "ball," or to pick one definition over the other.

But the more controversial or sophisticated word used, the more difficult it is to communicate clearly.

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