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The Semantic Differential


In many adults, the verbal semantic mechanism is so dominant, the earlier modes of representation of meaning so unavailable to introspection, that long-term memory of events before the 7th or 8th year of life is limited to a few fleeting instances involving strong emotional impact or poignancy, such as starting school or a Christmas memory. This is suppression of long-term memory in addition to that of traumatic or 'unexperienced' experience. The latter problem suppresses to a large extent the first, emotional phase of development - memories before the age of three. The suppression we are considering here is of the second, descriptive phase of development.

Inner and outer speech develop in ways that are complementary but different. Outer speech becomes richer, more detailed and follows more closely to the ideal model of the language. Inner speech becomes less and less complete. Parts of words and even entire words disappear and words are elides (mixed) into one another - inner speech becomes telegrammatic. With maturity comes a point where inner and outer speech have become separate languages with different syntax. Transfer from inner to outer speech poses many of the same problems as translation between two languages.

In people who are creatively fluent, especially fictional authors, the social/associative model of descriptive language is still available to introspection, consequently the translation from inner to outer speech is fascile. These people often experience spontaneous flashbacks to early childhood that are so vivid as to constitute an active reliving. As such, by providing a route back to the feeling Self, these are peak experiences leading to a greater integration of the mind and body.

One route to healing the split between mind and body is to recall with sufficient detail, a period of childhood in which you were a body-mind. The important period is between 3 - 6 years of age. Before three, you were much more a body than a body-mind - like an animal, the cortex as yet having only a limited role to play.

The meanings of words during the middle phase of language development are represented in the mind as an aggregate of subjective responses. That is, meanings are defined in terms of their position on a continuum between polar adjectives, such as 'Good - Bad', or 'Kind - Unkind', and so on. So they are 'felt' meanings, defined not by other words but in terms of the subjective experience of these qualities.

There are three main dimensions within which these subjective 'semantic differentials' can be classified:

  • Evaluation (e.g. Good/Bad, Kind/Unkind, Beautiful/Ugly, Happy/Sad)

  • Potency (e.g. Strong/Weak, Large/Small, Heavy/Light, Deep/Shallow)

  • Activity (e.g. Active/Passive, Fast/Slow, Hot/Cold, Noisy/Quiet)

Any word can be rated on a scale from 1 - 7 in relation to one of the polarity adjectives. Thus 'soldier' may be rated as +2 Good, +7 Strong and +7 Active; whereas a 'sheep' may be rated +3 Good, only +1 Strong and +3 Active.

If one considers evaluative scales to be one dimension, potency scales a second, and activity scales a third, the three dimensions make up a semantic space. By semantic differentiation, then, we mean the successive allocation of a concept to a point in the multi-dimensional semantic space, by selection from among a set of scaled semantic alternatives. Difference in the meaning between two concepts is then the difference in their respective allocations within the semantic space.

Procedure

To apply the Semantic Differential, a profile of a word is made using 21 Scales (see below), each defined by polar adjectives. The method is to attribute the qualities of a given word on a seven-point scale (from +1 to +7) towards the adjective in the right column. So, for example, +1 Good would represent 'definitely not good, i.e. bad', and +7 Good would represent 'extremely good'.

Each of the words on the following Word List should be defined on this basis. The words are not designed to be stimulating 'buttons', but are intended to give practice in the Semantic Differential technique.

Further words may be added to this List; to define a thousand words by this technique will bring about a considerable rehabilitation of the encoding mechanism of the brain (making it a better tool for you to use), as well as enhancing long-term recall and mental imagery. With practice you can change from the 7-point scale to a 9-point scale, and then to an 11-point scale, to further enhance your ability to differentiate.

THE SEMANTIC DIFFERENTIAL

Evaluation - +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7 Evaluation +
Bad-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Good
Cruel-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Kind
Ugly-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Beautiful
Sad-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Happy
Negative-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Positive
Unpleasant-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Pleasant
Worthless-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Valuable

Potency - +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7 Potency +
Weak-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Strong
Small-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Large
Soft-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Hard
Light-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Heavy
Shallow-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Deep
Submissive-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Assertive
Simple-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Complex

Activity - +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7 Activity +
Passive-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Active
Relaxed-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Tense
Slow-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Fast
Cold-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Hot
Quiet-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Noisy
Dim-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Bright
Rounded-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Angular

The following attributes may also be discerned:

  • Towards you or away from you?

  • Location? (Above, below, behind, in front, left, right? Near/far?)

  • color?

Stars

Sickness

Birth

Bible

Dreary

Church

Blue

Piano

Brother

Deformed

Fragrant

Farm

Woman

color

Progress

Frightful

Sister

Heaven

Courage

Head

Rusty

Naughty

Winter

Needle

Book

Glass

Friendly

Rich

Wicked

Frosty

Clean

Bale

Swim

Frog

Bring

Lady

Neurotic

Justice

Pain

Divorce

Control

House

Me

Progress

Feverish

Butter

Police

Flower

Art

Happy

Mother

Heal

Black

Criminal

Ink

Brother

Sing

Fragile

Despise

Fight

Afraid

Flower

Bay

Ask

Jump

Try

Warmth

Choice

Cool

Pray

Bed

Flower

Discomfort

Steal

Thief

Stench

Lake

Holy

Rage

Health

Inferior

Sex

Silk

Barn

Mosquito

Clean

Root

Needle

Grief

Home

Dead

Go

Finger

Wool

Stop

Long

Pity

Hunger

Box

Stalk

Yellow

White

Old

Pleased

Marry

Tornado

Moon

Memory

Scalding

Sister

Leper

Attractive

America

Starving

Sunlight

Garment

Car

Cushion

Income

Heartless

See

Charm

Bread

Peace

Table

Blue

Jolly

Big

Chair

Ship

Lamp

Dance

Street

Child

Family

Village

Bury

Speak

Wait

Say

Anger

Song

Nasty

Trees

Sleep

Dawn

Statue

Grief

Eating

Moon

Income

Lake

War

Relaxed

Kitchen

Slime

Family

Jelly

Baby

Hate

Green

Bird

Carrot

Worry

Male

Carry

Walk

Shut

Pond

Salt

Pencil

Cow

Wound

Sick

New

Lazy

Abortion

Table

Smooth

Sunlight

Sunday

Fraud

God

Body

Leadership

Holy

Engine

Constant

Light

Lagging

Father

Jewel

Money

Love

Silly

Give

Kiss

Bread

Paper

Doctor

Bride

Sad

Name

Evil

Pride

Habit

Plum

Luck

DoorGame

Insult



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