Australian General Semantics Society Inc.




Seminar Summary - 19 February 2012


"Our Favourite GS Formulations"

We looked at people’s favourite formulations -
What they are in detail.  When and how to apply them. 
What related GS formulations help.

Led by Mr David Hewson

Our first Monthly Seminar for the year - a beautiful day for it, except that our co-host Pauline was off a-cruising - circumnavigating the continent - now at Cairns!  Anyway, the imperturbable Gav did a magnificant job with the customary cuppa and beaut lunch at the gracious AGS Seminar Centre "Clifftop View"!

This being the first day back, there was copious catching-up to be done, from "What we did in the holidays" stories, babies progressing, power-operated lounges acquired, projects launched, self-reflexiveness tested, morning walks extended, Meetup site established, new fridge installed, lawns mowed, cruises accomplished ... etc.

News of the Institute of General Semantics, from our USA colleagues was considered, and updates from the Melbourne Chapter - now with their own Meetup site, and organising their first meeing for the year!

For this seminar, we had a number of "formulations" presented by members, based on their recent experiences:

1. David illustrated the GS principle of "Map-Territory Relations" by considering the relationship between fact and symbolism.  The "Ogden and Richards Triangle" illustrates this thus:

It is clear that there is no direct connection between the symbol and the referent. It only goes indirectly through the person's evaluating.What we do is to compare our meaning of the symbol/map with our observation of the referent/territory.  I.e. our factual observation.  So we compare our Map in a Context as interpreted by Person1 (us) with our image of the Territory as viewed by Person1 (us).  And these need to be structurally similar.  In short we compare MCP~TVP. And we abstract in both cases so it is no wonder that Person1 will not have the same image as Person2.  Either of the viewed territory of of the meaning from the map.

We then applied this to the area of deception and cons, seeing where correct symbolism to fact fails.  Skilled con artists are excellent intuitive psychologists.  Like stage illustionists, they understand enough about how we evaluate, so as to exploit our vulnerabilities.  This is evident in the "Seven Deadly Risks"  by which we can be tricked when we confuse the "map" with the "territory".

a. Distractions

People's attention is like a spotlight, which means when it's looking one way it ignores almost everything else.  So they distract them and let them jump to conclusions about what they are ignoring.

b. Social compliance

Con artists exploit our deference to authority figures.  Laboratory experiments reveal that many people with cause what they imaging is real suffering to others under instructions from the experimenter.

Uniforms carry great authority: Diners will give cash or credit cards to someone approaching them who looks like a waiter.

People will give the car keys to someone who looks like the hotel valet parking attendant, who then steals the car!

Fraudsters succeed in obtaining bank account details and passwords using a "trojan horse" email or web site that looks as though it comes from a bank, etc.

c. Herd principle

People tend to follow each other.  So the con artists use tricks to make others think there is a herd to follow when actually there is only one person, and that the herd is doing the right thing.

We sometimes "go with the flow" of majority direction, even against better personal judgement - "The Emporer has No Clothes" syndrome! We can be slaves to fashion for no good reason, or swept-up in an ideological wave of the moment (eg Adolf Hitler's rise to power?). Can we think of when we've fallen for this ... ?

d. Dishonesty

Con artists know that people are fearful that their dishonesty will be found out and they play on this fact.  Sometimes we're simple given a wrong map, and accept it as the "territory". This can include fraudulent advertising (particularly on-line), short-changing in a shop, and multifarious white-collar crimes.

e. Deception

People are easily deceived, even when they think they are being careful. For example, con artists take advantage of the fact that most people go along with their expectations about a situation. So if the con artist's behaviour fits the situation then people will accept it.

People can be tricked into loading goods into a thieve's van, by means of a sign redirecting them under the pretence of a temporary arrangement, or a pretending tradesmen wanting entry to our house in order to commit a theft.

f. Need and greed

When con artists know what people want, they can us this to manipulate them.  The more desperate the person's need, the easier they are to con.

Tricksters can understand and exploit our vulnerabilities. "Elder abuse" sometimes includes this. "Romance swindles" on the Internet can cause people to enter into relationships or send money, under false pretences.

g. Time pressure

People under time pressure rely on short cuts and emotional responses to a situation, so they are more likely to make a signal reaction rather than a symbol reaction and hence are easier to manipulate.

Telephone marketers often offer a "deal" that must be accepted and paid immediately by credit card. TV advertising does the same, with "Specials just for today", or "While stock lasts", with insufficient time for careful research and deliberation.

We considered the roles of illusion and delusion in these processes.

All these encounters relate to a failure of accurately perceiving (mapping) reality (the territory).

2. Laurie presented the case of his experiences with "First and Second-Order Feeling" and "Self-Reflexiveness".  This was indeed a remarkable story of the power of "liking his feeling of liking an improvement in his eyesight".

We considered the writing of Deepak Chopra in "Quantum Healing", and the non-elementalistic relationship between "mind" and "body".

The writings of Harry Weinberg and Isabel Caro were consulted in this process.

Some members expressed reservations about this process, considering the power of the "placebo effect", and difficulty in medical matters, of relating cause-and-effect.

We discussed examples of "aversion therapy" for addictions, positive preparation (learning to "feel good") for difficult personal, professional or medical encounters, and the power of "visualisation" as expounded by Alfred Korzybski in "Science and Sanity".

3. Robert led a discussion around "The Cages We Live In", and how an understanding of the Structural Differential can improve our awareness and management of these.  The group came up with lots of "bars in the cage" which limit our perception of reality, and introduce extraneous factors into our abstracting process, for example:

  • Family
  • Parents
  • Friends
  • Society
  • Attributes that we are born with
  • Inheritance, nature, nurture
  • Education
  • Gender
  • Racial origin
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sense of identity, self-confidence
  • Society
  • Purpose / Destiny
  • Cultural environment
  • Physical environment
  • Personality
  • Etc etc etc ...

The Structural Differential is a tool of General Semantics that emphasis how aspects of reality are lost and distorted in our perception and abstracting process.  The factors listed above, and many more, are part of the process causing us to not be perceiving and responding to reality ("territory") accurately ("mapping")

4. Business Meeting

  a. Membership: Now due: Just $25 for another year!

  b. Next meeting:

March Sun 11
"Skills for Effective Thinking"
Today's seminar is based on Kenneth Keyes book "How to Develop Your Thinking Ability"  It applies GS formulations to: getting along with others, having a happier marriage, thinking effectively in business, and causal problem solving. 

Led by one of our Finest Teachers: Mr David Hewson!

10:30am - 4:30pm at Bonnet Bay, Sydney, Australia


For details of our discussion meetings and Seminars, Contact AGS


(Updated 19/02/2012)

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