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The Signal Response

 

Disciplines > Communication > Theory > The Signal Response

The signal response | Extensional devices | See also

 

The signal response

We represent things and experiences in words (or symbols). This can cause a problem when we then take the word and perceive it as actually being the thing (as opposed to being an imperfect representation of it). This misinterpretation is called the signal response.

Korzybski famously stated that the map is not the territory' in describing this problem, where we confuse the map (the words) with the territory (what it represents).

If I say you are silly or clever, then you may respond as if the words made you silly or clever, becoming angry or proud. If this is not what I want, then I need to change what I say.

Extensional devices

A way to avoid creating the signal response in your speech is to extend what you say by using some kind of extensional device that shows that the map is not the territory.

Location

One way of avoiding the signal response is to locate something into a specific time frame or physical location. Thus I may point out that you were silly when you were talking with your brother after dinner yesterday.

Marking

Marking out a word shows that it is different. In written words, this may be done with such as "quotes". In verbal communication, sometimes quotes are visually added by wiggling the index and middle fingers on both hands (palms facing out). The word in question may also be marked out with emphasis, pauses or other audible devices.

Continuation

You can also show that a word or statement is not exclusive by indicating that there are other things not said. Thus you can use 'etc', 'and so on' or (in written text) an elipsis (three dots...).

See also

Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity, Lakeville, Connecticut: The Non-Aristotelian Library, 1933

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