sharing beliefs and values

[From: Bruce Nevin (Mon 930830 09:22:01 EDT)]

( Michael Fehling Fri, 27 Aug 1993 18:01:36 -0700 ) --

Agreement about perceptions is typically enabled by verbal agreement. We
rely upon prior agreements about the meanings of words for assurance that
the reaching of verbal agreement warrants a presumption of perceptual
agreement. We may be disappointed in this for various reasons, including:

    Presumed prior agreements about word meanings may not in fact hold.

    We may have overlooked ambiguities of language.

    The other person may have "heard" words other than exactly those that
        we uttered, through the imagination loop. (This ordinarily fills
        in for various kinds of noise, replicating a reference perception
        or "expectation" at the perceptual inputs for missing words. It
        may and in my experience often does override real-time perception
        if the gain on control of associated perceptions is high.
        Obviously, choice under ambiguity is a special case.)

There are other, similar problems with verbal agreement. We generally
find out that the appearance of verbal agreement was inadequate when
cooperative action based on the agreement breaks down.

This brings us to the other main basis for coming to agreement about
perceptions, cooperative action. It is this that I believe motivates
language learning (and the evolutionary origin of language), and it is
this that gives rise to the "magical" appearance of words as referring
and to their referents as socially known invariants. (Socially known:
others can reliably be expected to know about them, and one has vested
great effort in learning to associate with words nonverbal perceptions
that others agree, verbally or through cooperative action, are indeed
referents of those words.)

I believe this is why Ed Ford emphasizes cooperative action as the basis
for what he calls "quality time" in family and other relations. When
words are not working, one needs to get one's feet on the ground, so to
speak, in the experiential antecedents of verbal agreement.

    Bruce Nevin
    bn@bbn.com

[Michael Fehling 930830 10:02 AM PDT]

In re Bruce Nevin Mon 930830 09:22:01 EDT --

Bruce,

The "agreements" of which I spoke are _not_ necessarily verbal. I tried to
say that they are not even always explicit. So, I largely agree with your
points. In particular, the conception underlying the organizational (and
individual agent) research that I have been describing takes _action_ as
basic, rather than any special type of action such as linguistic behavior.
But, to risk belaboring the point, my "agreements" are a technical construct
that capture any _functional_coordination_ of the actions of group members.

- michael -