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13 The step from the I perspective

Concepts are defined as strictly individual entities, seen from the I-perspective. However the collection of concepts I call 'animals' and 'people' I experience as strong agreeing with my self-concept. Through communication I experience other people also have many concepts that resemble mine. This makes it possible to take a step from the I-perspective and to consider concepts as a joint possession of a group. Communication within that group ensures convergence, it increases the agreement between the concepts of the members of the group.


13.1 The self-concept and related categories

I have defined concepts as individual entities. I experience them and I'm aware of them. They are my own concepts, if other people also have concepts, those are other concepts that may show similarities to mine, but at least partly differ from them. After all, these concepts are built up from the experiences that the other person has gained in his or her life, so at least partially different from what I experienced in my life.

My concepts partly can become conscious by introspection, just as all the qualities I have defined originate from introspection as careful as possible. During my life, my concepts weaken or strengthen, they change and adapt because of the permanent stream of new experiences that achieve me every day. Thanks to my personal experiences in addition to the innate concepts a whole system of concepts has arisen in the course of my life, concepts that are by no one completely shared.

However, I experience great differences between concepts. What causes me to distinguish types of concepts is not known to me, but my mind systematically experiences differences and knows categories of more or less similar concepts. Plants, animals, cities, planets, thoughts, fantasies, you name it. It is clear that in my brain a distinction is made between congruent concepts that display a large correspondence and others that have little or nothing in common with it. My collection of concepts is organized into categories, which often represent a concept themselves. In this way I also know the categories 'chairs', 'trees' and 'mathematical theorems' as concepts. In this chapter I focus on two categories, namely the group of concepts called 'animals' and the collection that is indicated with 'people'.

A special and very powerful concept is my self-concept, my concept of who and what I am. My body, all my experiences of pain and pleasure, happiness and misfortune, excitement and boredom, my thoughts, dreams and fantasies, my views on good and evil, my judgment about what I find beautiful or ugly, all those makes part of my self-concept. This self-concept is so powerful because it has been empowered all my life every day in all the actions I do, it is my most dominant concept.
In the world of my concepts now I find many who have a great kinship or are very congruent with my self-concept and together they form a category I designate with the concept 'people'. In addition, there is a category of concepts that also show many similarities with the self-concept, however on essential points less than the category 'people', it's the category we call 'animals'.
Although this observation seems obvious, the experience of concepts that show great kinship with my self-concept plays a fundamental role in the conceptual system.

13.2 Active and passive reinforcement

Suppose I see a familiar chair somewhere or experience other experiences that realize my concept of 'this chair'. This event in itself means that my concept of 'chair' is confirmed by that realization. The realization and reinforcement takes place entirely in my mind. If I focus on that concept, I can do anything, look at it better, for example, or touch the chair with my hand. Whatever I do in this respect, it has, apart from reinforcement, no influence on the content of my concept. Otherwise it will be when, for example, I smash the chair with a hammer or put it on fire, activities that affect my concept of the chair. Even then I still experience the chair as passive, what changes to the concept is caused by myself, I do not experience any own activity in the concept. In other words my concept 'this chair' contains a type 'passive', I will call such concepts passive concepts.

My self-concept, on the other hand, is active with every reinforcement. I look, focus my attention, think, try to remember, feel, compare. In the perception of my self-concept I play a double role. While my mind is conceptually active, at the same time my body reacts to perceived experiences. For example, if I feel pain in my leg, I can change its position to reduces the pain and try to find an attitude that does not hurt me at all. On the one hand such a movement is aimed at reducing the pain experience, on the other at reinforcing a number of concepts, a dual role that is inherent in the self-concept and makes it complex. At this moment it is sufficient to notice a difference between the perception of what one experiences as a passive, dead, non-responsive object and the perception of concepts that stand for something that can move, change and react, which I will call active concepts.

Not only the self-concept is active. For example, if I have a meeting with a dog, the experiences that reach me are largely dependent on what I undertake myself. When I look the dog in the eye I hear growling or see him wagging. When I touch him, he rubs at me. If I put a box of food in front of him he will empty it, if I throw a stick away he will retrieve it quickly. A dog responds to me, that's why I call my concept 'dog' an active concept. That of course applies to most animals and, especially, to people.

With the advent of modern digital technology, a new category of concepts has emerged that could also be called active. Robots can be programmed so that they respond to people, they look suspiciously like animals. Electronic games can also create a virtual reality that responds to the actions one takes on. The question can be asked whether this is, from a conceptual point of view, an interesting new category, since it concerns only tools created by humans that are deliberately made in such a way that people see something animal or even human in it. They are a kind of imitation animals or worlds, perhaps they should be seen as an extension of the original concepts which are imitated. For the time being they do not seem very interesting and I leave them out of consideration.

So a particularly powerful category of active concepts is the group that is referred to as 'people'. If one or more of these concepts are realized, this can lead as well as to reinforcement of those concepts themselves as to reinforcement of total different ones. An example. When I see a tree standing in the middle of the sidewalk, the concept 'the tree there' is being created in my mind or, in case I already know that tree, the concept will be reinforced. Now I know that the trunk of a tree is firm and hard, so the concept in question contains the types 'firm' and 'hard'. If I only see the tree, the type that represents the shape of the tree is actualized, but the type 'hard' is not. At the same time, however, I see people walking in a bow around the tree. That can have various causes, say it could be because the tree stinks, but I never experienced that and I don't see any sign of it. The phenomenon that people walk around the tree makes me experience the 'hard' or at least 'impenetrable' of the tree trunk. The type 'hard' or at least 'impenetrable' are actualized in me, which further reinforces the realization of the 'tree' concept. Even more reinforcement occurs when I see someone who is not paying attention and who accidentally runs up against the tree trunk. I recognize his behavioùr and reactions to the collision well, the perception may cause realizing various concepts, not only that of the hard trunk, but maybe also the concept 'pain' and the like.

The experience of seeing the tree confirms my concept of the tree, the experience of the behaviour of people in the environment of the tree results in an even more extensive confirmation. The example seems completely trivial, but it could also be an imitation tree on the street or a plastic sheet with a tree painted on it. When approaching the object, types would then be updated that do not fit at all the concept of a tree, from which I conclude at a certain point that it doesn't concern a real tree but a different concept.

The experience of dead, passive things empowers my concepts because I recognize them and because those things have a meaning for me. If something, a dog for example, besides reacts to what I do, the reinforcement will be even stronger. I recognize those active reactions of a dog just like the passive aspects of a dead thing, but because of the greater complexity of the recognized a stronger reinforcement occurs. You could say that a form of communication takes place with the dog, although no words are exchanged. A next step is the mutual communication with people, even if it takes place without the use of language. The most effective reinforcement takes place when people communicate using language. Language also makes it possible to develop very complex concepts that could not exist without the use of language. In this chapter, however, I limit myself to researching the effect of communication without the use of language.

13.3. The step from the I perspective

According to Wikipedia, communication is the act of conveying meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs and semiotic rules. So communication is an activity where living beings exchange meanings by responding to each other's signals. The Latin word communicare refers to 'making something common'. In the I-perspective from where I work so far I have to formulate it differently, communicating in the newly developed terminology is: experiencing an active concept and responding to it. I experience an active concept, take certain actions and experience that the concept shows changes that become connected by me to the actions I undertake.

Now I own a category of active concepts that are to a large extend congruent with my self-concept. The members of that category are so strongly congruent that I experience them as belonging to a category of which I myself are part and which is called 'people'. It looks as if all the members of that category have self-concepts that are very similar to my own concepts, including my self-concept. Through this experience it is possible to step out of my I perspective and see myself as one of those many people. This makes it possible to speak about us and you, which until now was not possible from the I perspective. With this I act as it were outside myself and I can experience myself as one of many people. As soon as I take that step I can speak as normally everyone does and I no longer have to describe everything in terms of my own experiences: I have my personal experiences, but accept that you are also a kind of 'I' with own experiences. Yet an essential difference remains between my own direct experiences and those of other people, experiences that I can only indirectly know through communication.

From now on I will speak about people and animals as independent entities, each having their own concepts, but keep in mind that I only know them by means of my own experiences. It is just a matter of terminology, it does not mean from here I take a step towards realism, but it is easier to talk about a certain person or people in general without always having to add that it is about my experiences, my concepts.

Because 'people' and 'animals' are active concepts, they react to each other: they communicate by mutual taking actions that reinforce or change the concepts of the other.
At this point one is encountered directly on the fundamental question of how it's possible to communicate with each other while everyone possesses his own individual concepts. To achieve that question I use a simple graphic model.

13.4 A graphic model

Grafisch modelThe classification into experiences, patterns, types and concepts is a model of the functioning of the human mind as it can be described on the basis of introspection. In order to make a number of consequences of the model more transparent, I graphically represent the term 'concept'. The figure represents a simple concept consisting of eight types. Each type consists of eight elementary components of congruent patterns that were experienced in the past. The congruence between the patterns is visualized by the colour match. Thus, all the experienced components of certain congruent patterns are indicated as bluish and together they form the type 6, the orange-like components type 1 and so on.
To further clarify it, I'll go back to the hamburger from chapter 11.2. A number of types can be distinguished that together form the concept of 'hamburger'. For example, the appearance is represented by type 1, the taste by type 2, consistency by type 3, the smell by type 4, the sound that it makes when baking by type 5, the weight by type 6, the edibility by type 7 and the taste by type 8.
The fact that in this model each type consists of eight components of congruent patterns experienced in the past would show that we had exactly eight corresponding experiences in each of the eight aspects, which is unlikely in practice. In this graphical model, however, it is only about the principle, most of the actual human concepts are extremely complex, they contain very many types which usually originate from very many experienced patterns that would require a huge grid to represent it graphically. I will use this simple graphical model to clarify a number of issues, for which purpose I use a somewhat more compact version, as below.

Concept A13.5 Communication

So, according to Wikipedia, communication is an activity where living beings exchange meanings by responding to each other's signals. Either, interaction between what I called active concepts. What does this mean seen from the conceptual model?

First of all, it should be noted that communication is not limited to the use of language. That is an important observation. People communicate a lot with the help of language, but non-verbal communication such as body language also plays an important role. The development of language has provided humanity with unprecedented opportunities for communication and concept development, which I will discuss in more detail in the later chapters. However, in this chapter I want to further study how communication can proceed without the use of language.

I start with the simple model-based situation of the hamburger, consisting of eight types, each composed of the components of eight experienced patterns. Imagine that you want to communicate with someone about a hamburger without the possibility to use language. How is that possible? Suppose there is no burger in the neighborhood, neither an depiction of it. You can imagine a hamburger, but how do you convey that? You can make a drawing of a hamburger and show it to the other person, but that is essentially already a primitive form of language. Without the use of language, communication about something is only possible if that something is present or at least experienced at the moment. If there is a burger in the area, you can point to it and you can make sounds and gestures that are understood by someone else. You can smack and say "mmmmm", where you move your hand along your head, from which the other person can see that you like the hamburger.

Animals can do that all that much less than humans. As soon as a dog sees a bone he runs up and starts to rip off. If another dog has not yet seen the bone, from the movements of the first he will infer that something desirable is in play and probably go thereto. He sees the bone, tries to steal it, the first growls and shows all the signs of fighting, on which the other does the same and two dogs really start fighting. All this behaviour is communication: the exchange of meanings by responding to each other's signals. And, as you know, while those two dogs are fighting around the leg, a third one can leave with it., for the two a reason to immediately stop their fight and loudly barking chase the thief.

That is the way animals communicate: they rely on non-verbal communication, which is also limited by the, compared to people, limited collection of ​​non-verbal expressions they have at their disposal. In the case of the fighting dogs, behaviours are communicated that are functional for the particular dog in that situation, the other dog 'understands' the behaviour and responds to it. In the same way as about someone who in the distance sees people walking around a tree and concludes from that, probably only implicitly, that the tree is impenetrable and hard. However, people also know more abstract behaviours that are understood by others, such as the gesture of raising an arm that is interpreted in many cultures as a greeting. That greeting only has meaning in the encounter between people, one can regard it as the primitive beginning of language. Although much lesser than people, animals also know something similar. For example, if one individual feels at risk, it can give a shout that is experienced by members of the same species as a sign to flee or to attack. In the same manner partner animals will respond to signals such as taking on a threatening posture or performing a mating dance. Although animals are limited to non-verbal interactions, in this way they show a primitive beginning of language.

13.6 Communicate with different concepts

Concept Hamburger ENWe then examine which communication between two people is possible without the use of language. Suppose person A and person B both possess the concept of 'hamburger' and come into a kitchen where a cook is baking two hamburgers. As a concept, a hamburger could look like this, in the compact graphic model.

We restrict ourselves to a few random properties that can be known as types and also limit ourselves to the piece of meat, for convenience we ignore the soft bun, the leaf of lettuce, the mayonnaise and the ketchup which make the burger for aficionados so tasty.

Twee concepten Hamburger EN

However, the concept of 'hamburger' is, like all other concepts, individual, built up by a person from a number of experiences from his past. For A and B, the past is partly similar, partly different, so their concepts of 'hamburger' must also be partly different. We show that schematically as follows.
A and B do not have any type totally equal, that is to say that they have partly different and partly the same experiences with regard to all aspects. Both know the hamburger of Mc Donald and also their both mothers used to make their own hamburgers. But their butchers were different: one made them big and thin with horsemeat while the other delivered small thick models from beef. The result is that A and B, in addition to the corresponding patterns they have acquired at Mc Donald, also have different experiences that are nevertheless both part of their concept of 'hamburger'. So A and B have experience with differences in the appearance, taste, smell, consistency, weight and succulence of a hamburger. Because A always came to the kitchen with his mother to make baking, the sizzling sound of a burger in the frying pan is an important constituent type for him, while B, because he detested the kitchen, doesn't know that sound at all. Despite these differences between the two individual concepts, there are also many similarities.

Well, A and B both enter the kitchen and see the cook baking two hamburgers. Both A and B see, smell and hear the burgers baking. The question now is: do these experiences lead to realizing their own, individual concept of 'hamburger'? Both have different experiences with the appearance of hamburgers. A only knows the citizens of the format Mc Donald, while B also knows the big thin ones, baked by his mother. Of course the latter is no hindrance to recognize the contents of the frying pan, two burgers of the Mc Donald format, as the appearance of hamburgers. Essential for both is that the type 'appearance of the Mc Donald burger' was already part of their concept 'hamburger'. The fact that B also has experience with other formats of hamburgers does not pose a problem. In the color scheme, this means that at the type 'appearance of a hamburger' (the bluish cubes) enough corresponding cubes have to be to realize the type for both. The same applies to the other types, with the exception of the type 'sound'. In other words: experiencing the actual hamburgers in the frying pan actualizes for both A and B so many types as part of their concept of 'hamburger' that these concepts are realized by both despite the differences.

Just actualizing the 'appearance' type leads to the realization of the concept. If A and B get the burgers served and eat them, other types are realized to. So despite the fact that the concepts 'hamburger' that A and B own are partly different, both will be realized with the experience of this specific hamburger.

13.6.1 If two persons have a common experience, for both it will lead to the realization of their corresponding, but individual, concept, provided those relevant concepts contain sufficiently similar types

In Chapter 8 congruent concepts were defined as concepts that have at least one type in common. However, this involved a definition of two concepts in the same person's mind. Because here we are dealing with concepts of different people, that definition does not apply. Corresponding concepts are thus concepts of different persons that contain a number of corresponding types. Although the terms congruent and similar closely resemble each other, it's about essentially different situations. Congruent concepts of one person are discrete, can't have the same name. For example the concepts 'football' and 'handball'. Similar concepts of different people have the same name, for example my concept of 'football' and your concept of 'football'.

The question is what happens to a type that one person A possesses and the other, B, does not. In the diagram above that's the case with the sound of the hamburger that is baked. B has never heard that specific sound because he always hated to be in the kitchen. A however knows the sound very well, the hearing of it makes him mouth-watering: actualization of the type leads to powerful realization of the concept 'hamburger'.
What is B doing now? He sees the burger, his concept 'hamburger' is realized, but at the same time he hears a sound, coming from the direction of the frying pan, that he has never heard before. However, this does not pose any problem. B's mind will simply add this new experience to the well-known experiences which, until now, were part of his concept of 'hamburger'. So after this experience his concept will have changed: it now also contains the grey block in the graphical representation above. Maybe his experience is so pleasant that in the future he will always walk into the kitchen when hamburgers are roasted, as a result of which the type of 'sound' as a part of his concept of 'hamburger' will be filled in more and more in the future, similar to the type that A owned already. For A the experience of the sound only leads to the reinforcement of his existing concept, while for B it means an extension. We see here an important mechanism: if two individuals acquire similar experiences, which happens frequently when doing a lot of things together, this leads to the adjustment of their mutual concepts, with the result that these concepts show more similarities and will converge.

13.6.2. If two people share many common experiences, some of their concepts will become more similar over time. Those concepts will converge.

Another case concerns the type of weight, in the diagram above represented by the yellow blocks. A's type only contains blocks that the corresponding type of B doesn't possess and vice versa. In the example it could mean that A only knows heavy hamburgers while B only has experience with thin one's. The example is a bit far-fetched, but it's about the principle.

There are various possibilities:

  1. The weight of the baked hamburger corresponds to the type of A, B doesn't recognize it at all
  2. The opposite situation: the weight of the baked burger corresponds to the type of B, A does not recognize it at all
  3. A and B do not recognize the weight either, it is too small, too big or lies between the two experiences.

It will be clear this is not a fundamentally different situation than the case of the sound. Assuming that for both of them enough known types are being actualized to realize their respective concepts of 'hamburger', the type 'weight' will simply be extended, in case 1 for B, in case 2 for A and in case 3 for them both. And again the common confrontation leads to convergence, their respective concepts will, in addition to the differences that remain, contain more similarities.

However, if A and B would live together completely and from that moment on always have the same hamburger experience, then the older patterns that are no longer experienced will weaken, while the patterns that are experienced will ensure that the same types are reinforced by both. Over time, their concepts of 'hamburger' will converge more and more, the similarities will increase while the differences decrease.

Living together, experiencing the same experiences together, however, does not always have to lead to convergence of concepts. Suppose A enjoy hamburgers while B is vegetarian and shivers from the mere thought he should have to eat it. In that case, confrontation with a hamburger will lead to reinforcement for both, albeit the reinforcement of strongly different types. On that aspect, therefore, there will not arise complete convergence between both concepts: in addition to the similarities that will strengthen at each realization, the differences will increase and become clearer and sharper as the experiences occur.

An example can make clear that this phenomenon is not a rarity. In the Second World War the supply of food in the winter of 1944 in the west of the Netherlands was virtually stopped, the inhabitants had to feed on some cooked bulbs and other barely edible things. After the war the food flow started again and a generation of children was conceived who had not experienced the war themselves, the so-called baby boomers. Many baby boomers remember that when they told their parents they were hungry, they always got the answer: "You hungry? That is not hungry, that is appetite. In the war, then we were hungry ". For the same reason, the older generation couldn't throw away no crumb of food: "In the war we would have committed a murder for this." The concept of 'hunger' has always remained fundamentally different thanks to the different experiences for both generations, probably because the hunger experience of the elderly in the Hunger Winter was so strongly confirmed that it no longer extinguished, while the young people usually never experienced such an intense hunger experience. With regard to the concept of 'hunger', the generation gap was unbridgeable.

So the shared experience of experiences generally leads to the development of corresponding concepts. However, in the described situation with the hamburgers, communication has not yet occurred. What does the concept of communication mean in terms of the conceptual model?
Person A is confronted with the hamburger, or a number of types that are part of his concept 'hamburger' is actualized, which leads to the realization of his concept. It may be that he does not show any reaction to that experience, but often he will express himself in one way or another through an expression of his face, a movement of his arm or the like, in such a way that B can experience it. So, in the terminology of Wikipedia, A sends meanings. Let's assume that A is looking forward and is moving his hand back and forth along his head while also making a "mmmmm" sound. Assuming that B is also fond of hamburgers, if he sees and hears this reaction of A, he will experience these reactions from A as an endorsement of his concept, of which the type 'taste' is part. What does B do? He will have the tendency to give the same reactions and to yes nodding with his head, which for A is an endorsement of his concept. Now A and B communicate: they are entities that conveys mutually understood signs.

However, if A, when tasting the hamburger, draws a dirty face and spits out the first bite immediately, it has a different effect on B. While most types are confirmed, for B the perception of this reaction of A means a denial of the normal type 'taste'. A component is now added to that type that is opposite to the other stored components. At B, seeing A's reactions probably leads to a similar, albeit less strong, effect as if he had taken a bite himself: he assumes that the hamburger tastes dirty. The communication therefore means that a concept for person B can be empowered or weakened without having direct experiences with the types that are part of the concept, solely because he experiences reactions from A who himself experiences this direct experience. Or, in addition to direct personal experience, communication provides an extra source of reinforcement or weakening. The extent to which this mechanism functions depends on the object from which the communication is received. When a dog wags, the meaning is usually clear to us, we do not expect him to go on the attack. But if I serve the same dog a plate of sharply spiced Indian food, he will make it clear that he does not like it, while I love Oriental food like that. His negative communication will not change my concept of Indian food nor the constituent type 'taste'. The communications of a dog will only affect my concepts to a limited extent, those of an earthworm do not at all, while those of people in my environment I trust and from whom I have experienced concepts very similar to those of mine, are able to influence my concepts considerably through communication.

To summarize the latest findings:

13.6.3. The concepts of people who live within a community and gain a lot of common experience will converge to a considerable degree


13.6.4. In addition to direct personal experience, communication provides additional indirect reinforcement or weakening of types and is therefore an important factor for concept development


13.6.5. Animals and people can actively communicate non-verbally, which leads to extra concept developing. The effect on human concepts, however, is greatest when communicated with other people, especially when it concerns familiar and trusted people