The Faces of Humanity

All major human conflicts are essentially what Jonathan Swift called the war between the “Big Endians” and the “Little Endians” in Gulliver’s Travels. In Swift’s novel, Lilliput and Blefuscu are island nations ruled by emperors. Those from Lilliput broke boiled eggs on the larger end, while those from Blefuscu broke their’s on the smaller end. Swift’s readers at the time would have recognized that his metaphor suggested that the British political parties at the time, the Whigs and Torys, were fighting a war based on minuscule and inconsequential differences. That appears to be a common theme in human history: Most . . . → Read More: The Faces of Humanity

True Believers

I recently had two online exchanges with “True Believers.” In my case, both were Christian “literalists” whose “true belief” was in Biblical inerrancy, believing that the Christian Bible is literally the “Word of God” and therefore contains no errors. The belief in inerrancy is more complex than the phrase implies, as there are so many different versions of the ancient texts. My concern is with inerrancy in general rather than which particular form it takes.

Christians aren’t the only ones who have an inerrancy faction. Muslims have one, too. Sunnis and Shia are currently in the news for their . . . → Read More: True Believers

What You Say Is What You Mean

Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments have become a well-known example of how a person’s mouth can get him or her into trouble, especially in these days of cell-phone video and YouTube. The moral of the story is that people (you, me, and Mitt Romney) need to be aware that the demarcation between “private” and “public” has become increasingly fuzzy.

Even when people are being careful with their language and know that others will hear or read what they say, choice of words and manner of delivery may say more than was intended. In a recent column in the New . . . → Read More: What You Say Is What You Mean

Why Everyone Needs to Know Hypnosis

Several news sources used the following headline to report the results of a recent medical study: Doctors predict impotence after prostate treatment. A number of other news sources used the following wording: Study: Potency after prostate cancer varies widely. And other headlines put it this way: Sex After Prostate Cancer: New Study Helps Predict Erectile Function Post-Treatment

Which of the headlines is a hypnotic command promoting impotence for those facing prostate surgery? I suspect that most readers of this blog know that “Doctors predict impotence after prostate treatment” is a form of “doctor hypnosis.” One of my videos on . . . → Read More: Why Everyone Needs to Know Hypnosis

Metaphorically Speaking

About a month ago, I blogged about metaphors we die by (and for). That blog entry barely scratched the surface of the subject (metaphorically speaking). One of the subjects that has been in the news a lot lately is the growing problem of obesity. Have you ever thought about the way language contributes to the size of that problem? The most obvious example is, perhaps, the now-defunct option at McDonalds, which invited customers to say, “Supersize me.”

That is just one example. For one reason or another, one of the meanings of the word “healthy” is “big” or “generous.” . . . → Read More: Metaphorically Speaking

The Bell Curve Theory of Life

The “Bell Curve” is the common expression for what is otherwise known as Standard Normal Distribution. The concept basically states that in any category, most members of the category will be grouped in the middle, with fewer members at the extremes. Wikipedia provides a fancy definition:

In probability theory, the normal (or Gaussian) distribution, is a continuous probability distribution that is often used as a first approximation to describe real-valued random variables that tend to cluster around a single mean value. The graph of the associated probability density function is “bell”-shaped, and is known as the Gaussian function or . . . → Read More: The Bell Curve Theory of Life

Framing and Reframing

Those of you who have studied NLP or persuasive communication are familiar with the concept of perceptual frames. The metaphor is fairly obvious: a window frame, for example, limits what we see on the other side of the window; a photographer can choose what is included in the frame of a photo by trimming the image so that it focuses on, say, one person instead of a group. The concept has been adopted by psychology for the purpose of understanding the context that determines how something is interpreted.

All communication (all? Yes, all…) occurs within a contextual frame. In . . . → Read More: Framing and Reframing