Selfhood and Consciousness: A Non-Philosopher's Guide to Epistemology, Noemics, and Semiotics (and Other Important Things Besides) [Entries Beginning with "S"]


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First published online 13:00 GMT 28th February 2006, Copyright Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). This version [HT.1 - transfer of copyright] dated 09:00 GMT 9th March 2011





G.3 - The Glossary Proper (Entries S)



Sache: [German = "thing, object, article" (C.G.D.); "thing; matter; affair; etc." (Macquarrie and Robinson, 1962, p515).] This everyday German word for that there is inevitably regularly used in philosophical discussions of entities and ontologies, as are its everyday derivatives sachlich and Sachheit. It is also seen in the philosophical German words Sachverhalt and Sachverhältnis.



Sachheit: [See firstly Sache.] This is Heidegger's (1927/1962) notion of thinghood short of Thinghood. [Compare Dinglichkeit, and see Macquarrie and Robinson, (1962, p50; editors' footnote).]



Sachverhalt: [Erudite German Sachverhalt = "state of affairs, circumstance" (C.G.D.); from the roots Sache = "thing, etc." + verhalten = "keep or hold back"] Although Smith (1989) argues that traces of the underlying concepts here may be found in Aristotle's pragma and Thomas Aquinas's status rerum, the term Sachverhalt was only formally introduced into mental philosophy by Bergmann's (1879) "General Logic", where it was used to describe the coming together of otherwise separate concepts during the process of judging [see the entry for objective Idealism]. We then see it again in the work of the Brentano school's Stumpf (1888), where it translates as "formations", and is used to refer to the "specific content of a judgment" (Smith, 1989/2005 online). Husserl continued Bergmann's usage of the term, using it to draw attention to the relative position of, and physical relationship between, a number of figures in the perceptual scene. [Compare Sachverhältnis.]



Sachverhältnis: [Technical German Sachverhältnis = "the relation of a number of facts, states of affairs, circumstances, etc." (this author, under advisement); from the roots Sache = "thing, etc." + Verhältnis = "relationship (of a set of entities)".] [See firstly Sachverhalt.] As reported by Smith (1989/2005 online) Lotze (1880) used the term sachliche Verhältnisse, translated as "material relations", as his contribution to objective Idealism, and Sachverhältnis is a convenient truncation of these two words into one. As far as we can gather, the word implies a "this-there-ness" of the totality of a scene, where that scene contains two or more items in it in a particular arrangement.



Saltatory Conduction: [See firstly resting potential and action potential.] This is a biologically cost-efficient method of rapid conduction of an action potential along a myelinated axon, by allowing it to "jump" from one node of Ranvier to the next. The point is that the myelin sheathing of the axon between each node of Ranvier prevents depolarising effects across the cell membrane, whilst the tube of cytoplasm within the axon is capable of bringing the adjacent node of Ranvier to its action potential threshold. Conduction thus takes place without the biochemical expense of a continuously propagating action potential.



Sandwich Theory: See classical sandwich theory.



Sarah: See case, Sarah.



Satz / Sätze: [German = "sentence(s)".] See consciousness, Meinong's theory of.



Scene Analysis: [See firstly perception and gestalt laws.] Perception theorists have always been fully aware that vision invariably requires us to consider objects within a greater, and often seriously confused, setting [see, for example, Kant's notion of the manifold]. Making sense of such complex settings is made easier by the perceptual system's apparently innate ability to concentrate on a figure or two at the expense of a background it judges to be less important. Psychologists know this as the figure-ground phenomenon, but the detailed processing underlying the phenomenon has never been properly deciphered. Guzman (1968) described the process as the "decomposition of a visual scene", and Duda and Hart (1973) named it "scene analysis". One of the best computational models is that by Marr (1982). This proposes three discrete sub-processes, the first of which analyses a simple two-dimensional representation of retinal excitation, and identifies the key lines, or "contours" within it. This sets up a "primal sketch", a sort of kaleidoscopic jumble of elementary shapes. The primal sketch is then passed to the second stage of the process, which takes the individual "primitives" and "makes explicit the orientation and rough depth of the visible surfaces, and contours of discontinuities in those quantities" (Marr, 1982, p124). This creates, in turn, a "2.5D [that is to say, "two-and-a-half dimensional" - Ed.] sketch". However, the 2.5D sketch lacks full "volumetric" data, especially where the objects in question are important but partly occluded by less important objects in the foreground. The 2.5D sketch is therefore passed to the third stage of the process. This interprets the available cues as to distance, adds in subjective contour where appropriate, and creates thereby a "3D object model". This is the most sophisticated representation of them all, and is based upon "a modular hierarchical representation" (p124) of the objects judged to be present. [For a detailed but student-friendly introduction to Marr's theory, we recommend Frisby (1986).]



Schema: [(Pl. "schemata" or "schemas"); Greek = schema(ta); German = schema(te); French = schéma(s).] (1) In mental philosophy, the Greek schema, having been Germanised by Kant [see the entry for schema(ta)], was anglicised by Head (1926) and Bartlett (1932), and then French-ised (??) by Piaget, to refer to a general-purpose mental structure, thus .....


"Whatever is repeatable and generalisable in an action is what I have called a scheme, and I maintain that there is a logic of schemes. [..... They] can be coordinated with one another, thus implying the general coordination of actions. [.....] For example, a scheme can consist of subschemes or subsystems. If I move a stick to move an object, there is within that scheme one subscheme of the relationship between the hand and the stick, a second subscheme of the relationship between the stick and the object, a third subscheme of the relationship between the object and its position in space, etc." (Piaget, 1970, p42).


The word was given a more modern edge by Schmidt (1975), who introduced the term "motor schema", and it appears in a number of advanced modern theories of executive functioning [see the review in Sections 10 and 12 of our e-paper on "Frontal Lobe Syndrome"]. (2) As used in database theory, the term is a short form of database schema, q.v.



Schema: Although little is known about the mind's way of representing propositional knowledge, two approaches have been particularly influential over the years. The first of these is the very long-standing Associationist tradition, and the second is Head's (1926) concept of the "schema". The former derives ultimately from ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle, regards knowledge as consisting of a massively interlinked network of individual ideas, and lives on as a tradition in modern network models of long term memory. Schema theory, on the other hand, emphasises the role of superordinate cognitive structures in understanding. It does not deny the existence of concepts as such, nor the importance of associations between them, but it looks up a level at how subsets of concepts are habitually organised by "an active organisation of past reactions, or of past experiences" (Bartlett, 1932, p201). Schemas predict what will happen to things in the future from how those things (or similar things) have behaved in the past, and the schema tradition has been brought up-to-date in a number of guises, including Thorndike's (1977) "story structures". [Compare story memory and script theory.]



Schema: [(pl. = schemata) Greek = "bearing; figure, form, shape; constitution, nature" (O.C.G.D.); "appearance, shape" (Peters).] This classical Greek word for the general shape of something was adapted for use within mental philosophy by Kant (e.g., Critique, p211). It appears in conjunction with the derived term Schematismus, to describe how the individual schemata are processed. Here are the two terms in context [a long passage, heavily abridged] .....


"Let us call this formal and pure condition of sensibility, to which the concept of understanding is restricted in its use, the schema of this concept of understanding; and let us call the understanding's procedure with these schemata the schematism of pure understanding. A schema is, in itself, always only a product of the imagination [..... and] must be distinguished from an image. Thus if I put five dots after one another, like this, ....., then this result is an image of the number five. Suppose, on the other hand, that I only think of a number as such, which might then be five or a hundred. Then my thought is more the presentation of a method for presenting [] a multitude (e.g., a thousand) in an image, than this image itself. Indeed, in the case of a thousand I could hardly survey that image and compare it with the concept. Now this presentation of a universal procedure of the imagination for providing a concept with its image I call the schema for that concept. In fact, it is schemata, not images of objects, that lie at the basis of our pure sensible concepts. [Further illustrations] This schematism of our understanding, i.e., its schematism regarding appearances and their mere form, is a secret art residing in the depths of the human soul, an art whose true stratagems we shall hardly ever divine from nature and lay bare before ourselves" (Kant, 1781, Critique; Pluhar translation, pp212-214).



Schema(te): [German = "schema(s/ta)".] [See firstly schema.] Kant uses the derived word schematismus ("schematism") in the quotation below .....


"In fact, it is schemata, not images of objects, that lie at the basis of our pure sensible concepts. No image whatever of a triangle would ever be adequate to the concept of a triangle as such. For it would never reach the concepts universality that makes [it] hold true for all triangles. [.....] The schema of the triangle can never exist anywhere but in thoughts and is a rule for the synthesis of imagination regarding pure objects in space. [.....] "The concept dog signifies a rule whereby my imagination can trace the shape of such a four-footed animal in a general way, i.e., without being limited to any single and particular shape offered to me by experience [.....]. This schematism of our understanding, i.e., its schematism regarding experiences and their mere form, is a secret art residing in the depths of the human soul, an art whose true stratagems we shall hardly ever divine from nature and lay bare before ourselves" (pp213-214).



Schematismus: [German = "schematism".] See schema.



Schizo-: This is a prefix in psychiatric English derived from the Greek schizein, "to split", and used to build compound technical terms such as schizoaffective, etc., as seen in the series of entries below .....



Schizoaffective Disorder: [See firstly schizo-.] Schizoaffective disorder is one of the nine DSM-IV disorder groups under the category header of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Its essential feature is that there is "an uninterrupted period of illness during which, at some time, there is a Major Depressive, Manic, or Mixed Episode concurrent with symptoms that meet Criterion A for Schizophrenia" (DSM-IV-TR, 2000, p319).



Schizoid Autism: [See firstly schizo-.] See schizoid personality.



Schizophrenia: [See firstly schizo-.] Schizophrenia is one of the nine DSM-IV disorder groups under the category header of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. It presents as a "marked social or occupational dysfunction" (DSM-IV-TR, 2000, p298), occasioned/accompanied by "a range of cognitive and emotional dysfunctions that include perception, inferential thinking, language amd communication, behavioural monitoring, affect, fluency and productivity of thought and speech, hedonic capacity [anhedonia], volition and drive, and attention" (ibid., p299). [For more on the cognitive dysfunctions mentioned above, see now cognitive deficit and theory of mind theory of schizophrenia.]



Schizophreniform Disorder: [See firstly schizo-.] Schizophreniform disorder is one of the nine DSM-IV disorder groups under the category header of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Its essential features "are identical to those of Schizophrenia (Criterion A) except for two differences: the total duration of the illness [.....] is at least 1 month but less than 6 months [.....] and impaired social or occupational functioning during some part of the illness is not required (although it may occur)" (DSM-IV-TR, 2000, p317).



Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders: This is the DSM-IV header category for the eight specific disorder groups listed below, plus a "not otherwise specified". The common feature is a "psychotic" quality brought to the everyday life of a patient, as now defined .....


"The narrowest definition of psychotic is restricted to delusions or prominent hallucinations, with the hallucinations occurring in the absence of insight into their pathological nature. A slightly less restrictive definition would also include prominent hallucinations that the individual realises are hallucinatory experiences. [.....] The term has also previously been defined as a 'loss of ego boundaries' or a 'gross impairment in reality testing'" (DSM-IV-TR, 2000, p297).


The individual conditions are schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, brief psychotic disorder, shared psychotic disorder, psychotic disorder due to a general medical condition, substance-induced psychotic disorder, and psychotic disorder not otherwise specified.



Schizotypal Personality Disorder: This is one of the eleven DSM-IV disorder groups under the category header of personality disorders. It presents as "a pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by acute discomfort with, and reduced capacity for, close relationships as well as by cognitive or perceptual distortions and eccentricities of behaviour, beginning by early childhood" (Long, 1995-2005 online). Amongst these eccentricities might be idiosyncratic beliefs or magical thinking, superstitiousness, illusions, oddness of speech, pananoid ideation, or inappropriate affect (ibid.).



Scholasticism: See Schoolmen, the.



Schoolmen, the: This is Berkeley's (e.g., 1710, Principles of Human Knowledge; Lindsay edition, p108) term for adherents to Scholasticism, "a system of mediaeval philosophy which combined the philosophy of Aristotle [] with Christian religious doctrines" (Chávez-Arvizo, 1997, viii).



Schools of Psychology: See perspectives and schools of psychology.



Schopenhauer, Arthur: [German Kantian philosopher (1788-1860).] [Click for external biography] Schopenhauer is noteworthy in the context of the present glossary for his contribution towards the modern notion of the unconscious [see unconscious, the].



Schwann Cell: Schwann cells are oligodendrocytes, that is to say, glial cells with relatively few cell processes, responsible for the myelination of neural tissue (myelin is a protein-phospholypid derived from the oligodendrocyte's cell wall).



Scientific Method: See this entry in the companion resource.



Scientific Models: The material in this section was previously published as an appendix to Smith (1997), and is reproduced here with added hyperlinks and sidenotes .....


Rosenblueth and Wiener's (1945) Classification: Rosenblueth and Wiener (1945) presented an early classification of scientific models, in which they distinguished two main types:


(a) Material Models: These are representations of a complex system by a somewhat simpler one which happens to resemble it in some way. Harré (1972) terms these "real" or "iconic" models.


(b) Formal Models: These are symbolic statements (frequently mathematical equations) which attempt to convey the characteristics of the target system.


Bertels and Nauta's (1969) Classification: This is a "three-dimensional" matrix classification of models, recognising a total of 3 x 6 x 6 (i.e., 108) discrete types of model. The three orthogonal variables making up the matrix are:


(a) Type: This variable reflects the underlying nature of the system being modelled. Three different types are recognised:


(i) Concrete: This type of model is used for physical systems, i.e., systems of real things. Thus, a planetarium is a "concrete" model of the solar system. Note that the model need not be made of concrete, nor need the things being modelled be tangible.


(ii) Conceptual: This type of model is used for systems of concepts. Thus, a plan and elevation technical drawing is a conceptual model of the house or car or whatever it is it is describing.


ASIDE: The distinction between (i) and (ii) is the same as that between physical and logical design in databases - see database design and the onward links.


(iii) Formal: This type of model is used for systems which can be described mathematically (or, at least, assisted in some way by the use of formulae or sets of formulae). Thus, the equation v = u + ft is a good formal model of linear acceleration, because it reflects the demonstrable truth that final velocity (v) is equal to initial velocity (u) plus the product of acceleration (f) and time (t).


(b) Method: This variable reflects the "working principle" of the model. The six possibilities are scale models, analogue models, ideal models (including black box models), structural models, mathematical models, and abstract models.


(c) Function: This variable reflects the purposes which the model is used for. The six possibilities are:


(i) Explorative: This covers models which seek new ways of looking at things. Thus, to state that electricity can behave like water in pipes is exploring what insights that particular analogy might bring.


(ii) Descriptive: This covers models which record and simplify. Thus we might describe an organisational hierarchy using a tree-structure. What matters is that the essence of a real world complication can be conveyed more quickly by a suitable description.


(iii) Explanatory: This covers models which set out solely to explain. Thus, to liken the heart to a pump is to explain its role within a more complex system.


(iv) Operationalising: This covers models which have a distinct practical use, such as crash dummies which enable safe destructive testing, and planetaria which make "measurable" something which otherwise would not be.


(v) Formalising: This covers models which assist calculations and predictions. Thus mathematical models are used by economists to predict the effect of interest rate changes on unemployment, etc., etc.


(vi) Bridging: This covers models which allow simulated behaviours, e.g., role play situations. They are presumed to bridge your observations with your theoretical explanations.


The 108 model types are obtained by selecting one point along each of the three main variables. For example, if you chose (i), (iii), and (iii), you would have a concrete type - ideal method - explanatory function model. Alternatively, if you chose (iii), (iii), and (iv), you would have a formal type - ideal method - formalising function model. And so on. Whether actual instances could be found for all 108 theoretically possible permutations is not known.


Warr's (1980) Classification: Warr (1980) identifies four levels of scientific explanation as follows:


(a) Conceptual Framework: This is a general perspective on an area of enquiry. It helps provide an appropriate vocabulary and some broad guiding principles. It is too broad, however, to be directly testable.


(b) Paradigm: This is a commitment to a particular type of explanation. The schism between the early behaviourists and the introspectionists involved a difference of paradigm, as does that which still exists between behaviour therapists and psychoanalysts. Warr contrasts paradigms with conceptual frameworks by describing paradigms as telling you "how to do research" in a topic area, whilst conceptual frameworks tell you "how to think about" that area.


(c) Theory: A theory is "a systematic set of conjectures about part of reality" (p293). Theories may attempt explanation, description, or prediction. Warr contrasts theories with paradigms and conceptual frameworks by arguing that theories are usually more directly testable. They can be confirmed or refuted (and if they cannot, then they were not really theories to start with).


(d) Model: Finally, Warr distinguishes models from all of the above. These are not explanations at all, but rather illustrations of explanations. They are attempts to convey complex ideas quickly by highlighting their true essence. Warr actually identifies two types of model:


(i) Models-1: These are direct representations of the target concept. They are scale models of some sort. They are "simplified representations of a part of known reality" (p295). Harré (1972) uses the term homeomorph to convey the "same-form" meaning.


(ii) Models-2: These are indirect representations of the target concept. They are metaphoric or analogous representations. They are "imported analogies to assist thinking about the unknown" (p295). They are "as if" models rather than scale models, and their key points are represented by metaphoric allusion rather than by direct representation. Harré (1972) calls these paramorphs to convey this reliance upon a higher-order similarity than mere physical resemblance.


Note that a computer simulation, in Warr's opinion, can be either a Model-1 or a Model-2 depending on the precise nature of its construction. Note also that Models-2 have always been popular, although the nature of the received metaphor has tended to change. Thus, while Descartes likened the mind to clockwork in his Sixth Meditation (Descartes, 1641), the metaphor has moved on, via the mechanical calculator and the telephone exchange, to the electromechanical calculator, and finally to the computer.



Script: [See firstly story memory.] Within the context of Schank and Abelson's theories, a script is "a structure that describes an appropriate sequence of events in a particular context" (Schank and Abelson, 1977, p422). Alternatively, it is an expectation "about what will happen next in a well understood situation" (Schank and Abelson, 1995, p5), thus "[obviating] the need to think" (p6). Sometimes referred to as an "event schema", and often equated with the planning component of executive function (whereupon it needs to be followed up by a period of script execution).



Script Execution: [See firstly script and executive function.] This is Chevignard et al's (2000/2003 online) term for the execution-and-monitoring component of executive function (which, incidentally, they suspect is a better index of dysexecutive syndrome than tests of planning per se).



Script Recitation Task: [See firstly executive function and dysexecutive syndrome.] DETAIL TO FOLLOW - In the meantime, see Godbout and Doyon (1995).



Script Theory: [See firstly script and script execution.] This term refers to Schank and Abelson's analysis of memory structures.



Second Messenger Neurotransmission: [See firstly neurotransmission.] There seem to be two classes of receptor site involved in successful neurotransmission. The protein molecules making up the ion channels are directly coupled receptors, and are structured so that the neurotransmitter molecule can bind directly with them, thus instantaneously influencing their gating properties. Indirectly coupled receptors, on the other hand, are situated some distance away from the ion channels, respond more slowly, and - in some instances, at least - operate by having the neurotransmitter molecule release what is known as a G-protein from the inner wall of the post-synaptic membrane. This G-protein then migrates through the post-synaptic cytoplasm and opens up ion channels "from the inside". Moreover, if one neurotransmitter molecule can manage to release several G-proteins it allows the transmitted signal to be amplified accordingly. Most neurotransmitter receptors are of the indirectly coupled type (Levitan and Kaczmarek, 1991). G-proteins are thus examples of what are known as second messenger neurotransmitters. The first messenger is the transmitter substance which actually crosses the synaptic gap: the second messenger, on the other hand, is any substance - and there seem to be many - activated by the initial binding. These substances diffuse inwards through the cytoplasm of the post-synaptic neuron and seem to be responsible for two major biochemical events. The first of these is concerned with propagating the action potential (because it is, after all, one of the tasks of an excitatory neurotransmitter to induce an EPSP, thus bringing the post-synaptic neuron closer to its own action potential threshold), and the second is to sensitise the neuron in question to subsequent stimulation. [Compare first messenger neurotransmission and see Yin (1999/2003 online) for technical back-up.]


ASIDE: One of the main points of all this technical detail is that as far as memory is concerned, any process capable of outlasting a momentary depolarising event and selectively facilitating subsequent transmission might conveniently subserve a memory of that event. Accordingly, "touch-and-glow" second messenger sensitisation could well deliver the sort of "short term continuity of consciousness" described in the Introduction, and seen in our ability, say, to repeat the early items in a short memory span list as soon as the last one has been heard without any need for rehearsal.



"Second Order" Representation: See meta-representation.



Secondary Function: See Freud's Project.



Secondary Gain: See conversion disorder.



Secondary Narcissism: See narcissism, primary versus secondary.



Secret Art: See Schema(ta).



Security Operations: This is Sullivan's (e.g., 1950) notion of a basic form of mental "operation" which serves to protect the self from anxiety by raising "our prestige and self-respect" (p328) [for more detail, see individuality, illusion of].



Seduction Theory: This is Freud's early theory (e.g., Freud, 1895), later down-graded, that "obsessional neurosis" [now classed as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder] and hysteria [now classed as conversion disorder] were caused primarily by repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, involving "presexual sexual shock" in the case of hysteria, and "presexual sexual pleasure" in the case of obsessional neurosis (Esterson, 1998/2007 online).



Seiendes: [German = "something which is".] [See firstly consciousness, Heidegger's theory of.] According to Brentano .....


"..... there is one concept of the highest generality under which all the objects of our thinking fall. [.....] It is the concept of being (das Seienden) in the sense in which a thing has being" (Brentano, 1917, pp339-340).


Heidegger's translators add .....


"The word 'Seiendes', which Heidegger uses [here] is one of the most important words in the book. The substantive 'das Seiende' is derived from the participle 'seiend' [and] means literally 'that which is'; 'ein Seiendes' means 'something which is'. There is much to be said for translating 'Seiendes' by the noun 'being' or 'beings' (for it is often used in a collective sense). We feel, however, that it is smoother and less confusing to write 'entity' or 'entities'. We are well aware that in recent British and American philosophy the term 'entity' has been used more generally to apply to almost anything whatsoever, no matter what its ontological status. In this translation, however, it will mean simply 'something which is'" (Heidegger, 1927/1962, p22; translators' footnote).



Self: In everyday usage, the term "self" is a convenient shorthand for one's sense of uniqueness, individuality of purpose, and free will. The relevant dictionary definition (and there are many usages to choose from) is that the self comprises "that which in a person is really and intrinsically [s/]he (in contradistinction to what is adventitious); the ego (often identified with the soul or mind as opposed to the body); a permanent subject of successive and varying states of consciousness" (O.E.D.).


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Taking note of the above definitions, write down a brief description of what you are, "really and instrinsically". Then read on. 


Not surprisingly, discussions of self appear in the earliest recorded philosophy [see the coverage of Plato and Aristotle in the entries for mind and soul]. By the 17th century, however, the notion of soul was beginning to smack as overly mystical, and gradually "the self" started to replace it as a secular alternative. John Locke, for example, saw the key to personal identity as "the sameness of a rational being" (Locke, 1690, p247), and self (uncapitalised and without the article "the") as "that conscious thinking thing [.....] which is sensible or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends" (p251).


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Taking note of Locke's suggestions, write down half a dozen respects in which you are the same as you were (a) one year ago, and (b) 10 years ago; also one respect in which you are different. Then read on. 


The notion of self also appears in psychoanalytical theory, where it is divided into ego, id, and superego [see separate entries], as well as in cultural anthropology, where, after Mead (1934), it is regarded as the product of societal influence. Finally, the self is at the very heart of the subjectivity problem of modern consciousness studies. For example, Strawson (1997) has recently noted how naturally the phrase "the self" fits into everyday conversation. We use the word fluently and without preparation, and, when others use it back to us, their usage and understanding seems to match ours. Nevertheless, this practical value does not explain what a self is, and here Strawson identifies four interrelated questions, namely (1) what is the nature of the human sense of self (the “local phenomenological question”), (2) is it possible in other organisms or systems (the “general phenomenological question”), (3) what are the preconditions of its possession (the "conditions question"), and (4) does it really exist in the first place.


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Taking note of Strawson's second question, write down a brief description of "self" or "near-self", such as you believe it to exist in (a) your pet goldfish, (b) your pet hamster, (c) your pet cat and/or dog, (d) a zoo chimpanzee, (e) a feral human, and (f) a recovering stroke patient. 


Strawson's answer to the first of these questions is that the ordinary human sense of the self is "the sense that people have of themselves as being, specifically, a mental presence, a mental someone; a single mental thing that is a conscious subject of experience" (p407). His answer to the second question is that strictly speaking you need to judge on the self's "thinghood" before deciding, and that particular jury is still out [see the mind-brain debate]. His answer to the third question is deferred "for another time" (p424). And his answer to the fourth question is a hesitant "yes", because we do not yet know enough about "ontic distinctness" to take the analysis all the way. He concludes by observing that "one can have a full sense of the single mental self at any given time without thinking of the self as something that has long-term continuity" (p423). For Dennett (1991), the self is the "centre of narrative gravity", whilst Markus (1977) advocates the term "self schemata", which she defines as "attempts to organise, summarise, or explain one's behaviour in a particular domain" (p63). She particularly emphasises the "multi-faceted" nature of the self-concept (Marcus and Wurf, 1987), and points out (Markus and Nurius, 1986) that there can be many "possible selves", both generated and limited by past social experiences. The point is that the current self is a complicated web of all these antecedent selves, each linked to specific emotionally charged memories (they give the example of a "successful self" linked to the memory of examination success), and they see development as "the process of acquiring and then [either] achieving or resisting certain possible selves" (Markus and Nurius, p955).


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Taking note of Markus and Nurius's notion of possible selves, write down a brief description of what you would become, "really and intrinsically" again, if you won a lottery and never had to work again. 


Sherry Turkle continues in this vein in a paper wittily entitled "Who am we?", opening with the intriguing phrase "There are many Sherry Turkles ....." before going on to argue that there is no single self, but rather a multiple distributed system of selves (Turkle, 1996). The concept of possible self is important because it indicates affective attachments to otherwise dispassionate semantic structures. [See now I-consciousness and observing self problem.]



Self Actualisation: [See firstly personality, motivation and.] This is Rogers' (1951) notion of the fully rounded and therefore genuinely contented person. It is the process which drives people to do as much with the talents life has given them as they can. Rogers describes this principle as "an active forward thrust", and profiles it follows .....


"The organism has one basic tendency and striving - to actualise, maintain, and enhance the experiencing organism. [.....] We are talking here about the tendency of the organism to maintain itself [..... ;] to move in the direction of maturation, as maturation is defined for each species. This involves self-actualisation [.....]. It moves in the direction of greater independence or self-responsibility [..... ;] in the direction of socialisation, broadly defined" (Rogers, 1951, pp487-488).


A similar, but considerably more detailed presentation of this view, may be seen in Maslow (1954). In fact, Maslow's textbook favourite "hierarchy of needs" [image] places this ability at the very apex. Maslow identified eight specific recommendations on how to do self-actualisation well, including .....


1. Letting yourself be totally absorbed in your experiencing of the world.

2. Choosing personal growth (instead of safety and a quiet life) at every opportunity.

3. Work out (and then work to) your own model of what a fuller self ought to look like - do not simply follow convention.


For a fuller list of the characteristics of self-actualised people, see Stevens (2007 online).



Self as "I": [See firstly self.] Ryle (1949) notes that children often ask such questions as "What would it be like if I became you and you became me?" (p177). The philosophical problem here is that of the "'systematic elusiveness' of the concept of 'I'" (p178), and Ryle illustrates what is at stake by showing us how the mind routinely interprets the pronouns "I" and "me" quite differently in everyday speech. Thus .....


"In the sentence 'I am warming myself by the fire', the word 'myself' could be replaced by 'my body' without spoiling the sense; but the pronoun 'I' could not be replaced by 'my body' without making nonsense. Similarly the sentence 'Cremate me after I am gone' says nothing self-annihilating, since the 'me' and the 'I' are being used in different senses. So sometimes we can, and sometimes we cannot, paraphrase the first personal pronoun by 'my body'" (p180).


[See now pronoun resolution, and compare self as observer.]



Self as Observer: [See firstly self and defense mechanisms.] In her 1936 monograph on ego defenses, Anna Freud produced a psychoanalytically couched description of the age-old philosophical problem of phenomenal awareness. She begins by locating the process of conscious observation in her father's basic psychoanalytical scheme, as follows .....


"We all know that the three psychic institutions vary greatly in their accessibility to observation. Our knowledge of the id [.....] can be acquired only through the derivatives which make their way into the systems Pcs and Cs. If within the id a state of calm and satisfaction prevails [.....] we can learn nothing of the id contents. It follows, at least theoretically, that the id is not under all conditions open to observation. The situation is, of course, different in the case of the superego. Its contents are for the most part conscious and so can be directly arrived at by endopsychic perception. [..... Nevertheless, i]ts outlines become clear only when it confronts the ego with hostility or at least with criticism. The superego, like the id, becomes perceptible in the state which it produces within the ego [e.g.,] a sense of guilt. Now this means that the proper field for our observation is always the ego. It is, so to speak, the medium through which we try to get a picture of the other two institutions" (Freud, 1936/1968, pp5-6).


She then argues that it is not just important for theorist-clinicians to observe their clients' egos per se, but that they will actually learn far more when they observe those egos observing, and never more so, indeed, than when they are in conflict with their corresponding ids. This process of observing the observer will never be easy, however, because the whole purpose of having ego defenses is that certain things should remain unobservable, thus ..... 


"[Id] impulses run the risk of incurring the displeasure of institutions essentially alien to them. They are exposed to criticism and rejection and have to submit to every kind of modification. [.....] The instinctual impulses [.....] make hostile incursions into the ego, in the hope of overthrowing it by a surprise attack. The ego on its side becomes suspicious; it proceeds to counterattack and to invade the territory of the id. Its purpose is to put the instincts permanently out of action by means of appropriate defensive measures, designed to secure its own boundaries. [.....] All the defensive measures of the ego against the id are carried out silently and invisibly. The most that we can ever do is to reconstruct them in retrospect: we can never really witness them in operation. This statement applies, for instance, to successful repression. The ego knows nothing of it; we are aware of it only subsequently, when it becomes apparent that something is missing [..... when] we realise that certain id impulses are absent which we should expect to make their appearance in the ego in pursuit of gratification" (Freud, 1936/1968, pp7-8).



Self-Assertion: This is one of the defense mechanisms postulated by psychoanalytic theory, and recognised by the DSM-IV as belonging to the "high adaptive" defense level. Self-asserting individuals deal with their emotional conflict by expressing their feelings and thoughts "directly in a way that is not coercive or manipulative" (DSM-IV-TR, 2000, p813).



Self, Bachman Diagram of:


"Man's soul is, in a certain way, entities" (Aristotle, as cited in Heidegger, Being and Time, p34). 


Although Neisser (1988) has suggested how different memory types contribute to the mental structures which we experience as self [see consciousness, Neisser's theory of], the most popular models of cognition are data flow diagrams rather than data models. As such, they look at the distribution of functional resources rather than at the structure of that which is being processed. They therefore often fail to factor in the extent to which the nature of said content predetermines the nature of its processing.


ASIDE: Readers who are unfamiliar with the distinction between the logical and physical stages in the design of a semantic network should not be here yet. Go back to the entries for Bachman diagram, data analysis and normalisation, and all entries beginning with the word database, and follow onward links as appropriate.


It is not clear why we are generally more interested in "what happens where" in the brain rather than "what does it happen to" but the effect can clearly be seen at work in the age-old localisation of function debate [see, for example, the class-defining diagrams used by Wernicke (1874), Kussmaul (1878), and Lichtheim (1885) to explain the subtypes of aphasia]. Modern speech production theory is based upon upgrades of Lordat (1843), modern aphasiological models are based upon a combination of Kussmaul (1878) and Freud (1891), and the modern medical profession still use Lichtheim (1885) almost without amendment [see, for example, Fuller (1993)]. To help compensate for this omission we have as work-in-progress a Bachman diagram version of an idealised cognitive system. [If interested in the technicalities of preparing data flow diagrams, see our e-tutorial "How to Draw Cognitive Diagrams".]



Self-Complexity: See cognitive complexity.



Self-Concept: [See firstly self and ego.] This is Carl Rogers' notion of the ideal end product of the process by which we slowly learn to "differentiate" a "'me', 'I', 'myself'" from our broader experience of the world [compare self, conceptual]. In his book "Client-Centred Therapy" (Rogers, 1951), Rogers describes the process as beginning with simple acts of physical mastery, such as learning to walk, and as then gradually coming to involve ever more abstract cognitive processes until, in the end, "a portion of the total private world becomes recognised as 'me', 'I', 'myself'" (Rogers, 1951, p497). From the outset, therefore, self-concept theory embraced both favourites of mid-20th century American psychology, namely learning theory and psychotherapy. A decade later, in "On Becoming a Person" (Rogers, 1961), Rogers added that one of the goals of therapy was to alter self-perception "in a direction which makes the self more highly valued" (Rogers, 1961, p258). And again .....


"Life, at its best, is a flowing, changing, process in which nothing is fixed. [.....] I am at my best when I can let the flow of my experience carry me, in a direction which appears to be forward, toward goals of which I am but dimly aware. In thus floating with the complex stream of my experiencing, and in trying to understand its ever-changing complexity, it should be evident that there are no fixed points ..... nor any] unchanging set of principles which I hold. Life is guided by a changing understanding of and interpretation of my experience. It is always a process of becoming" (Rogers, 1961, p27).


More recent approaches to the self tend to place more emphasis on the concept side of the self/concept equation, and try to explain how much of what we are as individuals is by its very nature grounded in the body of propositional knowledge often referred to as semantic memory. Here is a recent definition .....


"Self-concept or self-identity is the mental and conceptual awareness and persistent regard that sentient beings hold with regard to their own being. Components of a being's self-concept include physical, psychological, and social attributes; and can be influenced by its attitudes, habits, beliefs and ideas. These components and attributes can each be condensed to the general concepts of self-image and the self-esteem" (Wikipedia).


There is also a major developmental angle to the psychology of the self-concept, because the aforementioned attitudes, etc., not only start to accumulate during infancy but, once in place, dictate the direction and quality of the experiences which follow. Consider .....


"Children with a positive self-concept are capable of accepting themselves, their shortcomings included, and are [.....] described as being self-confident, enterprising, and success-oriented. They expect good results from themselves, and are confident that they will achieve them. They are ready to take risks. Failure does not distress them disproportionately. These characteristics often influence school performances favourably" (Dévai, 1990, p88).


It is reassuring to note, however, that there appear to be no necessary differences in self-concept in cases of learning disability. Cuskelly and De Jong (2004/2006 online) looked at "the organisation of different aspects of self-concept" in a sample of 18 children with Down syndrome, and found that there were no significant differences compared to normally developing children matched for developmental age. The authors used Harter and Pike's (1984) Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance, a psychometric instrument which probes four subscales, namely "cognitive competence", "physical competence", "peer acceptance", and "maternal acceptance", and concluded that the two groups used "similar cognitive processes in forming self-concept". There may well be differences in intellectual attainment between the two groups, but qualitatively they were put together the same way. Psychodynamic theorists take yet another position, and like to distinguish between the notions of "self image", "self esteem", and "ego ideal" [see separate entries]. Here is Jacobson (1964), for example, on the relationship between the self-concept and the basic psychodynamic constructs .....


"The meaning of the concepts of the self and self representations, as distinct from that of the ego, becomes clear when we remember that the establishment of the system ego sets in with the discovery of the object world and the growing distinction between it and one's own physical and mental self. From the ever-increasing memory traces of pleasurable and unpleasurable instinctual, emotional, ideational, and functional experiences and of perceptions with which they become associated, images of the love objects as well as those of the bodily and psychic self emerge. Vague and variable at first, they gradually expand and develop into consistent and more or less realistic endopsychic representations of the object world and of the self". [..... I]t is the mental representations of the self, constituted in the course of ego formation, which become cathected with libido and aggression and turn into objects of love and hate" (Jacobson, 1964, p19).


[Compare self, conceptual, self-concept, dynamic, self, poly-centric, and self, private.]



Self-Concept, Dynamic: This is Markus and Wurf's (1987) notion of a self which is (a) "active, forceful, and capable of change" (p299), and (b) something which can only be properly understood if the following three theoretical preconditions are taken into account .....


1. The Multifacetedness of the Self-Concept: The first important premise is that the self should NOT be conceptualised as "a unitary, monolithic entity" (p300). Instead it should be treated as an active collecting together of mental structures and processes, capable - rather mysteriously - of both knowing and being known.


2. The Social Situation: The second important premise is that the "configuration of the immediate social situation" (p300) must be expected to modulate the expression of the underlying self-concept.


3. Presently Accessible Self: The third important premise is that overt behaviour is not always the most appropriate indicator to be observing. There are, the authors warn, more "subtle" variables - such as mood changes and shifts in self-esteem - which reveal more about what is going on at self-concept level.


Markus and Wurf then provide us with a tentative model of "the dynamic self-concept", as follows .....


"[The dynamic self-model is] viewed as a collection of self-representations, and the working self-concept is that subset of representations which is accessible at a given moment. These representations [.....] are activated depending on the prevailing social circumstances and the individual's motivational state. Some self-representations are more or less automatically activated as a result of salient situational stimuli. Many others, however, are willfully recruited or invoked in response to whatever motives the individual is striving to fulfil. [.....] The affective-cognitive system is distinguished as one feature of the person, and the self-concept is defined as one aspect of this system. In turn, the working self-concept is the particular configuration of representations drawn from the self-concept that regulates the individual's on-going actions and reactions. Thus the individual's behaviour is regulated according to whatever set of dynamic structures [.....] are currently activated ....." (Markus and Wurf, 1987, p314).


 Markus and Wurf's concluding reflections include the following valuable analysis .....


"With respect to the content and structure of the self-concept, we [..... have] yet to confront the perennially thorny issue of what it is that is represented in self-representations [or] who is this 'I' that is asking what is this 'me'? The question of individual differences in the structure and organisation of the self-concept has barely been broached. [A number of sub-issues are listed at this point.] Toward this end, the research on general self-regulatory processes [] should be integrated with those studies focusing specifically on how the self regulates intrapersonal behaviour. In particular, the place of affect regulation in the behavioural regulation cycle should be drawn out" (Markus and Wurf, 1987, p328).



Self, Conceptual: This is one of the five qualitatively different types of self identified by Neisser (1988) [for the background to which, see consciousness, Neisser's theory of]. Specifically, it is our mental representation of what we are. That is to say, it is a set of "self-concepts", or a "notion of what I am", or a "cognitive model". This type of self incorporates our social roles, or "our own notions of how we fit into society: of what we should do and how we should be treated". [Compare self concept.]



Self-Consciousness: One formal definition of self-consciousness is that it is "the capacity to become the object of one's own attention" (Metzinger, 2003, p317). At the end of his review of current theories of self-consciousness (especially the "left-brain/right brain" approaches of Gazzaniga and Dennett), Blachowicz (1997) concludes as follows .....


"While self-consciousness seems to be closely tied to the internal dialogue, and the partners of this dialogue are equal, if not equivalent, this balance is often enough ignored, and self-consciousness [.....] comes to be associated with the articulating partner alone. [.....] It might be claimed that senses of self and self-consciousness more naturally attach to executive processing systems in the brain, and that the verbal system [.....] bears the responsibility for some general coordination of the other systems. The more primitive experiential systems had evolved first, and the verbal system may have developed to handle problems not taken care of at these more basic levels. Executive coordination need not entail executive power, however. Jaynes' [(1977)] speculative account of the development of these two systems suggests that, prior to their integration (integration of the two cerebral hemispheres), 'I' was associated with the verbal system, while I received 'commands' (as from another person) from the nonverbal system (perhaps in abbreviated speech). This 'I' has little if any executive power [but] in time, with integration, collaboration became so close that 'I' was no longer experienced as an isolated (powerless) facilitator, but as the origin of my decisions as well ....." (p507).


Unfortunately, this technical usage of the term clashes with the everyday connotation of self consciousness as a state of embarrassment, so we should perhaps prefer more formally defined terms such as subjectivity or selfhood.



Self, Data Model of: See self, Bachman diagram of.



Self, Divided: [See firstly defense mechanisms in general and splitting in particular, and note the caution in personality, split concerning the overly loose, but popular, term "split personality".] The term "divided self" was formally introduced into the psychological lexicon when the existentialist psychiatrist R.D. Laing took it as the title for his 1960 monograph on the nature of "schizoid and schizophrenic persons" (Laing, 1960, p9). As the term suggests, Laing's thesis was that nature had bestowed upon each one of us an accumulation of mental resources which - properly integrated into "an entity" - could then, by engaging in fulfilling experiences and relationships, elevate itself to the status of a fully-functioning and existentially complete human being. Thus .....


"The term schizoid refers to an individual the totality of whose experience is split in two main ways: in the first place, there is a rent in his relation with his world and, in the second, there is a disruption of his relation with himself. Such a person is not able to experience himself 'together with' others or 'at home in' the world, but, on the contrary, he experiences himself in despairing aloneness and isolation; moreover, he does not experience himself as a complete person but rather as 'split' in various ways, perhaps as a mind more or less tenuously linked to a body, as two or more selves, and so on. [.....] The most serious objection to the technical vocabulary currently used to describe psychiatric patients is that it consists of words which split man up verbally in a way which is analogous to the existential splits we have to describe here. But we cannot give an adequate account of the existential splits unless we can begin from the concept of a unitary whole, and no such concept exists, nor can any such concept be expressed within the current language system of psychiatry or psychoanalysis. The words [available] either refer to man in isolation from the other and the world, that is, as an entity not essentially 'in relation to' the other and in a world, or they refer to falsely substantialised aspects of this isolated entity. Such words are: mind and body, psyche and soma, psychological and physical, personality, the self, the organism. All these terms are abstracta. Instead of the original bond of I and You, we take a single man in isolation ....." (Laing, 1960, pp17/19; bold emphasis added).


It follows that much of Laing's work is then an analysis of what constitutes "the inner self" in the so-called "normal" population, so that he could more clearly understand what it meant to be abnormal. He was particularly interested in the mechanisms by which such normal phenomena as self-consciousness could develop to a pathological extent in the unlucky proportion of us who are destined for schizotypy. What was it about the unlucky ones which allowed this to happen? And the answer, he believed, lay in the fact that human beings engage with one another in two different ways, on the one hand as "an organism" - "a complex, physical-chemical system" (p21) - and on the other hand as "a person". The key fact, indeed, was that "one acts towards an organism differently from the way one acts towards a person" (p21), so that organism and person are "different experiential Gestalts" (ibid.). Consider .....


"The other as person is seen by me as responsible, as capable of choice, in short, as a self-acting agent. Seen as an organism, all that goes on in that organism can be conceptualised at any level of complexity - atomic, molecular, cellular, systemic, or organismic. Whereas behaviour seen as personal is seen in terms of that person's experience and of his intentions, behaviour seen organismically can only be seen as the contraction or relaxation of certain muscles, etc. [.....] Seen as an organism, man cannot be anything else but a complex of things, of its, and the processes that ultimately comprise an organism are it-processes. [.....] In the following pages, we shall be concerned specifically with people who experience themselves as automata, as robots, as bits of machinery, or even as animals. Such people are rightly regarded as crazy. Yet why do we not regard [Reductionism itself] as equally crazy?" (pp22-23).


Laing goes on to apply his "existential-phenomenological" approach to the understanding and treatment of psychosis. He makes much of the person as "the observing self" and of a figurative mirror as the mechanism for the observer and the observed to be one and the same, and - for the lucky ones - the way to sanity, thus ..... 


"This identification of the self with the phantasy of the person by whom one is seen may contribute decisively to the characteristics of the observing self. [.....] The individual has now a persecuting observer in the very core of his being. It may be that the child becomes possessed by the alien and destructive presence of the observer who has turned bad in his absence, occupying the place of the observing self, of the boy himself outside the mirror. If this happens, he retains his awareness of himself as an object in the eyes of another by observing himself as the other: he lends the other his eyes in order that he may continue to be seen; he then becomes an object in his own eyes. But the part of himself who looks into him and sees him, has developed the persecutory features he has come to feel the real person outside him to have" (Laing, 1960, p117).


Moving forward a generation, the Harvard psychiatrist Arnold H. Modell draws more on the work of Fairbairn and Winnicott than Laing. His personal search is for the "psychic structures" of the self (Modell, 1993, p9), and he finds Winnicott's notion of the "true self" valuable here. Here is how he develops his argument .....


"Winnicott emphasised the unity of the psyche-soma: the true self is a somato-psychic phenomenon, and not simply a psychological entity. The true self is the locus of the infant's first creative action, which Winnicott called the 'spontaneous gesture'. The spontaneous gesture can be viewed as the precursor of the creation of private meanings. It is a gesture that arises from the baby alone [.....] creating something that is independent of the mother" (Modell, 1993, p55; bold emphasis added).


"The schizoid defense of noncommunication can be viewed as a means of protecting private space. The deepest anxiety experienced in such cases is that intrusion into one's private space will disrupt continuity of the sense of self. The sense of the private self safeguards private space. This strength, in turn, depends upon one's remaining in contact with an affective core. The integrity of this affective core can be disrupted and decentred in a variety of ways. One familiar source of disruption can be traced to disturbances in the mother-child relationship [.....] in the fact that the means employed to protect private space from intrusion are recreated within the self. In closing oneself off from others, one may inadvertently close oneself off from oneself" (Modell, 1993, pp96-97; bold emphasis added).


"The idea of a divided self implicitly suggests that one portion of the self is unknown to another portion of the self. Thus, any theory of a divided self assumes that some aspects of the self are unconscious. Fairbairn's model contains a multiplicity of noncommunicating selves - the central ego, the internal saboteur, the rejecting object, the exciting object, and so forth. The central ego and the internal objects replicate, within the self, earlier traumatic relationships. These nonintegrated aspects of the self remain unconscious; the individual represses not isolated ideas, impulses, or affects but 'intolerably bad internalised objects'. What is repressed is the entire gestalt of a relationship, recorded as a categorical memory. Even though this internalised object is unconscious, the thoughts and [p148] affects associated with this 'bad' relationship have continuing potential to generate conscious experience. But the associative links to the original traumatic experience may remain repressed" (Modell, 1993, pp147-148)


Claridge (2006) has recently revisited these issues, in the context of his research into schizotypy. His interest lies in whether it is best to model schizotypy as a "fully dimensional" or "quasi-dimensional" fashion. If the former, then it would suggest that schizotypy was "a multi-genic 'nervous type' personality dimension like any other" (p657). If the latter, it would predict instead "a single-gene based CNS deficit" (ibid.).



Self, Dynamic: See self-concept, dynamic.



Self, Ecological: This is one of the five qualitatively different types of self identified by Neisser (1988) [for the background to which, see consciousness, Neisser's theory of]. Specifically, it is "the self as perceived with respect to the physical environment" (p36). It is the thing at the centre of your various perceptual fields, and around which all other things (quite literally) rotate. As such, it more or less corresponds to your biological body, plus any clothing you happen to be wearing, (plus your tennis racket, your pen, etc, and - even - your car).



Self-Efficacy: [See firstly personality, motivation and.] This is Bandura's (1977) notion of a learned expectancy that a particular choice of behaviour will lead to a successful resolution of a perceived threatening situation, implicit in which is the assumption that the selection of a behaviour involves an attempt at "coping" with the world. The process works as follows .....


"By observing the differential effects of their own actions, individuals discern which responses are appropriate in which settings and behave accordingly [citation]. Viewed from the cognitive framework, learning through differential outcomes becomes a special case of observational learning. In this mode of conveying response information, the conception of the appropriate behaviour is gradually constructed from observing the effects of one's actions rather than from the examples provided by others" (Bandura, 1977, p192).


That said, Bandura then looks at how well the self-efficacy construct deals with the problem of "fearful and avoidant" behaviour. His point was that "expectations of personal efficacy" (p193) operate in a different part of the mind to "outcome expectancies", thus .....


"An outcome expectancy is defined as a person's estimate that a given behaviour will lead to certain outcomes. An efficacy expectation is the conviction that one can successfully execute the behaviour required to produce the outcomes. Outcome and efficacy expectations are differentiated, because individuals can believe that a particular course of action will produce certain outcomes, but if they [doubt] they can perform the necessary activities such information does not influence their behaviour" (Bandura, 1977, p193).



Self, Emergent: In the context of the mind-brain problem in general, and of the self in particular, this is Hasker's (2001) term for a conceptualisation of self in terms of its holistic properties. As such it is a major exposition of the Emergent Dualism position.



Self-Esteem: In everyday English, one's self esteem is one's "appreciation or opinion of oneself" (O.E.D.). The same general concept is used in psychology, but with the added overtone that self-esteem is something which is desperately vulnerable; something which is quick to suffer in the face of external stressors or adverse events. The main psychometric measures of self-esteem are the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, and the construct has been repeatedly linked to such phenomena as health-related behaviour (smoking, weight management, etc.), psychological well-being, and academic performance. The key question in the present context is where one's self-esteem comes from, and the conventional response is that we conduct "social comparisons" and are subject to the "reflected appraisal" of other people. Certainly, many behaviours help build a child's self-esteem. Here is a selection from Falloon (2006 online) .....


not labelling them; giving them "unconditional positive regard"; cheering their accomplishments; showing interest in their efforts; accepting them as individuals; teaching them about human dignity and its true potential; teaching them about the right to be oneself


The advice we like best, however, is this: "The parent who disciplines and speaks to his child as if dealing with another thinking being - which of course he is - will provide the best possible preparation for the years ahead" (ibid.). [See now self-esteem, pathologies of.]



Self-Esteem, Pathologies of: [See firstly self-esteem.] Ray (1996/2006 online) has described the effects of child sexual abuse on self-esteem .....


"Both clinical and non-clinical samples have shown victims of child sexual abuse to be more self-destructive than non-victims. A high incidence of suicide attempts among victims of child sexual abuse has been found by many researchers []. Feelings of isolation, alienation and stigmatization have been reported in both clinical and community samples of sexual abuse victims []. A negative self-concept has been reported as a long-term effect of child sexual abuse. Bagley and Ramsay (1986) reported that women with very poor self-esteem were nearly four times as likely to report a history of child sexual abuse as were the other subjects. In two clinical samples, 87% and 60% of the victims of sexual abuse reported self-esteem problems []."



Self, Extended: This is one of the five qualitatively different types of self identified by Neisser (1988) [for the background to which, see consciousness, Neisser's theory of]. Specifically, it is "the self as it was in the past and as we expect it to be in the future, known primarily on the basis of memory. [] Amnesia is, par excellence, the pathology of extended self." (p46). This type of self is therefore heavily dependent upon the episodic elements of our long-term memory.



Self, False: See true self versus false self, Winnicott, Donald and self, divided.



Self, Fragile: [See firstly depression and self.] Mollon and Parry (1984) use this term to describe the core structures of the "depression-prone personality" (p137). Here is their opening argument .....


"A simple unitary concept of lowered self-esteem or negative self-evaluation [] is not adequate to describe the radical alteration in the experience of the self which emerges in depression. Instead, a central characteristic of depression is what might be described as a collapse in the experience of the self and an uncertainty concerning its place in the world. [..... T]he prime disturbance is seen as relating to the sense of self" (p137).


The authors then focus on the development of the sense of self. Three stages are presented. The first of these is the "primal relationship", that is to say, "a state of primary identification with the mother" (p138), a stage in which the child "has no clear sense of self as distinct from other" (ibid.) and in which the mother can be seen as a kind of "psychological womb" (ibid.). The second stage is that of "psychological birth", and corresponds to Mahler et al's (1975) separation-individuation. The third stage is that of the "transformations of narcissism", and follows Kohut's earlier work in this area. The key proposal here is that for a time we are all naturally (and, as I recall, unsufferably) narcissistic, as follows .....


"Kohut has argued that the child's positive and cohesive sense of self is for some years absolutely dependent upon the presence of admiring, empathically responsive others or upon idealised others. These are thus experienced not as fully separate but as part of the child's psychic structure; Kohut therefore terms such figures 'self-objects'. This insight helps us to understand the catastrophic nature of early separations since, from this point of view, separation from a significant caretaking figure will be experienced by the child as a wrenching apart of his or her self" (p139; emphasis added).


Kohut's point in all this is that this narcissism has to be gratified while it is in the normal time frame to be gratified, because otherwise it will persist unnaturally as an unrealistic need for admiration, which, in turn, will bring with it "a consequent proneness to shame, disappointment, and depression" (p139). Indeed, if what takes place is "adaptation" to the mother rather than full separation-individuation, then the child is "likely to develop what Winnicott [] has termed a 'false self' (p140). Mollon and Parry continue .....


"The child in this position may not be deprived of love per se but it is love for his or her own self that is lacking. [.....] As Masterson and Rinsley (1975) point out, if the mother is affectionate as long as the child remains close and dependent, but becomes cold and rejecting in response to attempts to separate and individuate, then the child can feel either good but merged with mother, or separate from mother but bad. Under these circumstances there is no transitional or self-object stage; the child is either wholly in or wholly out. Since separation brings the threat of abandonment the emergent sense of self is experienced as bad. The picture that arises is of a mother who has herself been preoccupied to the extent that she could not respond to the child's own needs" (p140).



Self, Fragmenting: See self, primary disturbances of.



Self Harm: [See firstly self mutilation.] In a recent UK survey, it emerged that 11% of girls and 3% of boys aged 15 and 16 years reported self-harming in the preceding year. The most commonly reported reason for this behaviour was that it helped them with distress, anger, and depression. There is little difficulty grasping the central assertion that self harm is some sort of "cry for help" in response to an external stressor such as being bullied at school or in the workplace, bereavement, or emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Internet support sites list dozens of possible motivations, including .....


relieving anger; reminding oneself of reality; defusing suicidal feelings; self punishment; getting a high; expressing emotional pain when words fail; asking for support when words fail; forcibly diverting attention from intrusive recollections


ASIDE: Note that in two of the above bullet-points we have italicised the phrase "when words fail". This is because we believe that zonal communication difficulties are clinically highly significant - see speech acts for a general discussion and prohibitives for a specific example. On this point, Zlotnik et al (1996) have noted a relationship between self-injurious behaviour and alexithymia.


In short, self-harm is just a rather direct and to-the-point coping strategy on the part of a low self-esteem, damaged, and possibly cognitively incomplete, self. [See now self harm, incestuous sexual abuse and.]



Self Harm, Incestuous Sexual Abuse and: [See firstly the separate entries for self harm and incest.] What we can also say, (as has been repeatedly noted elsewhere in this glossary) is that one of the main triggers of self-harming behaviour appears to be a history of incestuous sexual abuse. Blume (1990), for example, cites research by Conterio and Bever, as follows [a long extract, heavily abridged] .....


"We believe that the self-injurer is unable to accept or express uncomfortable or overwhelming feelings due to underlying emotional conflicts usually resulting from early traumatic childhood experiences. Frequently the trauma is incest. In our study 49% of self-injurers stated that they had been sexually abused and 45% stated that they had been physically abused [some both]. The child makes sense of the violations against her body by incorporating a negative body image [and] later in life, the self-injurer continues to exhibit 'hateful behaviour' toward her own body. [.....] One woman who continually injured one of her hands was eventually able to share that she was attempting to destroy the hand that had been forced to touch a neighbour's penis. [.....] Self-injurers are often angry people who cannot admit to, or do not know how to express, their anger. [.....] This need originates in the early traumatic experiences where the person felt destructively controlled; later, the adult expresses needs through negative, demanding, manipulative behaviours, thus eliciting angry feeling in others. The counterproductive nature of this method of fulfillment is striking" (Conterio and Bever, in Blume, 1990, pp185-188).


Blume herself puts it this way .....


"The child who experiences incest learns that her body is not hers. She learns that touch is not affection, but violation. [.....] Her body puts her in jeopardy. If the perpetrator focuses solely on his own satisfaction, she is likely to learn that her body is designed for the pleasure of others [whilst] if he focuses on touching her to stimulate her, she may learn to feel betrayed by her own arousal. [.....] Her body is the battlefield on which the incest is played out. It stores her pain and her memories. It also stores her self-blame. In the incest survivor's eyes, her body gets her into trouble" (p192).


WAS THIS A SENSITIVE TOPIC FOR YOU?: If for any reason you have been emotionally affected by any of the issues dealt with in this entry, you will find suitable helpline details in the entry for toxic parenting.



Self, Incestuous Sexual Abuse and: As noted in the entries for borderline personality disorder and multiple personality disorders, there is a body of evidence that a highly characteristic form of self (or, indeed, of two or more dissociated selves) is correlated with incestuous sexual abuse. Certainly, the first-hand reports from the survivors of childhood sexual abuse routinely and forcefully return to the same core accusations. Consider these snippets from the first-hand reports in the literature .....


Extract #1: "Incest victims report a kind of emotional numbness that sets in as their fathers or stepfathers begin to molest them. It is an instinctive, protective trick, a form of denial, not of the incest, but of the feeling of overwhelming confusion and revulsion that accompanies it. [.....] Victims can't feel good about anything, including themselves. Their sense of shame is total" (Sessions, 1990, pp10-11).


Extract #2: "The great taboo is characterised by a great silence [.....] The secret [.....] is so well-kept by the victim that no one even suspects the abuse. [.....] Most victims learn ways to cope with the double-bind of fear of their abuser and dependence on him; they develop ways of living with revulsion over the act and powerlessness to do anything about it. They block feeling. They look the other way. They numb themselves psychologically" (Sessions, 1990, p12).


Extract #3: "The terrible tragic irony of incest is that many of the child's worst fears - about being blamed for the abuse, about tearing the family apart, about not being believed - are frequently borne out. [.....] 'They often blame the daughter'. [.....] One study of 145 cases of sexual abuse in New York showed that only two convictions could be obtained [..... and if the parents get divorced] that makes the child a victim twice over - once by being molested and now by being blamed for the family breakup. [.....] A fragile young psyche, barely formed, is terrorised by a physical and emotional giant. Incest victims are put in such a bind that escape becomes a lifelong challenge" (Sessions, 1990, p15).


Extract #4: "To expose an incident is to expose her own insignificance. To tell anyone is to be disgraced in her own eyes and the eyes of others. The child victim has no recourse but to bury, hide, and try to forget the experience. But the humiliation will not go away. It festers, poisons, and undermines her being. When the offence remains hidden, unanswered and unchallenged, the sexuality, the very biology of the offended child, becomes her shame" (Bass and Thornton, 1983, p13).


Extract #5: "In an article on incest [] Jeanne Modesitt wrote, 'One evening after my father had fondled me for about an hour, my body involuntarily climaxed. I had never experienced orgasm before. I was frightened and disgusted as I looked up at my father and saw his triumphant smile. I felt as if my body had betrayed me. I began to hate myself'. Because she does not know that her body can respond without her consent, or even that it can respond in such a way at all, the abused child feels that she must have wanted the abuse, must have asked for it in some way. It is this betrayal of herself by her body that she sometimes finds the hardest to forgive" (Bass and Thornton, 1983, p19).


ASIDE: Readers unfamiliar with the three-layered biological control hierarchy of reflex, instinct, and higher cognitive function should note that this is precisely what would have been predicted by this model - see the entry for Jackson-Meynert model for details if interested.


Extract #6: "I'm afraid to complain because daddy won't love me won't love me love me. [.....] At last I say the won't-love-me words: 'I'm going to tell my mommy on you!' My father replaces bribes with threats. 'If you do, you'll have to give me back all your toys.'" (Fraser, 1989, pp10-11).


Extract #7: "When the conflict caused by my sexual relationship with my father became too acute to bear, I created a secret accomplice for my daddy by splitting my personality in two. Thus, somewhere around the age of seven, I acquired another self with memories and experiences separate from mine, whose existence was unknown to me. My loss of memory was retroactive. I did not remember my daddy ever having touched me sexually. [.....] In future, whenever my daddy approached me sexually I turned into my other self, and afterwards I did not remember anything that had happened. [p14 ..... p24] Who was my other self? Though we had split one personality between us, I was the majority shareholder. I went to school, made friends, [etc.], while she remained morally and emotionally a child, functioning on instinct rather than on intelligence [and] I blotted out her existence, she passed out of my control as completely as a figure in a dream. She was a servant of the house we shared. [But] did she ever run free? I can never be sure" (Fraser, 1989, p15/p24).


RESEARCH ISSUE: It would be interesting to re-analyse the above pen-picture from the point of view of a defect in the sort of mind-reading ability discussed in the entries for theory of mind, only with two of the minds situated in the same head! One would expect the underlying split ideation to show itself both in the production of one's own speech acts and in the interpretation of the speech acts of others, in much the same way that individuals with specific language impairments or autistic spectrum disorders misinterpret the implicature of language.


Extract #8: "I have a shirt box full of old photographs. [.....] I say these pictures are of me but they are not. They are of the 'glamour girl' I glued together out of tinselly bits cut from movie magazines [.....]. Like the fairytale princess I once fancied myself to be, this glamour girl was an alter ego I created to hide my shadow twin. I invented her to fool myself as well as the world. I invented her to paste over the pictures that do not appear in this box - dark photos, still underexposed, of my other self and daddy [.....]. The job of my glamour puppet, whom even then I called Appearances, was to demonstrate that everything was super keen while I was most despairing. [.....] She was programmed like a computer [.....]. So now there were three of me, all vitally connected yet somehow separate. Like my other self, Appearances began as my servant and then I became hers" (Fraser, 1989, p65).


Extract #9: "Incest ravages childhood [p13 ..... p19] It contains the violence and violation of physical abuse, the self-esteem consequences of emotional abuse, and often the actual or perceived abandonment of the nonperpetrating parent [.....]. Incest is the most devastating form of abuse that a child can endure. It robs her of her childhood, her innocence, her ownership of her body, and her sexuality. It damages trust and disrupts bonding. It isolates her in an unpredictable, emotionally confusing bond with her abuser, secured with secrecy and threats. In short, incest kills. Not all at once, not totally, but one way or another, sooner or later, piece by piece. The whole child, or just a piece of her. Just her body or just her soul" (Blume, 1990, p13/p19).


Extract #10: "For many survivors, the only way to control [] unexpected and unmanageable responses is to control their feelings - to eliminate, or numb them. This is a way of denying power to an abuser: 'You cannot hurt me'. Often this response continues into adulthood when others hurt them. [.....] This denial affects particularly the ability to ask for help. Some incest survivors must believe they are 'just fine'. Their self-esteem is based on how well they're doing, how unaffected they are by their abuse. Although their struggles are obvious to everyone around them, they deny that they have any problem" (Blume, 1990, p46; emphasis added).


Extract #11: "The incest survivor may also keep people at a great distance, never revealing feelings or personal information - never allowing herself to be touched emotionally. Incest survivors who are casual about their bodies may be totally inaccessible emotionally: 'You can touch me, but you can't touch me". An incest survivor who experiences this may flirt, talk, react, even seem to share generously about her life, but none of this has meaning for her. Her response to you is well rehearsed, not unlike the sexual sharing of a prostitute: it does not indicate that you, or what she has told you, are important to her. On the contrary, she almost seems to try to see how much she can give without sharing or taking. She has not let you in, although it might appear that she has. At the same time [.....s]he may be extraordinarily sensitive to your boundaries, almost never asking intrusive, prying questions. [.....] It is tricky to manoeuvre in this kind of relationship, and no one can read another's mind" (Blume, 1990, pp47-48; emphasis added).


Extract #12: "Many incest survivors are extremely quiet, soft-spoken, and nonverbal. They are used to trying not to be heard (even if they forget the reason), and as adults they continue to make it difficult to hear them. [.....] Their voices are softest when sharing highly personal information - secrets. [.....] She may be silent when she laughs or expresses emotions of other kinds, such as anger. In bed she is silent [..... for t]o call out with joy while involved in this activity would make no sense" (Blume, 1990, p68).


Extract #13: "She learns that the way to win approval is with her body - a body that has a strange power over men, but at the same time it is an entity over which she is powerless. She learns to use seductiveness to get what she wants. [.....] She learns that sex has nothing to do with trust, and certainly nothing to do with equality. Because sex invariably happens when she is unwilling, she learns that it is an obligation: sex becomes dominance" (Blume, 1990, p209).


Extract #14: "None of these problems may seem obvious to the outsider. To the survivor's friends, she may seem sensitive and concerned (but never about her own needs), crazy and fun (she's a high risk taker), strong and 'take charge' (she never gets vulnerable), or brilliant and creative (intellectualising is safer than feeling), seductive and sexy (she's been trained) or a little aloof. No one may notice her lack of relationship with herself, and her inability to attain the balance required of any healthy relationship. The adult incest survivor is likely to become involved in sexual relationships with older and more powerful people, repeating her relationship with her older, more powerful abuser. There is little room for intimacy, and much opportunity for abuse and sacrifice, in relationships that are so skewed. [..... She] has no framework for trust. She understands neither what it means nor how it develops" (Blume, 1990, pp242-243; emphasis added).


Extract #15: "When the incest survivor takes control of her life, she can let go of the need to control everyone else's. At the same time the incest survivor learns that with power comes responsibility. [.....] To be responsible means to acknowledge what you feel, to understand that these feelings are yours [.....], to go to the source and share what you feel, and to do something about it if it's a problem. [.....T]he survivor needs to see that finally she is in control. Not of what already happened, but of how it is experienced now. [.....] Note to partners and friends: Painful and difficult as it is, her increasing ability to say no to what you want is a statement that she trusts and values you [..... and] a test of your patience" (Blume, 1990, p59).


Extract #16: "Particularly affected is assertiveness. Already a difficult skill for women to develop because of their indoctrination to be compliant, 'lady-like', and 'nice girls'. Assertiveness is virtually impossible for many untreated incest survivors" (Blume, 1990, pp113-114).


Extract #17: [A long extract, heavily abridged] "Children are born with a natural sexual awareness and natural curiosity. They are capable of arousal from the start [.....] exploring their bodies' sexual responses just as they explore their other senses [..... and because] the touching feels good. She chooses whether, when, and how to touch her body. It is within her control. But for many women - not just incest survivors - this moment of sexual self-determination is soon eroded. In an ideal scenario [.....] she learns which sexual activities she enjoys and which she does not; she decides when she wants to pursue a certain sex act and with whom. [.....] Normally developing sexuality is of the child's choosing, and incestuous abuse is not. Therefore, the primary message incest sends is that the victim's sexual life is not her own" (Blume, 1990, pp204-207).


Extract #18: "Intimacy requires self-awareness, responsibility for one's feelings, and vulnerability - all of which are very difficult for the incest survivor. Intimacy with another person requires a deep, honest, loving, aware relationship with oneself. [.....] Such awareness works through levels, closer and closer to a core; many times, one feeling covers other feelings, and only courageous, honest exploration reveals the layers. [.....] Such exploration is often frightening [..... and t]he irony is that when she finds a relatively healthy relationship - one in which she is truly cared about, that offers consistency, respectful treatment, and a safety into which she can relax - her incest issues are especially likely to surface" (Blume, 1990, pp249-252).


Extract #19: "The child victim's entire view of herself and the world will be clouded by the effects of her abuse" (Blume, 1990, p12).


Extract #20: "In the special alliance with their fathers, many children found the sense of being cared for which they craved, and which they obtained from no other source. The attentions of their fathers offered some compensation for what was lacking in their relations with their mothers. Mothers were often suspicious and resentful of this special relationship. They perceived, correctly, that what bound father and daughter together was in part a shared hostility toward themselves. [.....] These daughters, in short, were alienated from their mothers, whom they saw as weak, helpless, and unable to nurture or protect them. They were elevated by their fathers to a special position in the family [..... and] felt obligated to fulfill this role in order to keep their families together. [.....] Under these circumstances, when their fathers chose to demand sexual services, the daughters felt they had absolutely no option but to comply. Most of the daughters (80 percent) were under thirteen years of age when their fathers first approached them sexually. The average age was nine [.....] Force was rarely used. It was not necessary" (Herman, 1981/2000, p83).


Extract #21: "For the emergent female self, the loss of autonomy is staggering. Deprived of her body, her empathy, and her identity as separate other, the daughter must now also bear the burden of guilt for the father who has taken everything from her. [..... S]hame is the context through which the child comes to know the self as body. [.....] Especially in those cases where sexual violence leads to unwanted feelings of pleasure, the shame of incest is particularly acute. Such responses to overstimulation are perhaps the most difficult for the daughter to reconcile, as evidenced by the account of one young survivor: 'I wanted affection from him and the hardest thing I have had to deal with was that on two occasions I felt pleasure. My body responded. I know it happens all the time, but it is still the hardest thing to get over'" (Jacobs, 1994, pp123-124).


Extract #22: "In effect, the dissociative response is a flight from body and from the female self that the body signifies. This intrapsychic phenomenon also affords an escape from sexual feelings, the sensations that hold the somatic memories of pain mixed with pleasure and shame. Because sexual arousal represents a dangerous realm within the body that when experienced is a reminder of the loss of control to a more powerful other, the victimised daughter seems to have but two alternatives: to deny her body and thus her victim-self, or to stay present in the realm of the senses and risk experiencing a pleasure that can never totally be her own" (Jacobs, 1994, pp132-133).


So what sense can we make of the above testimony of despair? What destruction have the abusive experiences inflicted upon the complex (and still poorly understood) structures of the minds in question? And (perhaps even more importantly) how can we go back into the secret times and unravel what those structures were like before the abuse? Well let us start by agreeing in broad terms with Jacobs (1994) that incest has an awful lot to do with "the destruction of the mother-daughter bond" (p15), that is to say, with the destruction of "the primary parental attachment". This is Jacobs' position .....


"[The incest victim] experiences the powerlessness of women in the most personal and painful way, first through her own victimisation and then through the knowledge of her mother's ineffectuality. The rage that comes to dominate her relationship with her mother is the anger of betrayal as well as the anger of deception" (Jacobs, 1994, p25).


We also agree in broad terms that one of the main factors in shaping the incest survivor's adult psyche is her "traumatic sexualisation" (Jacobs, 1994, p123). What the incest survivor is as an adult, in other words, is not exactly what it would have been had she not been abused. For example, Price (1994) also notes what seems almost to be a psychological need for constant reenactment of the abuse, thus .....


"Adults with a history of incest often organise their experience of themselves and their identity around their role in the trauma or a certain aspect of it. They frequently maintain this identification rigidly despite conflicting behaviours and more current feedback from others. This serves the purpose of avoiding inner conflict, identity confusion, and maintaining an idealisation of themselves and/or their families. This can often lead to further retraumatisation and reenactment of their childhood and its traumatic occurrences. [..... Indeed] Shengold (1989) has observed that 'the compulsion to repeat dominates the lives of people who have been seduced or beaten by psychotic and psychopathic parents'" (Price, 1994, p214; emphasis added).



Self, Interpersonal: This is one of the five qualitatively different types of self identified by Neisser (1988) for the background to which, see consciousness, Neisser's theory of]. Specifically, it is "the self as engaged in immediate unreflective social interaction with another person" (p41). It is the social, communicating, self. It is "the person who is engaged, here, in this particular human exchange" (p36).



Self Knowledge: This is Ryle's (1949) term for the "twofold Privileged Access" (p148) which a mind has "to its own doings" (ibid.).



Self Model Theory of Subjectivity: See consciousness, Metzinger's theory of.



Self-Mutilation: Self-mutilating behaviour includes "cutting, burning, head banging, hair pulling, skin picking, self biting, and hitting" (First, Frances, and Pincus, 1995, p104), and can be a major element in differential diagnosis under DSM-IV. The disorders this behaviour is commonly associated with are borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and adjustment disorder. Comments otherwise as for self harm, q.v.



Self, Narrated: [See firstly attachment theory.] This is Miller et al's (1992) term for "the social construction of self through discourse" (p47), that is to say, for the role played in the creation and development of the self-concept by the mere act of putting one's life experiences into words. Working with two comparison samples of children, one aged 2½ years and the other aged 5 years, the authors carried out conversational analysis of carefully transcribed language samples. What they were particularly interested in was the coding system used in co-narration, that is to say, "storytelling in which child and family members jointly contribute to an account of the child's past experience" (p49). An 11-way classification was used, as follows .....


#1 - Self Portrayed as Sharing an Activity: As in "We went way down in the pool" (p53).


#2 - Self Set Apart: Phrases with "no explicit reference to a social nexus" (p54), as in "All by myself" (p53).


#3 - Other(s) Liked Self: As in "He wanted to play with me" (p54).


#4 - Self Liked Other(s): As in "I taught my little brother how to colour" (p54).


#5 - Other(s) Disliked Self: As in "She don't like me" (p54).


#6 - Self Disliked Other: As in "I hate Leslie" (p54).


#7 - Self and Other in Conflict: As in "Jimmy hit me" (p54).


#8 - Other Transgressed against Self: As in "Ernie said I am fraidy cat" (p54).


#9 - Self Transgressed against Other: As in "Aren't you supposed to come and ask me first?" (p54).


#10 - Self Compared with Other: As in "I didn't win anything" (p54).


#11 - Not Otherwise Coded: Reserved for ambiguities and exceptions.


Their results indicated that personal storytelling was a typical behaviour at both ages, albeit four of the more "linguistically immature" (p55) 2½-year olds did not produce the target of ten naturally occurring co-narrations and the average rate of co-narrations doubled from a mean of 4.1 per hour in the younger group to a mean of 7.5 per hour in the older group. The general pattern of usage of the 11 types of co-narration showed no major change, although the identity of the "other" tended to move from family member with the younger group to peer for the older group. Categories #1, #3, and #10 were by far the most frequently used at both ages (40%/39%, 22%/13%, and 14%/18%, respectively). Here are the authors' own conclusions .....


"The findings suggest that this type of discourse [i.e., co-narration] was a regular part of family life for these young children from culturally diverse backgrounds. Observed in their homes by racially and culturally similar researchers, they engaged recurrently in co-narrated personal storytelling in which child and family members jointly contributed to an account of the child's past experience [..... suggesting] that this form of talk is an important means by which young children, together with family members, experience and re-experience self in relation to other. [.....] The repeated interaction of original experiences, memory and encoding of experiences, and exchanges of messages about experiences [.....] is likely to be far more complex than former theories of self-development have posited" (Miller et al, 1992, pp60-61).



Selfobject: See narcissistic rage.



Self-Object: See object, self as.



Self-Observation: This is one of the defense mechanisms postulated by psychoanalytic theory, and recognised by the DSM-IV as belonging to the "high adaptive" defense level. Self-observing individuals deal with their emotional conflict by reflecting upon their feelings and thoughts in the hope that this will inspire the most emotionally cost-effective response.



Self, Overburdened: See self, primary disturbances of.



Self, Overstimulated: See self, primary disturbances of.



Self, Poly-Centric: [See firstly object relations theory and psychology, archetypal.] This is Hillman's (1983) post-Jungian notion of a multi-faceted self with a number of alternative driving seats [the explanatory metaphor is ours]. The particular take on the issue is Hillman's observation that "the dreamer is in the image rather than the image in the dreamer" (1983, p6). Images do not "stand for anything", in other words, but "are the psyche itself, in its imaginative visibility" (ibid.). They are the "primary datum". At the same time [Hillman adopts Corbin (1958) here] imagination is "an activity of soul" to which it itself bears witness, and the image "is the primary psychological datum" (p9). Nevertheless, the fact that there is a number of major archetypal images predicts that there is a like number of major alternatively centred selves. [See Fonda (1995/2007 online) for a convenient review of polycentrism in the theories of Klein, Fairbairn, and Winnicott.]



Self, Primary Disturbances of: This is one of the two categories in Kohut and Wolf's (1978) classification of disturbances of the self (the other being self, secondary disturbances of). Five sub-categories of primary disturbance were then noted, summarised by Chessick (1985) as follows .....


1. Psychoses: With psychoses, the pathology is to the "nuclear self", is serious, and is not effectively mitigated by "substantial or reliable defensive structures" (p182).


2. Borderline States: With borderline states, the base pathology is as for (1), but there is some attempt at defensive mitigation.


3. Schizoid and Paranoid Personalities: Here, the pathology is again as for (1), but the defensive strategy is to "wall off the self" in order to maintain "emotional distance" (p182).


4. Narcissistic Behaviour Disorders: With narcissistic behaviour disorders, the pathology is towards "perversions, addictions, and delinquency", but the self is "significantly more resilient" than (1) to (3) (p182).


5. Narcissistic Personality Disorders: With narcissistic personality disorders, the pathology is as for (4), but with additional symptoms of "hypochondria, malaise, boredom, depression, and hypersensitivity to slights" (p183).


Kohut and Wolf also distinguish the following clinical patterns of self .....


1. The Understimulated Self: This is a pattern of self structuring resulting from "a chronic lack of stimulating responsiveness from the selfobject of childhood" (p183), and characterised by "a lack of vitality, boredom, and apathy".


2. The Fragmenting Self: This is a pattern of self structuring resulting from "the loss of a sense of a cohesive self" (p183), and characterised by "dishevelled dress, posture and gait disturbances, vague anxiety, time and space disorientation, and hypochondriacal concerns". [Chessick reassures mild sufferers from these particular afflictions that they can also accompany clinically insignificant blows to our self-esteem].


3. The Overstimulated Self: This is a pattern of self structuring resulting from "unempathic excessive responses from the childhood selfobject" (p183), and is characterised by "intense ambition" (p184) and disinterest in normal goals and ideals.


4. The Overburdened Self: This is a pattern of self structuring resulting from the lack of a "soothing" selfobject (p184), and is characterised by a perception of the world at large as "inimical and dangerous".  


5. The "Mirror-Hungry" Personality: This is a pattern of self structuring characterised by a "thirst for selfobjects" who provide "confirming and admiring responses" (p184). 


6. The "Ideal-Hungry" Personality: This is a pattern of self structuring characterised by being "forever in search" of models to admire. It is pathological to the extent that "such patients can only experience themselves as worthwhile when they are related in some way to these idealised selfobjects" (p184). 


7. The "Alter-Ego" Personality: This is a pattern of self structuring characterised by wanting others "to experience and confirm" (p184) their own make-up and experiences, but not to the extent seen in (5). 


8. The "Merger-Hungry" Personality: This is a pattern of self structuring characterised by "a compelling need to control their selfobjects" (p184). Such personalities "are very intolerant" of any displays of independence on the part of the selfobject" (ibid). 


9. The "Contact-Shunning" Personality: This is a pattern of self structuring characterised by isolation and the avoidance of social contact, probably as a way of preventing rejection, to which such personalities are "excessively sensitive" (p185).



Self, Private (1/2/3): (1) The private self is one of the five qualitatively different types of self identified by Neisser (1988) [for the background to which, see consciousness, Neisser's theory of]. Neisser seems reluctant to state what this is, but notes merely that it "appears when children first notice that some of their experiences are not directly shared with other people" (p36). (2) "The Private Self" is also the title of Modell's (1993) monograph on the construction of self from (in effect) cathected semantic memory, a notion we touch upon in the entry for self, divided. (3) Greg Nixon, then at Prescott College, has also used the phrase, thus .....


"[Parents pass on conscious subjectivity] by consciously anticipating the arrival of selfhood in infants by talking to them as though they already were conscious selves. By passing through the precursor stages of mimesis and identification, the child is 'called forth' into personhood. One day it finds itself actively asserting its own experiences in sentences and phrases which have never been said before. This creative expression begins consciousness ('knowing together' with the rest of the group, tribe, or culture). At the point when the burgeoning person objectively conceives itself as having a unique story and memory chain, the sense of a private self awakens ....." (JCS-ONLINE Discussion Group posting, 20th July 2001.)



Self-Realisation: This is Bertrand Russell's term for the general process which allows us each of us to achieve our due importance and value within the world (Russell, 1955), a term then popularised by the psychoanalyst Anthony Storr. Here is how the latter sets out his ideas .....


"To be oneself, to realise one's own personality to its fullest extent, is to develop from childhood to maturity; and every psychotherapeutic system is concerned with this development. [The end-result] is the same in every system [..... namely] the picture of the man who is free, who has reached maturity. [.....] It is the way of achieving the end, the means, and the details which are in dispute, not the final achievement. I propose to call this final achievement self-realisation, by which I mean the fullest possible expression in life of the innate potentialities of the individual, the realisation of his own uniqueness as a personality: and I also put forward the hypothesis that, consciously or unconsciously, every man is seeking this goal" (Storr, 1960, pp26-27).


Like Rogers before him, [see perspectives, humanistic], Storr believed that the psychiatrist's fundamental task was to steer patients towards ever greater self-realisation, and he saw the greatest barrier to achieving this as being the need to tailor that self-referenced assertiveness around the patient's relationships with other people. Put bluntly, overly indulgent self-realisation would be "a hopeless and evil principle" (p32).



Self Recognition: This is the name given to any form of human (or, if appropriate, animal) behaviour which reflects in some way their possession of a self concept, even if only in rudimentary form. The mirror recognition test may be used in this precisely this way with both humans and animals, and Walter (1961) even found such behaviour in automata, thus .....


"The machines are fitted with a small flash-lamp bulb in the head which is turned off automatically whenever the photo-cell receives an adequate light signal. When a mirror or white surface is encountered the reflected light from the head-lamp is sufficient to operate the circuit [.....], so that the machine makes for its own reflection; but as it does so, the light is extinguished, which means that the stimulus is cut off - but removal of the stimulus restores the light, which is again seen as a stimulus, and so on. The creature therefore lingers before a mirror, flickering, twittering, and jigging like a clumsy Narcissus. The behaviour of a creature thus engaged [.....], if it were observed in an animal, might be accepted as evidence of some degree of self-awareness" (p115)



Self-Schema(ta): [See firstly schema(ta).] Self-schemata are "cognitive structures" which attempt "to organise, summarise, or explain one's own behaviour in a particular domain (Markus, 1977, p63), and which therefore serve as "cognitive generalisations about the self" (p65). As such, they are conceptually similar to Minsky's (1975) "frames", Abelson's (1975) "scripts", and Bobrow and Norman's (1975) "schemata", that is to say, they increase mental throughput, but only at the expense of relying on contingencies abstracted from previous ways of behaving. Markus offers the following illustrations .....


"Self-schemata include cognitive representations derived from specific events and situations involving the individual (e.g., 'I hesitated before speaking in yesterday's discussion because I wasn't sure I was right, only to hear someone else make the same point') as well as more general representations derived from the repeated categorisation and subjective evaluation of the person's behaviour by himself and by others around him (e.g., 'I am very talkative in groups of three or four, but shy in large gatherings' [.....]). Self-schemata are constructed from information processed by the individual in the past and influence both input and output of information related to the self. They represent the way the self has been differentiated and articulated in memory" (Markus, 1977, p64; emphasis added).


Markus also notes a possible relationship between self schema and the use of "trait adjectives" in personality assessment [see personality, from Allport onwards]. It is the self-schema, he suggests, which gives coherence to the individual trait dimensions involved, thus ..... 


"[The] endorsement of a trait adjective as self-descriptive [.....] may reflect on underlying, well-articulated, self-schema. It is equally possible, however, that [it] is instead the result of the trait term, the context of the situation, the necessity for a response, or other experimental demands. Only when a self-description derives from a well-articulated generalisation about the self can it be expected to converge and form a consistent pattern with the individual's other judgments, decisions, and actions" (Markus, 1977, p65).


[Compare self-schema(ta), negative. If interested in a possible data layout of self in memory, see self, Bachman diagram of.]



Self, Secondary Disturbances of: This is one of the two categories in Kohut and Wolf's (1978) classification of disturbances of the self (the other being self, primary disturbances of). The classification follows that of the primary disturbances, q.v., and the critical judgment is whether the pathology in question is serious enough to be clinically significant (primary) or not (secondary).



Self, Social: This is Mead's (1913) term for a personality and identity structure which has been fundamentally shaped by the need to plan its behaviour on a mental model of the world in which it itself is a visible playing piece. This turns out to be a remarkably advanced argument, because it addresses the fundamental I-ness and me-ness of the selves, in the plural. Thus .....


"The essential condition for the appearance of what has been conceived of as mind is that the individual in acting with reference to the environment should, as part of that action, be acting with reference to himself, so that his action would include himself as an object. This does not mean that the individual should simply act with reference to parts of his organism, even when that action is social, but it does mean that the whole action toward the object upon which attention is centred includes as a part of this action a reaction toward the individual himself. If this is attained, the self as an object becomes a part of the acting individual, i.e., the individual has attained what is called self-consciousness" (Mead, 1913, p367).



Self Talk: See social skills training.



Self, True: See true self versus false self.



Self, Understimulated: See self, primary disturbances of.



Self, Winnicott on: [See firstly self and Winnicott, Donald.] It was Winnicott's decision to focus on the very early development of the self which brought him his first academic publication. Here is an indicative extract .....


"It has often been noted that, at five to six months, a change occurs in infants which makes it more easy than before for us to refer to their emotional development in the terms that apply to human beings generally. [.....] In my opinion the stage we are describing [.....] is a very important one. To some extent it is an affair of physical development, for the infant at five months becomes skilled to the extent that he grasps an object he sees, and can soon get it to his mouth. He could not have done this earlier. [.....] We can say that at this stage a baby becomes able in his play to show that he can understand he has an inside, and that things come from outside. [.....] All this represents a tremendous advance. [.....] The corollary of this is that now the infant assumes that his mother also has an inside, one which may be rich or poor, good or bad, ordered or muddled. He is therefore starting to be concerned with his mother and her sanity and her moods. In the case of many infants there is a relationship as between whole persons at six months" (Winnicott, 1945, p138).


Winnicott identified three "primary processes" at work in all this, namely (a) "integration", (b) "personalisation", and (c) "realisation", and saw deficits in any or all of these as corrosive to the developing self. He was, however, especially suspicious of deficits in the appreciation of time and space implicit in the primary process of realisation. He saw these as underlying much subsequent psychopathology, as follows .....


"..... Many analyses sail through to completion without time being ever in dispute. But a boy of nine who loved to play with Ann, aged two, was acutely interested in the expected new baby. He said: 'When the new baby's born will he born before Ann?' For his time-sense is very shaky. [.....] The localisation of self in one's own body is often assumed, yet a psychotic patient in analysis came to recognise that as a baby she thought her twin at the other end of the pram was herself. She even felt surprised when her twin was picked up and yet she remained where she was. Her sense of self and other-than-self was undeveloped. Another psychotic patient [.....] could only see out of her eyes as out of windows and so was not aware of what her feet were doing [.....]. Her personality was not felt to be localised in her body, which was like a complex engine that she had to drive with conscious care and skill" (Winnicott, 1945, p139).


Winnicott spent the next 15 years developing his own implementation of Kleinian psychodynamic theory, sharing Klein's fascination with what went on in the infant's mind - such as it is - in the formative early months of life. Consider .....


"I am here supporting the view that the main reason why in infant development the infant usually becomes able to master, and the ego to include, the id, is the fact of the maternal care, the maternal ego implementing the infant ego and so making it powerful and stable. How this takes place will need to be examined, and also how the infant ego eventually becomes free of the mother's ego support, so that the infant achieves mental detachment from the mother, that is, differentiation into a separate personal self" (Winnicott, 1960, p587).


So for Winnicott, the secret of understanding the self is the study of its "pregentical id-manifestations" (1960, p588), and the secret of explaining its resulting shape in a given individual is to look at both "halves" of the parent-infant relationship. [For more on the dynamics at work here see holding environment, limiting membrane, and object, transitional. See then true self versus false self.]



Self, Zahavi and: TO FOLLOW.



Selfhood: In everyday English, selfhood is "the quality by virtue of which one is oneself; personal individuality; ipseity; that which constitutes one's own self or individuality; (one's) self" (O.E.D.). Within psychology, however, it is easy to identify a number of component processes of selfhood [see, typically, the five types of self identified by Neisser (1988) and discussed in consciousness, Neisser's theory of], and we therefore suggest you regard selfhood as the holistic sum of those components, that is to say, as an "emergent property" of their interoperation. As such, selfhood is one of the three philosophically interesting aspects of the first-person perspective identified by Metzinger (2005b) (the others being mine-ness and perspectivalness) [for more on which, see consciousness, Metzinger's theory of].



Semantic Differential: See this entry in the companion Rational Argument Glossary.



Semantic Memory: [See firstly long-term memory.] This is the name commonly given to our mental storehouse of conceptual (i.e. encyclopedic) knowledge. As our perceptual memory and episodic memory gradually grow during infancy, they give rise to memory for meaning, thanks to the process of abstraction. For example, by the time an infant has seen a pen making marks on paper three or four times it begins to get the idea - the "concept" - that that is what a pen "is for". Semantic memory thus ends up containing everything we know about the world. Here is a handy formal definition: "Semantic memory is the associative network of permanent knowledge about the world built up over a lifetime, including knowledge of the rules of language and its lexicon or vocabulary [citations]. Access of information from this permanent memory system occurs continually during all types of cognitive processing" (Ober and Shenaut, 1988, p273). It is also possible for agent and object concepts (nouns) to join with action concepts (verbs) to create simple assertions of truth such as "Tom is a cat" and "mice chew gloves". These are known as propositions, and propositions are what start to turn long-term memory into knowledge as we know it. As you successfully acquire more and more of them, your conceptual memory becomes "propositional" (sometimes "declarative") memory, and your mind begins to get very good at reasoning. Note that semantic memory is remarkably constant from person to person, and does not need to relate to specific objects and events in order to be used (nor, in most cases, can you even remember where or when you learned something). Thus, whilst we may well have all done different things yesterday, we would, if asked to define the word "chair", generate more or less the same definition. In other words, episodic memory is personalized and unique, but semantic memory is far more encyclopaedic.



Semantic Network: As used within mental philosophy, this has become a common modern term for the mental network of sememes and propositions (and quite possibly other important things besides) linked by associations which make up knowledge. The network metaphor derives from the Associationist theories of mental organization, and the term itself was coined by Richens (1956). [See now semantic network database, semantic network - web or lattice, and Richens-Booth continuous form interlingua.]



Semantic Network Database: [See firstly network database and semantic network.] For the purposes of this glossary, we use this phrase to indicate a specific implementation of a semantic network in a network database. Readers should note, however, that most modern semantic network implementations are on competing [and in our opinion intrinsically unsuitable] platforms.



Semantic Network - Web or Lattice?: [See firstly semantic network.] Networks and webs are two-dimensional structures, and thus less than perfect metaphors for the structure of the three-dimensional brain. Lattices, on the other hand, are suitably three-dimensional. Both metaphors have been used in computational linguistics [compare, for example, Richens (1956) with Parker-Rhodes (1978)], but the term semantic network, loosely applied, remains the more popular.



Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder (SPD): [See firstly autistic spectrum disorders.] This is the disorder at the (moderate, moderate) coordinates on Bishop's (1989) two-axis autistic spectrum. The term was first coined by Rapin and Allen (1983) to describe a clinical picture including poor language use, literality [see the case anecdote below], echolalia, perseveration, incessant chatter, poor turn-taking, poor topic maintenance, and social difficulties. Here is how one SPD support group explains it .....


"In 1987 Bishop and Rosenbloom described SPD as 'a set of behaviours that are loosely associated with and shade into autism at one extreme and normality at the other' and more recently Dorothy V.M. Bishop and Courtenay Frazier Norbury at the University of Oxford, show SPD as a variable symptom of either SLI or ASD, with unclear boundaries and differing outcomes over time. There has been a lot of uncertainty over this label since its introduction. This has led to some diagnostic confusion on the shop floor. A Speech Therapist, for example, might see Semantic Pragmatic Disorder as a pure language disorder, tending to concentrate on the language difficulties, whereas a Child Psychiatrist might come to the conclusion he is dealing with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder because he is concentrating on the behaviours. For parents, I feel it helpful to take Lorna Wing's (a National Autistic Society and world leading expert on Autistic Spectrum/Social Communication Disorders) views into account where she talks of a range of social/communication impairments with differing levels of impairment [see Wing's triad] and to bear in mind that the borderlines of the autistic spectrum are continuous rather than discrete, and blend into developmental language disorders" (The SPD Support Organisation, 2006 online).


As with Asperger's disorder [(moderate, low) on Bishop's two-axis coordinate system], the cognitive weaknesses associated with SPD include difficulties with inference and abstraction, and a reduced ability to generalise as effortlessly as others might from one life experience to the next, as illustrated by the following case data .....




ASIDE: It follows that if scolding an SPD child you have to vary your communicational strategies in order to compensate for this deficit, giving repeated specific examples and seeking regular explicit confirmation of understanding. You also have to be highly sensitive when carrying out differential diagnosis under DSM-IV that you do not misinterpret a cognitive deficit such as this as an oppositional defiant disorder, for there may be no intentional defiance whatsoever.


A recent Canadian paper by Gagnon, Mottron, and Joanette (1997) has questioned the validity of SPD, judging the condition to be a "high-functioning autism" after all, and regarding the SPD diagnosis as a "confounding diagnosis". Nor, they warn, is this an empty academic argument, because a diagnosis of SPD attracts [in Canada, at least] significantly less public health care support than does a diagnosis of autism, thus .....


"At the clinical level, the inclination of certain health professionals to exclude [SPD] from autism has enormous repercussions on the nature of the treatment recommended for those patients. [SPD children] may not benefit from the appropriate explanations and rehabilitation guidelines for their condition. Consequently, they are more likely to be channelled into classes intended for children with developmental language disorders. [.....] The exclusion of less affected individuals from the category of autism artificially diminishes the estimated prevalence of this condition [thus reducing] the services offered to the autistic population" [full text].


[BREAKING RESEARCH: For more on the potential role of "abnormal connectivity" in preventing or degrading the maximal integration of multi-modular cognitive processing, see functional connectivity and its onward links.]


WAS THIS A SENSITIVE TOPIC FOR YOU?: If for any reason you have been emotionally affected by any of the issues dealt with in this entry, you will find suitable helpline details in the entry for autistic spectrum disorders.



Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder and the Right Brain: [See firstly semantic-pragmatic disorder.] Shields (1991/2006 online) has drawn our attention to some of the similarities between semantic-pragmatic disorder and the sort of right hemisphere syndrome language seen in cases of acquired right-lesion neurogenic disorders [for details of which, see Myers and Mackisack (1990)]. There are a couple of dozen “right hemisphere” signs, but the overall effect is that superficial linguistic skills are retained (because the dominant hemisphere is intact) whilst overall communicative competence is degraded. Language remains syntactically correct, but its richness suffers. It is frequently difficult to distinguish the important from the irrelevant, for example, or to interpret metaphor, figurative meaning, and abstractness. Prosodic comprehension and production is also impaired. The damage, in other words, is in the higher functional domains of semantics and pragmatics. Here are two extracts from the main argument …..


Both groups seem to have an underlying difficulty in integrating information, which is reflected in their verbal output. Both groups have relatively intact language form, using fluent, grammatically complex language, but show communication which is impaired by abnormal language content and use. Both groups have poor comprehension and use of non-verbal communication and prosody and both groups perform better on structured tasks than on open-ended ones, making fewer errors in concrete, literal tasks. Both have difficulty in assimilating and using contextual cues. Both tend to lend literal interpretation to figurative language and find difficulty coping with metaphor and humour. Both groups give impulsive answers full of tangential detail and have difficulty in distinguishing the important from the unimportant. Both are reluctant to admit to their communication problems. Both have a reduced sensitivity to the communicative situation and to pragmatic and extralinguistic aspects of communication [citations]” (Shields, 1991/2006 online).


“The communication difficulties displayed by both some patients with acquired right hemisphere lesions and children with semantic-pragmatic language disorder indicate a failure to understand the processes of inference. These patients can cope with the encoding and decoding aspects of communication, and can extract meaning from the basic sound (or letter) patterns of speech (or writing), but they are unable to deduce the speaker's informative intention so as to bridge the gap between the 'surface' meaning of sentences and the 'deeper' meaning of the thoughts conveyed by those sentences. […..] The central inferential process - which processes the second-order representations described in the theory of mind (Frith, 1989) - is essential for a full appreciation of meaning. It is communication at this sophisticated level, where language and cognition interweave, that is impaired in both the acquired and developmental disorders of communication discussed above. Because the right hemisphere is known to be involved in perception and in integration, could it be the seat of the higher-order cognitive concepts which depend on the existence of second-order representations? […..] Such patients seem to have an abnormal cognitive style which reflects an inability to integrate multimodal perceptual information” (ibid.; emphasis added).


WAS THIS A SENSITIVE TOPIC FOR YOU?: If for any reason you have been emotionally affected by any of the issues dealt with in this entry, you will find suitable helpline details in the entry for autistic spectrum disorders.



Semantics: [Greek semantikos = significant (from semeion = "mark" or "sign" or "point on a line")] "The science of meaning" (O.E.D.), [See now sememe and semantic memory.]



Semantics versus Pragmatics: See and contrast the entries for semantics and pragmatics in our companion Psycholinguistics Glossary.



Sememe: "A term used in some semantic theories to refer to a minimal unit of meaning" (Crystal, 2003, p412). A memory unit capable of representing "the meanings of words" by coding them in terms of the "semantic features that describe the thing in question" (Hinton, Plaut, and Shallice, 1993, p60). A node in the mind's semantic network, and thus effectively synonymous with concept in its formal psycholinguistic usage. [Compare symbol.]



Semiotics: See the pump-priming definition in G.2.



SEN: See learning disability and special educational need, the basics.



SENCO: See Special Educational Needs Coordinator.



SENDA: See Special Educational Needs and Disability Act.



Sensation: "A psychical affection or state of consciousness consequent on and related to a particular condition of some portion of the bodily organism, or a particular impression received by one of the organs of sense" (O.E.D.). Historically speaking, sensation as a topic of study goes back at least to Alcmaeon and his notion of aesthesis [see G.2], although Rohde (1925) reminds us that Empedocles "expressly distinguished" sense-perception from the "capacity for thought" (p380).



Sensation, Scientific Study of: See psychophysics.



Sensationism: See Condillac.



Sensory Egosphere: See egosphere, sensory.



Sentence Frame: See under frame in the companion "Psycholinguistics Glossary".



Sentiment: See sentiment structure.



Sentiment Structure: [See firstly personality, Cattell's system of.] This is Cattell's (1965) attempt to bring what he called the "dynamic" traits within the compass of his factor analytical system of personality. In Cattell's view, dynamic traits were the ones which most affected "why and how [a person] is moved to do what he does" (p165), and the key to this approach to motivation was to focus on the person's "ultimate goal" by asking "What are his motives?" (p184). Cattell recognised, however, that human motivation was typically highly complex, and so he devised "a device called the dynamic lattice" (p185) to model the various elements graphically. The essence of the lattice is that it links the emotional drivers to the attitudes via a web of intervening "sentiments". Cattell introduced the term "erg" ["from the Greek ergon for work or energy" (p185)] to represent the source energy for an attitude.



Separation Anxiety: TO FOLLOW.



Separation-Individuation: [See firstly dual unity.] This is the name given to Margaret Mahler's particular approach to human development, as set down, for example, in Mahler, Pine, and Bergman (1975). It consists of a psychodynamic analysis of the infant-mother relationship in which the emphasis is on the gradual emergence of a fully functioning socio-emotional mind, and, if not, why not. One commentator summarises the theory as follows [a long extract, heavily abridged] .....


"Mahler's concept of separation-individuation had many sources, notably Jacobson's formulations of the self and object world (1964). [.....] Mahler evolved her own formulations of the process [] largely on the basis of the interplay of object relations and ego development. Each subphase bridges and overlaps with the succeeding phase. [..... I]t was the social smile, and not sucking, that ushered in the emergence of symbiosis [..... during which subphase] affect mirroring was regarded of critical importance, and an attuned parent would display empathic responses through eye contact, facial and vocal expression, touch, holding, movement, etc. The attuned mother or caregiver established and maintained an appropriate affectomotor dialogue with the infant. [.....] The social smile, dialogue, basic trust, mirroring, maternal holding, and containing, [were] object-related experiences that received their place as primary agents in both attachment and separation-individuation. [.....] Play also has a special role in human development and is evident in the cooing, gaze, gaze aversion, reciprocal smiling, and overall playful interactions that occur between [mother and infant]. A signal system develops [so that b]y four months of age the infant reacts to the still face of the caregiver and appeals to regain the caregiver's responsiveness" (Blum, 2004 pp537-539).


ASIDE: The reader may find it worthwhile at this juncture diverting to the entry for toxic parenting, because the absence (be it deliberate or accidental) of just one of the above-listed parent-caregiver behaviours may start to degrade the separation-individuation aspect of a given child's development.


Lucente (1988) adds .....


"Affiliation on the one hand and a need for autonomous functioning apart from one's significant objects, on the other, are universal human processes. A theory of separation-individuation explains development in the latter regard [] while a theory of core self-development plausibly explains the former" (p160).



Serial Motor Praxis: See praxis.



Serial Processing: See serial versus parallel processing.



Serial versus Parallel Processing: To do things "in series" is to do them one after another. To do things "in parallel" is to do them simultaneously. Serial computers therefore execute their data moves and their arithmetical operations one after another, whilst parallel computers do them simultaneously. As originally conceived, parallel processing computers used one wire per bit when moving whole words of data at a time between their registers and their logic gates, whilst serial computers used one wire only, and moved one bit at a time. The parallel machines were accordingly much faster, but much more electrically complicated. Computer pioneer Maurice Wilkes explained the differences this way .....


"The most obvious division of computing machines is between those which are serial in operation and those which are parallel [but] the subject is an endless one in that many different variants of each kind of machine are possible. I do not consider that the question of whether it is better to build a serial or a parallel machine will ever be finally answered; each type has its advantages, and the final decision will always be dependent on the designer's personal preferences, and to some extent on his terms of reference. Also, as time goes on, the balance of advantage and disadvantage will swing as improvements are made in this or that component, or as entirely new components become available. Certain fundamental comparisons between serial and parallel machines can, however, be drawn readily enough. The arithmetic unit of a parallel machine tends to be much larger than the arithmetic unit of a serial machine, since a separate flip-flop or equivalent circuit element must be provided to accommodate each digit in the various registers. Moreover, since addition of the digits takes place simultaneously, or nearly so, a separate adder must be provided for each digit. The disparity [.....] increases as the fundamental number length is increased. [.....] The control, on the other hand, is much simpler in a parallel machine. In the first place the necessity for the generation of a set of digit pulses does not arise, and secondly, the timing is much simpler, since a number can be moved [.....], or an addition performed, by the application of a single pulse to a set of gates ....." (Wilkes, 1956, p66)


What we are looking at, therefore, are alternative ways of organising a single central processing unit - serial for cheap but slow, or parallel for complicated and expensive but fast; it is just another design decision to be made in the early stages of a machine development project. [See consciousness, Johnson-Laird's theory of.]



Sexual Abuse: [See firstly child sexual abuse and incest.] This glossary recognises, but does not address, the abuse of vulnerable adults - if interested in this aspect of sexual abuse (under UK law) we recommend the Department of Health website for starters, followed by Googling on the keyword <POVA>.



Sexual Complex: See complex, sexual.



Shaman: A shaman is "a priest or priest-doctor among various northern tribes of Asia", and hence, by extension, "similar personages in other parts, esp. a medicine-man ....." (O.E.D.). One of the shaman's roles in life seems to have been to help the population in general interface with what Freud would later describe as our unconscious wishes, thus .....


"Magic was an essential aspect of healing in antiquity and among non-literate groups, as it is characteristic of primitive thinking in general. Reliance on magical thinking is still abundantly present in those deeper layers of our minds subject to fantasy and out of control of the reasonable ego. [.....] Magic is the infantile wish of the human race for accomplishment of the impossible" (Bromberg, 1954, p11).



Shamanic State of Consciousness (SSC): This is one of the two basic states of consciousness identified by Harner (1980) (the other being the ordinary state of consciousness).



Shame: In everyday English, shame is "the painful emotion arising from the consciousness of something dishonouring, ridiculous, or indecorous in one's own conduct or circumstances (or in those of others whose honour or disgrace one regards as one's own" (O.E.D.). In Freudian theory, it is "the affective response to a conscious or unconscious sense of failure and inferiority in relation to the ideal" (Pfeiffer, 2006 online). Pfeiffer notes that a number of psychodynamic theories - including Freud (1914), Reich (1960), Jacobson (1964), Spero (1964), and Kohut (1977) - have linked the propensity to feel shame to Narcissism, as the result of failing in some way to live up to "the grandiosity of the narcissistic self". Pfeiffer suggests that shame is "an affective experience from which defenses develop", and recommends a "full shame analysis". Typical shame defenses include addiction, denial, withdrawal, rage, performance, exhibitionism, and arrogance. Shame, he also assures us, "is almost always present in patients with impulse control issues". Also, interestingly enough, it seems to be a quintessentially human attribute, thus .....


"Man is the only primate - indeed the only animal - to feel shame. Monkeys and apes do not cover parts of their bodies and feel no compunction over having sexual intercourse in public" (Breger, 1974, p77).


Forward (1989) has noted the role played by shame in ensuring that childhood sexual abuse has such serious effects on the victim [for the full details on which, see under toxic parenting]. Blume summarises the effect this way .....


"Shame is a deeper sense of worthlessness, a sense of inner innate badness, not in relation to one's actions, but one's very self. The child victim of incest feels shame as well as guilt. We feel guilt over what we have done, but shamed by what we are. [.....] The child victim of incest feels soiled and spoiled. She feels contaminated by the dirty act that she 'permitted' or even 'asked for'. Because the event(s) occurred in childhood, while her self-esteem and her identity were still developing [.....], these feelings weave their way into the very fabric of her being" (Blume, 1990, pp112-113).



Shannonian Theory: See companion resource.



Shyness and Social Anxiety: TO FOLLOW.



Sign: [Latin signum = mark, token] (1) In general usage, a sign is "a gesture or motion of the hand, head, etc., serving to convey an intimation or to communicate some idea" (O.E.D.). (2) In philosophical usage, a sign is a physical action engendered by some stimulus or mental state, whose function is to act upon the world indirectly, that is to say, through the mediation of one or more external agencies, human or otherwise. It is a premeditated request for action of a certain sort on the part of certain others in the world.



Signification, Cassirer's Notion of: See Bedeutungsfunktion.



Signify, To: [Latin significare = "to act as sign"] To signify is "[1] to be a sign or symbol of; to represent, betoken, mean. [2] To have the import or meaning of; to mean, denote. [3] To make known, intimate, announce, declare" (O.E.D.). By extension, to predict a future state of affairs, or to lead towards a particular ratiocinative conclusion.



Similarity, Gestalt Law of: [See firstly Gestalt Laws.] This law of perceptual organisation describes the situation where an array of separate items in the visual field falls by accident or design into two or more physical clusters by attribute [compare proximity, Gestalt law of], whereupon the clusters tend to be perceived as coherent natural groupings. What seems to happen is that the mind adds a "subjective contour" of its own to redefine the cluster as a figure, and then submits the completed form to the pattern recognition stage of perception.



Simple Abstraction: See abstraction, simple.



Simple Idea: See idea, simple.



Simplicity: There is a long tradition in scientific theory that complex explanations sometimes crumble before a simpler alternative. This is because the original theorists "compounded their entities" unnecessarily [see Occam's razor], and generally ignored the "principle of parsimony". Chater (1997) has reviewed the various positions here, and draws attention to the fact that complex problems require more "epicycles" [= iterations] of reasoning to reach a conclusion. He then extends this argument to cognitive science. Simplicity, he proposes, "is a fundamental goal of cognition" (p495), because it delivers practical value. He therefore suggests that psychologists would do well to study "Kolmorogov complexity", that is to say, the principle that the explanation of a problem must "lead to a construction of the object described" (p496).



Sinn: [German = the sense/logic of something; also the mind possessing same.] See mind.



Smart Thing (ST): The ST is Smyth's (2005) thought experiment notion of an imaginary machine possessed of sufficient objectively assessable architectural features (a) to allow it to survive in a hostile environment, (b) to allow it to "look after itself", and (c) possibly to bless it with a subjective consciousness. Smyth presents what he calls "an axiomatic model" of this "sentient entity", in the form of a minimal set of six such features. Fundamentally, therefore, he is telling us what qualities make his ST - and, by extension, any other ST - "smart". The six axiomatic properties are (1) sensory input, (2) "a 'present' register", containing "the current sensory data set", and responsible for providing ST with "a snapshot of the current situation", (3) a "register stack", containing a "continuum of immediate past sensory data sets", (4) a long-term memory, containing "histories of previous actions taken", (5) a "processor", capable of assessing the relative costs and benefits of potential new courses of action, and (6) "a single command centre", whose job is "interrogating and marshalling" all the other centres, and making the necessary decisions.


ASIDE: All cognitive scientists should know about registers and register stacks. Readers unfamiliar with the role played by such structures in modern computer design should pause at this juncture and check out Section 3.1 of our e-paper "Short-Term Memory Subtypes in Computing and Artificial Intelligence (Part 6)" before proceeding.


ASIDE: Our standard caution with all hierarchically organised decision-making models (including our own) is that the notion of a single command centre immediately invites the wrath of philosophers from Aristotle to Dennett. For Aristotle, it invites the “infinite regress” criticism [see consciousness, Aristotle's theory of], for Ryle it is part of the "Ghost in the Machine" he so derides [see consciousness, Ryle's theory of], and for Dennett it invites his "fame" criticism [see consciousness, Dennett's theory of and homunculus fallacy].


Now the crux of Smyth's argument is that being sentient is not the same as being smart, and being smart is not necessarily the same as being conscious. His ST is objectively both sentient and smart, but may or may not also be conscious. Worse - there is no way of ever knowing, one way or the other. This puts him fairly and squarely in Turing test territory, but (like Turing's subsequent critics) he doubts that simply cross-examining the ST will tell you what you would really like to know. Smyth also puts his ST to Chalmers’ (1996) zombie test. The key question here is whether the ST has conscious experience, but the central difficulty is that although the ST has language there is no point asking it, because it is known to be bright enough to reply that it is, even if it is not!! And so Smyth's conclusion is that such experiences as "being conscious and having free will [.....] have no objective reality". An ST, he argues, will be conscious if and only if it acquires a subjective experience of consciousness, but only it will ever really know! And the same inherent limitation applies, he fears, to the rest of us - human STs - as well.



Social Intelligence: This is "the ability to understand and manage people" (Salovey and Mayer, 1990, p187). The point about social intelligence is that you have to set it apart from intellectual intelligence both conceptually (it accesses different resources) and empirically (it varies orthogonally). [Compare emotional intelligence.]



Social Model of Inner Speech: See inner speech.



Social Skills Training: This is the name given to any formally constituted scheme for the improvement of socially directed behaviour in a particular needful client group. Hayes (1994/2006 online) reports on the problems peculiar to adults with learning disability, noting that these are frequently in areas taken for granted by the rest of the population. They will often include impulsivity, poor perception of facial expression and body language, poor auditory perception of emotional voice quality, invasion of other people's "personal space", inappropriate touching, and mood swings. She gives the example of case Roger. As far as remediation is concerned, she recommends amongst other things thinking out loud [she calls it "selftalk"]. This is because it makes explicit the sort of moment-by-moment "stream of consciousness" content of adult thought [the contents of inner speech, perhaps]. Here is her example, and her reasoning .....


"Self talk is simply describing your own techniques for dealing with particular situations so that the learning disabled child becomes aware of what the parent is doing, and why. [] For example, a parent might say, 'Since I know that I want to look nice when I go out, I'm going to go look in the mirror and see if I look all right. Oops! I think I need to comb my hair before I go.' Certainly, most adults would take a quick glance in the mirror before going out. Few, however, would make a point of describing to a child what is happening, or why. This is exactly the sort of behavior the child with a learning disability might not notice, but the non-LD child would pick up without instruction" (Hayes, 1994/2006 online).


It is also helpful to make explicit one's intention when one finds oneself communicating with the aid of facial expression, thus .....


"Adults with visual perception problems often miss the messages that people send and receive through facial expression. Such common expressions as a frown, narrowed eyes, or pursed lips, which might signal that what is being heard is inappropriate in some way, are often missed. Parents and teachers can help by using role-playing often, or by simply asking for feedback in day-today situations: 'David, what do you think my face is saying to you? Do I look like I am pleased about what you are doing, or not?'" (Hayes, 1994).


[For the use of cognitive behavioural therapy in promoting social skills, see Smith (2002/2006 online). For the clinical use of avatars in the treatment of autistic spectrum disorders, see the entry for the AS Interactive project.]



Soft Bipolar Disorder: This is Akiskal's (1994) name for a variant form of bipolar disorder lacking hypomania or mania, and characterised instead by short and frequent recurrent depressions and mood reactivity. Phelps (2006) counsels against the use of anti-depressant drugs in this category of disorders, recommending instead cognitive behavioural therapy and interpersonal therapy.



Somatisation Disorder: This is one of the seven DSM-IV disorder groups under the category header of somatoform disorders. It is characterised as follows .....


"The essential feature of somatisation disorder is a pattern of recurring, multiple, clinically significant somatic complaints [.....]. The somatic complaints must begin before age 30 years and occur over a period of several years (Criterion A). [They] cannot be fully explained by any known general medical condition or the direct effects of a substance [..... and t]here must be a history of pain related to at least four different sites (e.g., head, abdomen, back, joints, extremities, chest, rectum) or functions (e.g., menstruation, sexual intercourse, urination) (Criterion B1). There must also be a history of at least two gastrointestinal symptoms other than pain (Criterion B2)" (DSM-IV, 2000, p486). 



Somatoform Disorders: This is the DSM-IV header category for seven specific disorder groups, namely body dysmorphic syndrome, conversion disorder, hypochondriasis, pain disorder, somatisation disorder, somatisation disorder not otherwise specified, and undifferentiated somatisation disorder. These seven disorders have in common memory impairment and unexplained physical complaint, and map largely onto what used to be lumped together as hysteria.





"[SOCRATES:] What do we say about the soul, then? Is it visible or invisible?"

(Plato, Phaedo; Tredennick translation, p130).


[Greek = psuche; Latin = anima; German = Geist] [See firstly the Catholic Encyclopedia  account of the concept of soul in primitive religions, classical literature, and ancient philosophy.] The soul is "the principle of life in man or animals [and] of thought and action in man, commonly regarded as an entity distinct from the body" (O.E.D.). Rohde (1893, 1920/1925) traces the notion of soul to the Homeric age, to their use of psuche to indicate some sort of life-spirit (p390). The early Greek philosophers - the Pythagoreans - looked upon it as follows .....


"So far as our scanty and dubious evidence serves us, the substance of the Pythagorean doctrine of the soul may be stated as follows. The soul of man, once more regarded entirely as the 'double' of the visible body and its powers, is a daimonic [from daemon, q.v.] immortal being that has been cast down from divine heights and for a punishment is confined within the 'custody' of the body. It has no real relationship with the body; it is not what may be called the personality of the individual visible man: any soul may dwell in any body" (Rohde, 1925, p375).


Empedocles then noted the inevitable interaction between spirit and mind, speaking still of daemones [= "the spirits within"], but asking now where spirit and the things we today call "cognition" interact. Here is the issue [a long passage, heavily abridged) .....


"'Thinking' has its seat in the heart's blood [.....]. Or rather this blood actually is thinking and the power of thought; the material substance and its vital functions thus also for Empedocles completely coincide. Plainly, nothing in the nature of a permanent substantial 'soul' is here intended [.....] but rather a capacity of bringing together and unifying the individual sense-activities [.....] Both capacities, that of sense-perception, and that of thought [.....] are present in all organisms; in men, in beasts, and even in plants [..... and] are entirely bound up with the elements and their combination, and in man they are joined to the body and its organs; they are the powers and faculties of this body, and not of a special and invisible entity, the soul. The soul-daemon is not made out of the elements, nor is it for ever chained to them" (Rohde, 1925, pp380-382).


The Platonic view of soul was (a) that it had three fundamental partitions to it [see soul, tripartite], and (b) that it was immortal. The problem then is specifying the nature of the interaction between soul and body - specifically, whether the soul is pure whilst the body is feral and undisciplined. Plato's position is as follows (a long passage, heavily abridged) .....


"The soul is a pure spiritual essence; it contains nothing within it that is material, nothing of the 'place' where Becoming is shaped into a distinct resemblance to Being. It is incorporeal and belongs to the realm of the 'invisible', which in this immaterialist doctrine counts as the most real of all, more real than the most solid matter. [..... And though enclosed within the body it remains a stranger to the body [.....] as its mistress and leader. [.....] Body and soul never fuse into one [.....] and yet the body and its impulses have the power to influence profoundly the immortal being that dwells within it. [.....] Though no organic connection exists between them, yet there is a certain 'symmetry' between the individual soul and the body that is lent to it" (Rohde, 1925, pp465-467).


ASIDE: Interestingly enough, a modern computer program also weighs nothing either when executing (the electrons which are flowing have a discrete mass, but were in the circuit anyway to start with) or when stored on magnetic medium (there is no change in mass when the polarity of a ferrous medium is altered). We should therefore not be too critical of the ancients when their conclusions sometimes strike us as quaint.


In De Anima, Aristotle complains that "it is hard to know whether we should investigate the parts of the soul first or their functions, for instance thinking first or the intellect, perceiving first or the perceptive faculty, and so on" (Aristotle, De Anima, §402b; Lawson-Tancred translation, p127). In the end, however, he decides that "the soul is connected with the body, and is inserted into it [..... and] it is by their partnership that the body acts and the soul is affected" (ibid., §407b; p142). However, he then raises an intriguing side-issue (especially so, when considered in the light of the modern modularity debate) .....


"Now the soul comprises cognition, perception, and belief-states. It also comprises appetite, wishing, and the desire-states in general. It is the source of locomotion in animals, and also of growth, flourishing, and decay. Is each of these things the business of the whole soul? Is it with the whole soul that we think and perceive and are moved and perform and affected by each of the others? Or do we do different things with different parts? And indeed is life located in one of these parts or several or all of them?" (Aristotle, De Anima, §411a-b; Lawson-Tancred translation, pp152-153 [Aristotle's personal pronouncement on this question is that the soul is, in the end, not divisible]).


Modern discussions of soul began with Descartes and his doctrine of Cartesian dualism, and soon degenerated into a series of confrontations, initially between the British Empiricists and the Continental Rationalists. Gradually, however, the terminology has changed, so that one's position on soul nowadays depends reflects your religious orientation.



Soul, Plato's Metaphors for: Compare and contrast "charioteer of the soul" and "pilot of the soul".



Soul, Tripartite: [See firstly soul.] This term refers to the Platonic notion that the soul needs to be seen as having three fundamental aspects, namely reason, desire, and self-assertiveness, despite the fact that it acts much of the time as a coherent whole (Ostenfeld, 1982). It also implies that there exists a "divine element", namely intelligence, burdened down "by its preoccupation with food and other bodily pleasures" (Ostenfeld, 1982, p214). Following a sustained analysis of Plato's writings, Ostenfeld (1982) resolves this apparent contradiction this way: "While the soul per se seems unitary it is tripartite while in a human body" (p214). However, it then follows that close attention needs to be paid to the all-important interface between body and soul, and nowhere more so than in our attempts to explain the body's "self-assertive element" (p216). Plato saw our self-assertiveness as based upon "a natural aggressiveness" (p216), such as that which prompts an eating dog to defend its bone so determinedly, and it was this, for him, which explained why human instincts were so often at odds with their intellects. Here is one of his several attempts to summarise the relationship .....


"[God] made the divine with his own hands, but he ordered his own children to make the generation of mortals. They took over from him an immortal principle of soul, and, imitating him, encased it in a mortal physical globe, with the body as a whole for vehicle. And they built onto it another mortal part, containing terrible and necessary feelings: pleasure, the chief incitement to wrong, pain, which frightens us from good, [etc.]. To this mixture they added irrational sensation and desire which shrinks from nothing, and so gave the mortal element its indispensable equipment" (Plato, Timaeus, §69; Lee translation, p95).


[Compare Hamilton's triad. For more on the conflict of reason against desire, see the "charioteer of the soul" metaphor.]



SPD: See semantic-pragmatic disorder.



Special Educational Need: See learning disability and special educational need, the basics.



Special Educational Needs and Disability Act, 2001: This Act made it unlawful for schools or colleges to discriminate between students on the grounds of disability, thus extending disability rights into education.



Special Need: See learning disability and special educational need, the basics.



Specific (Developmental) Dyslexia: See learning disability and special educational need, the basics.



Specific (Developmental) Language Disorder (SDLD/SLD): Same as specific language impairment.



Specific Language Impairment (SLI): The key to understanding this diagnostic description lies in the very precise technical meaning attached to the words "specific" and "language".


ASIDE: Readers who are not totally familiar with the terms pragmatics, speech act, and perlocutionary effect should carefully consult those entries before proceeding.


As more fully explained in the entry for diagnostic terminology, general, a specific disorder is one which affects one area of competence (a particular cognitive function, say) but more or less totally spares all others. As more full explained in the entry for speech versus language, language is the functional deployment of speech, together with a host of supporting non-verbal behaviours, in support of willed ideation. What we have with SLI, therefore, is a language problem per se, not attributable to deafness, say, nor low intelligence (as with Down's syndrome), nor poor socio-emotional development (as with Asperger's disorder), nor neurological deficit (as with cerebral palsy).


ASIDE: Bishop (2000) cites difficult-to-come-by data from Bartak et al (1975), comparing a number of behavioural and linguistic indicators of autistic and "receptive" SLI children. This data shows marked similarities between the two groups on some indicators (e.g., no phrase speech by age 30 months [autistics 89%; SLIs 83%]), but marked differences - one way or the other - on others (e.g., stereotyped utterances [autistics 63%; SLIs 9%] and articulation defects [autistics 53%; SLIs 91%]). [show me more of this table].


NOTE: Strictly speaking, under the current UK set-up, an SLI is neither a learning difficulty nor a learning disability, but rather a "special educational need" - see the discussion in the entry for learning disability and special educational need, the basics.



Specific Learning Difficulty: See learning disability and special educational need, the basics.



Specific Learning Disability: See learning disability and special educational need, the basics.



Specific Learning Disorder: See learning disability and special educational need, the basics.



Speech Act: "A speech act is an act that a speaker performs when making an utterance" (Lingualinks, 2003 online - for the full definition, click on the link given and follow the onward expansion). The term comes from Austin (1962), who, when discussing utterances which were being made for effect (e.g., lies, insults, etc.), argued that "the more we consider a statement not as a sentence (or proposition) but as an act of speech [.....] the more we are studying the whole thing as an act" (p20). Austin (1962) and (his student) Searle (1969) saw speech acts as units of intentional achievement, and the formalised study of the communication of deep intent has since grown to be a major subscience of psycholinguistics, namely "pragmatics". [See now and contrast the entries for locutionary act and perlocutionary effect in our companion Psycholinguistics Glossary.]


ASIDE: In fact, speech acts are crucially important to cognitive science, because they begin their brief journey through the mind as preverbal ideations and end it as muscle contractions. They occupy the top end of the speech production process, and it is unlikely that consciousness will be unravelled unless and until the coding principles of speech acts have themselves been determined.


[See now speech acts, the Bach and Harnish taxonomy.]



Speech Acts, the Bach and Harnish Taxonomy: [See firstly speech acts.] Bach and Harnish (1979) devote an entire chapter to a preliminary taxonomy of speech acts, as follows .....


BLOCK I - CONSTATIVES: These are expressions of belief, and are sub-classified as follows [the authors' original examples are shown ("thus")] .....


Assertives (e.g., "affirm", "allege", "assert", etc.)


Predictives (e.g., "forecast", "predict", "prophesy", etc)


Retrodictives (e.g., "recount", "report", etc.)


Descriptives (e.g., "appraise", "assess", "call", "categorise", "characterise", "classify", "date", "describe", etc.)


Ascriptives (e.g., "ascribe", "attribute", "predicate")


Informatives (e.g., "advise", "announce", "apprise", "disclose", "inform", "notify", etc.)


Confirmatives (e.g., "appraise", "assess", "bear witness", "certify", "conclude", "confirm", "corroborate", etc.)


Concessives (e.g., "acknowledge", "admit", "agree", "allow", "assent", "concede", etc.)


Retractives (e.g., "abjure", "correct", "deny", "disavow", "disclaim", "disown", etc.)


Assentives (e.g., "accept", "agree", "assent", "concur")


Disputatives (e.g., "demur", "dispute", "object", "protest", "question")


Responsives (e.g., "answer", "reply", "respond", "retort")


Suggestives (e.g., "conjecture", "guess", "hypothesise", "speculate", "suggest")


Suppositives (e.g., "assume", "hypothesise", "postulate", "stipulate", "suppose", "theorise")


BLOCK II - DIRECTIVES: These are expressions of a speaker's "attitude toward some prospective action by the hearer and his intention that his utterance, or the attitude it expresses, be taken as a reason for the hearer's action" (Bach and Harnish, 1979, p41; emphasis added), and are sub-classified as follows .....


Requestives (e.g., "ask", "beg", "beseech", "implore", "insist", "invite", etc.)


Questions (e.g., "ask", "enquire", "interrogate", "query", "question", "quiz")


Requirements (e.g., "bid", "charge", "command", "demand", "dictate", "direct", etc.)


Prohibitives - for reasons which will become apparent, we have given this category of speech acts its own entry in the glossary.


Permissives (e.g., "agree to", "allow", "authorise", "bless", "consent to", "dismiss", "excuse", "exempt", "forgive", etc.)


Advisories (e.g., "admonish", "advise", "caution", "counsel", "propose", "recommend", "suggest", "urge", "warn") - for reasons which will become apparent, we have given this category of speech acts its own entry in the glossary.


BLOCK III - COMMISSIVES: These are expressions of a speaker's "intention and belief that his utterance obliges him to do something" (p41), and are subclassified as follows .....


Promises (e.g., "promise", "threaten", "swear")


Offers (e.g., "offer", "propose")


BLOCK IV - ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: These are expressions of a speaker's "feelings regarding the hearer or [.....] the speaker's intention that his utterance satisfy a social expectation to express certain feelings and his belief that it does" (p41), and are subclassified as follows .....




Condole (e.g., "commiserate", "condole")


Congratulate (e.g., "compliment", "congratulate", "fecilitate")






Bid (e.g., "bid", "wish")


Accept - to "acknowledge and acknowledgment", as in a closing "you're welcome"


Reject (e.g., "refuse", "reject", "spurn")


RESEARCH ISSUES: We may reasonably ask ourselves of many clinical conditions whether a cognitive deficit for one or more speech acts might play some causative role in its particular aetiology. It might be interesting, for example, to examine whether one or more speech acts were unavailable in persons displaying alexithymia, or in persons with Asperger's disorder, and so on.



Speech Production Hierarchy: [See firstly motor hierarchy.] This is simply an instance of a motor hierarchy, dedicated to the production of speech output from ideational input. [Click here for a dedicated paper on the subject. Also note the similarity to Dennett's "module PR" - see consciousness, Dennett's theory of.]



Speech versus Language: Speech is the production of the spoken word, usually in the delivery of a message [compare speech production hierarchy].


ASIDE: Why do we only say "usually"? Because some forms of speaking are exceptions to what we are used to in everyday conversation. Specifically, normal conversational speech follows processing route <4-8-10-9 and out> on Ellis and Young's (1988) modular psycholinguistic model [check it out]. However, it would still be speech even if one was reading out loud from a language one could not in fact speak. A reader unable to speak Danish, for example, could nevertheless have a decent stab at pronouncing "med venlig hilsen", although the processing pathway on this occasion would be <5-6-8-10-9 and out> [check it out] (speaking without understanding is unable, by definition, to go through module #4). It would also be possible to speak back a few words of a totally unfamiliar language, using <1-11-9 and out> [check it out], or to repeat a discourse in one's own language without really understanding it, using <1-2-13-8-10-9 and out> [check it out].


Language on the other hand is the production - in speech or the written word (or, indeed, semaphore or any other special signaling system) - of intention made substantive. It is ideation put into words, in order to achieve a certain pre-planned end-result. [For the supporting theory, start with the entry for speech acts and keep following the onward links. For the supporting clinical applications, start with specific language impairment and do likewise.]



Spinal Projection System: See Freud's Project.



Split Personality: See multiple personality.



Splitting: This is one of the defense mechanisms postulated by psychoanalytic theory, and recognised by the DSM-IV as belonging to the "major image-distorting" defense level. It involves dealing with emotional conflict "by compartmentalising opposite affect states and failing to integrate the positive and negative qualities of the self or others into cohesive images" (DSM-IV-TR, 2000, p813). The main outcome of this in phenomenological terms is that the individual thereby loses the ability to experience both sides of the story simultaneously - the positive and the negative experiences cannot both occupy emotional awareness at the same time. As a result, "self and object images tend to alternate between polar opposites: exclusively loving, powerful, worthy, nurturant, and kind - or exclusively bad, hurtful, angry, destructive, rejecting, or worthless" (p813). [For an example, see case, Marianne. For the full story start with personality, splitting of and follow the onward links. See also Ryle's views in the entry for procedural sequence model.]



Speading Activation Theory: See Section 3.1 of the companion resource on "Speech Errors". [For the similarities between the notion of spreading activation and the Freudian slip, see parapraxis.]



SPT: See Symbolic Play Test.



SSC: See shamanic state of consciousness.



STAI: See State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.



State Consciousness: See consciousness, Rosenthal's theory of.



Statement of Educational Needs: TO FOLLOW.



Stereotype Fixation: [See firstly cognitive framing and discrimination errors.] This is one of the four types of discrimination error described by Rasmussen (1982) (the others being familiar pattern not recognised, familiar short cut, and stereotype take-over). It is what happens when a situation "deviates from normal routine" (p327), but the operator fails to respond to that deviation and thus fails, in turn, to switch to an appropriate exception procedure. 



Stereotype Take-Over: [See firstly cognitive framing and discrimination errors.] This is one of the four types of discrimination error described by Rasmussen (1982) (the others being familiar pattern not recognised, familiar short cut, and stereotype fixation). It is what happens when a situation "deviates from normal routine" (p327), but the operator - although realising that an exception procedure exists, and despite being able to recall said procedure - fails to execute it cleanly due to "interference" from competing procedures.



Stockholm Syndrome: See identification for the core story. Strentz (2006 online) prefers an explanation based on regression, rather than identification. He points out that hostages, like infants, are unable to control their bodily functions, feed, eliminate, etc., without permission from their captors. They have suddenly become wholly dependent beings again, and may thus return mentally to the very earliest and most dependent of the psychosexual stages, namely orality. A hostage's "every breath [is] a gift from the [.....] all powerful adult".



Stoics, the: This is the name commonly given to a group of post-Aristotelian Greek philosophers, including Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus. They are relevant to the present argument in that they anticipated Locke's tabula rasa by close on two millennia.



Stoicism: The philosophy of the Stoics.



Storage Schema: See database storage schema.



Strachey, James Beaumont: [British writer, turned psychotherapist (1887-1967).] [Click for external biography (scroll down to pp25-29)] James Strachey is relevant in the current context as the translator of the "standard" edition of most of Freud's works.



Strange Situation Test: See attachment, Bowlby on.



Stream of Consciousness: This is James' (1890) famous metaphoric description of consciousness as something which is swirling along one minute and drifting idly the next, but which succeeds by and large in making some sort of connected sense of the things it washes over on the way. James' original proposal was phrased as follows .....


"Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as 'chain' or 'train' do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instance. It is nothing jointed; it flows. A 'river' or a 'stream' are the metaphors by which it most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life" (James, 1890, pI.239).


However, Strawson (1997) rates James' use of the flow metaphor as "inept". Consciousness is better described, he submits, as "continuously restarting" (p422); it is "a (nearly continuous) series of radically disjunct irruptions into consciousness from a basic substrate of non-consciousness. It keeps banging out of nothingness; it is a series of comings to" (p422). Here is another recent voice of caution .....


"Like most people, I used to think of my conscious life as like a stream of experiences, passing through my mind, one after another. But now I'm starting to wonder, is consciousness really like this? Could this apparently innocent assumption be the reason we find consciousness so baffling? [Are we] chasing after the wrong thing? If consciousness seems to be a continuous stream of rich and detailed sights, sounds, feelings, and thoughts, then I suggest this is the illusion. [.....] And if consciousness is not what it seems, no wonder it's proving such a mystery. [.....] Could the problem be so serious that we need to start again at the very beginning? Could it be that, after all, there is no stream of consciousness, no movie in the brain, no picture of the world we see in front of our eyes? Could all this be just a grand illusion" (Blackmore, 2002, pp27-28).



Stream of Thought: This is the title of Chapter IX of Volume 1 of William James' Principles of Psychology (James, 1890), the chapter which contains his stream of consciousness metaphor.



String Quartet Metaphor: See consciousness, Edelman and Tononi's theory of.



Strokes (1/2): (1 - In Neurology and everyday English) In the context of neurological illness, a stroke is the everyday name for a cerebrovascular accident, the most common form of focal neurological damage [for more details, see under cerebro-vascular accident (CVA) in the companion resource]. (2 - In Psychodynamic Theory) In the context of Berne's system of transactional analysis, strokes are TO BE CONTINUED.



Structured Query Language (SQL): Generically, a repertoire of near-English instructions by means of which ad hoc enquiries can be made of a database. Also the name of a specific product which does this.



Stumpf, Carl: [German philosopher-psychologist (1848-1936).] [Click for external biography] Stumpf is noteworthy in the context of the present glossary for his professorial influence on several of the founders of the Gestalt School.



Subjective Contour: This is Kanizsa's (1976) term for virtual contours which the processes of visual perception can add to the existing real contours during the early stages of visual processing in order to compensate for incomplete figures in the visual field. It is a contour which we imagine, that is to say, it emerges "in the absence of physical gradients" (p48) [see specimen image]; it is a line which is "phenomenally present" (p49), rather than actually there.



Subjectivity: [See firstly experience.] In the context of consciousness studies, the term "subjectivity" means "consciousness of one's perceived states [.....]. The quality or condition of viewing things exclusively through the medium of one's own mind or individuality" (O.E.D.). Beare (1906) traces this particular notion to the very earliest explanations of the sensory systems, thus .....


"For both [Alcmaeon and Empedocles] air is the vehicle of sound. According to Alcmaeon the air in the outer ear is set moving by the ψοφος [psophos = "noise, sound" (O.C.G.D.)], and in its turn sets in motion the air in the inner chamber, which transmits the vibration to the brain. According to Empedocles, as the organ of vision contains a lantern, so the organ of hearing contains a bell or gong, which the [psophos] from without causes to ring: this ringing [.....] being conveyed inwards by a subsequent process to the 'point of sense', and the feeling or perception of sound being thus awakened" (p97).


Note the use of the phrase "subsequent process" in the above extract, for it conceals perhaps the most refractory of all the problems of mental philosophy. Specifically, this process is "the ghost" in Ryle's (1949) machine, the psycholinguist's agent, the psychologist's ego, Kant's das Ich, Smyth's (2005) "sentient entity", Dennett's "centre of narrative gravity", etc. Subjectivity - as Chalmers so rightly warns us - is the hard problem, and became a popular topic for philosophical debate following the rise to popularity of Nagel's (1979) "what's it like to be?" questions. Nagel rates the subjective character of experience as "the most important and characteristic feature of conscious mental phenomena" (p166), and laments the fact that it is so poorly understood. Metzinger (2003) has constructed the Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity [for more on which see consciousness, Metzinger's theory of.]



Subjectless Act of Perception: TO FOLLOW.



Sublimation: This is one of the nine defense mechanisms postulated by psychoanalytic theory, its particular function being to associate unwelcome mental content with less threatening content, and thereby to allow the discharge of the former by proxy, so to speak. The term was taken from chemistry, where certain substances (e.g., crystals of iodine) move invisibly (in their gaseous state, in fact) from one point to another upon gently heating. Since mental sublimation requires that one symbol is allowed by definition to stand for another, various forms of intellectual endeavour and creativity are ideal media of expression. A loud musical crescendo, for example, might be a safe discharge of a more directly orgasmic desire; the one having been sublimated into the other.



Subschema: See database subschema.



Substance: The classical philosophers were partial to rather profound debates as to the fundamental nature of substance [Greek ousia, hyle], thus .....


"Plato and Aristotle give different answers to the question 'what are the substances [ousiai]?' One way Aristotle defends his answer is by arguing that his candidate substances - particulars such as Socrates or Callias - better satisfy the criteria for substance than do Plato's candidates - eternal, unchanging, nonsensible universals called 'forms'. [..... Unfortunately,] Aristotle disagrees with Plato, not only about the candidates, but also about the criteria, for substance [.....]. Aristotle analyses sensible particulars into compound, form, and matter [..... leading] him to argue that it is Socrates as form that counts as primary substance; the primary substances are individual forms [..... but] Platonic and Aristotelian forms are quite different" (Fine, 2003, pp397-398).


Leibniz regarded the Aristotelian question "What is substance?" as being "the key to philosophy" (Woolhouse and Francks, 1998, p7), while Locke's regarded substance as one of the three subclasses of complex idea (the others being mode and relation). [See now logos, and note the relationship between the notion of substance and the ability to talk about something for the purposes of defining it.]



Substance Dualism: Same thing as dualism.



Suggestion: [See firstly hypnosis.] The following extract indicates the use of suggestion in religious ritual .....


"Temples erected to [Aesculapius] were situated on high hills or near springs whose waters had medicinal values. Here the sons of Aesculapius utilised physical means to cure disease through rest, dietetics, massage, baths, exercise, and a hygienic life. Patients were bathed and massaged by skilled attendants, and a type of mental suggestion called 'incubation' was used. The patient, having entered the temple or the halls especially built for incubation, lay down on the floor on a pallet. In these impressive surroundings, the god Aesculapius revealed himself directly to everyone who needed his help. The god was seen by the incubant in a dream, whereupon the patient entered into personal contact with him [.....]. Sometimes ventriloquism on the part of the priest-attendants aided the patient's spirit to converse with his Aesculapian god" (Bromberg, 1954, pp26-27).



Superego: This is one of the three component structures of the mind according to Freudian theory (the others being the ego, Freudian and the id). Specifically, it is the component which acts as our "conscience".



Supersentience: TO FOLLOW.



Supervenience: [Latin supervenire = "to come/occur above".] Philosophically speaking, supervenience involves a supervening of elements of two sets of properties from a single domain in accordance with a causal rule. Note that this usage of supervenience immediately goes further than the standard English usage: specifically, for one event to "supervene" upon another in a philosophical sense, it has to do more than just follow that earlier event, rather it has to occur because of it. For a thorough history of the derivation of the philosophical usage, leading into a detailed discussion of the dozen or so different facets of supervenience across various branches of philosophy, see the (18-page!) entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or work through the essays in Kim (1993). The common denominator, however, is that supervenience indicates consequence rather than mere sequence, and its usage in this sense dates from the 1940s (Hare, 1984). Defined formally, philosophical supervenience involves the cross-relating of properties between "two sets of properties over a single domain of individuals" (Kim, 1993, xi) and signifies "a metaphysical and/or conceptual determination-relation" (Horgan, 1993, p555). Nowhere is there a greater need to master the language of supervenience than in modern mental philosophy, where the challenge is to identify which of the two properties (i.e. mind events and brain events) actually supervenes in the causal line of biological cognition. Davidson (1970) opened this phase of the debate with the following general declaration: "Mental characteristics are in some sense dependent, or supervenient, on physical characteristics [although] dependence or supervenience of this kind does not entail reducibility through law or definition" (p88). Supervenience soon became a major analytical tool in all subsequent discussions of reductionism and the explanatory gap, and inspired works by the University of Sydney's John Bacon (e.g., 1986), Brown University's Jaegwon Kim (e.g., Kim, 1993), the University of Arizona's Terence Horgan (e.g., Horgan, 1993), and Princeton's David Lewis (e.g., Lewis, 1991). Kim's (1993) studied dismissal of epiphenomenalism [see that entry] offers a good example of how the concept can inform the mind-brain debate when it has to, unfortunately there is still too much uncertainty about whether brain events follow mental ones, or vice versa, to make the long-awaited major breakthrough.



Supervisory System: This is the term used by Norman and Shallice (1980) to describe the cognitive mechanisms of planned action as part of their Norman-Shallice Model (of Supervisory Attentional Function). The model proposes a three-layer/five-box control hierarchy, sculpted on top of a sixth box containing a motor schema selection process. This latter process is characterized as relying as much on inhibitory mechanisms as upon excitatory, so that the momentary salience of one motor program comes in large part from a carefully synchronized lack of "contention" from all the others (Shallice, 1982, p200). Shallice (1988) summarises the role of the supervisory system as follows .....


"..... the Supervisory System [has] access to a representation of the environment and of the organism's intentions and cognitive capacities. It is held to operate not by directly controlling behaviour, but by modulating the lower level [resources] by activating or inhibiting particular schemata. It would be involved in the genesis of willed actions and required in situations where the routine selection of actions was unsatisfactory - for instance, in dealing with novelty, in decision making, in overcoming temptation, or in dealing with danger." (Shallice, 1988, p335.)


It therefore follows that the supervisory system concept is central (a) to human problem solving, and (b) to the deterioration of same following brain injury. [For a much broader discussion of the role of the supervisory system in action, and especially when in some way dysfunctional, see our e-resource on the "Frontal Lobes".]



Survivor Syndrome:


"When everyone else fled you attacked; may you have the joyful land [of Heaven] because you did not flee; Breichior the Fierce was world-famed" (The Gododdin, v20).


"Again and again, in great throngs they came" (The Black Book of Carmarthen).


"The many men, so beautiful! And they all dead did lie. And a thousand thousand slimy things lived on; and so did I" (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Pt 4).


"The death song is expressive of their wish to die. It is also a requiem for the dead. It expresses that the singer is anxious to die too ….." (Dewey Beard [Lakota tribe], after the Wounded Knee Massacre, December 1890.


"And the one next to you, where he bends to delve, gets it in the middle body" (In Parenthesis, Pt 7).


The idea that there is something psychologically distinctive about survivors seems to have grown in the first instance out of the writings of the psychiatrist William G. Niederland, who - having fled the Holocaust himself in 1940 - was well-equipped to understand the testimony of the survivors of the Nazi death camps when he returned to Europe after the war to help out with the psychiatric rehabilitation of the handful of survivors at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin [external resource]. What Niederland noticed amongst these survivors was a recurring pattern of signs and symptoms such as depression, flashbacks, nightmares, and so on (Niederland, 1964). This symptom complex soon became known within military psychiatry as "KZ syndrome" (KZ being the abbreviated German for Konzentrationslager [= "concentration camp"]) (Helweg-Larson et al, 1952; Krell, 1994 [online]), and the topic has attracted significant academic research ever since.


ASIDE: Interested readers should follow the onward links from the entry for Niederland himself, and also from those for Jan Bastiaans, Leo Eitinger, and Henry Krystal. The Holocaust "Cybrary" will then guide you to a host of other resources. Interestingly, Niederland also noted that many camp survivors displayed "a marked propensity for engaging in gambling bouts and related activities, usually carried out intensely and compulsively" (Niederland, 1984, p1013).


Nowadays, the term "survivor syndrome" is often used as a straight synonym for KZ syndrome, and is also routinely portrayed as a form of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the term is probably best reserved for those occasions when the psychopathology in question demands a more subtle and precise descriptor. For example, Nader (2001/2007 online) sees survivor syndrome as being basically a problem of unresolved guilt, primarily for some perceived sense of responsibility for what had happened to those who had not survived, commonly taking the form "if only I had <said or done something> differently". That said, the factor which in our opinion most distinguishes survivor syndrome from PTSD is the sense of compensatory "drivenness" to which factually innocent survivors seem to be prone; a drivenness not just to feel their unnecessary guilt, but to make amends in some way for their transgression (i.e., that of surviving) - to apologise almost for having lived when others did not, and to speak thereafter and therefore for those no longer able to speak for themselves. Here, from traumatic events large and small, ancient as well as modern, holocausts as well as allocausts, are some instances of this form of drivenness [in order of publication, not occurrence] ..... 


Table A - Wars, etc.





Battle of Catraeth, ca. 600 CE [external resource]

If we take the available evidence and opinion at face value, then Aneirin was a late-6th century Celtic court bard. As such he would have been responsible for maintaining the unwritten history of his tribe (in this case, the Wotadini). This included accompanying the king and his army whenever they went off to war, and then singing their praises afterwards (posthumously, if necessary). "The Gododdin" (Aneirin, ca. 600 CE [see full text online]), is a poeticised first-hand account of the Battle of Catraeth, seemingly a bloodbath of the first order, from which only Aneirin and two of the soldiers escaped with their lives. In it, Aneirin praises his dead companions one by one to an audience which, in the early tellings, would presumably have included the fathers, mothers, and other next of kin of those who had been killed.


Battle of Arderydd, ca. 573 CE [external resource]

More obscure still, is the story of what happened to another Celtic bard, Myrddin, after the defeat of the army he was attached to at the Battle of Arderydd. Myrddin is a Welsh proper name, usually anglicised as "Merlin", and the Myrddin in question here is suspected to be a real person, whose persona was later incorporated into the Arthurian legends as magician-confidant. Little is known directly about the battle, although "The Black Book of Carmarthen" (Anon., ca. 1250), a mediaeval manuscript written nearly seven hundred years later, has Myrddin describing the events in typical survivor style [see extract online].

Simon Hatley?

Disaster/misfortune  at sea

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of The Ancient Mariner" (1798) [see full text online (courtesy of the University of Virginia)], although itself wholly fictional, is a model of drivenness by guilt. The identity of the true survivor is not known, although Poolman (2002) reports the case of a certain Simon ("Sim") Hatley, one of the officers on HMS Speedwell on its 1719 voyage to the South Americas, who had killed an albatross for better luck, only for it to get markedly worse. This tale may or may not have been still circulating in wharfside legend when Coleridge was planning his work. For William Wordsworth's role in this complex history, see the Wiki-resource

David Jones

Battle of Mametz Wood, 10th July 1916 [external resource]

David Jones took part in the 38th Welsh Division's successful, but costly, attack on Mametz Wood (as part of the broader Battle of the Somme), being wounded in action. "In Parenthesis" (Jones, 1937), is a fictionalised first-hand account of said battle, in which the author turns a procession of his personal flashbulb memories into a profoundly powerful prose poem. 



Table B - The Holocaust




William Niederland, Leo Eitinger, Henry Krystal, Bruno Bettelheim.

The Holocaust 


Medical anecdote, research, and theoretical analysis (specimen citations above). Eitinger survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald; Bettelheim was interned in Dachau and Buchenwald.

Elli Friedmann, Eva Schloss

The Holocaust

Autobiographies and memoirs, such as Schloss (1988) and Bitton-Jackson (1980, 1997).

Helga Schneider

The Holocaust

Autobiographical material from the daughter of an Auschwitz guard (Schneider, 1988/2004).



Table C - The Allocausts [= holocausts other than the Holocaust]




[see external resource, 21:6-8]

The Canaanite Allocaust

This is the first of the genocides listed in the Wiki-resource on "Genocides in History". It is described in Deuteronomy, 20-21 [see full text online], and refers to ethnic cleansing operations by the Biblical Israelites against the about-to-be-dispossessed tribespeople of the Promised Land, carried out at the direct instruction of the Israelite God and covered by an automatic dispensation clause (see v21:9) should civilian casualties result [plus ça change].

See quotation at head of entry

The Native Indian

Allocaust, 16th - 19th  centuries onwards

Central/North America: [Numbers unknown] Native Americans variously exterminated as ethnically inferior or politically inconvenient during the Spanish, British, and - after independence - American conquest of Central and North America [and including the effectively total extinction of the Aztecs]. Readers interested in taking this story further could do a lot worse than starting with Lewy (2007 online).

[see external resource]

The Miao Allocaust, China, 1854-1873

China: Perhaps as many as five million people variously exterminated as ethnically inferior during the suppression of, and reprisals for, the "Miao Rebellion".

[see external resource]

The Armenian Allocaust, 1915-1923

Turkey: 1,500,000 Armenian tribespeople variously exterminated by the more powerful Ottoman Turk establishment [external resource].

[see external resource]

The Cambodian Allocaust, 1975-1979

Cambodia: Perhaps as many as two million "ideologically suspect" Cambodians variously exterminated [in the infamous "killing fields"] by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge establishment [external resource].

[see external resource]

The East Bengal Allocaust, 1971

Bangladesh: Perhaps as many as three million non-Muslim fellow citizens variously exterminated by the more powerful Muslim establishment [external resource] [one of the "top five" genocides of the 20th century].

[see external resource]

The Rwandan Allocaust, 1994

Rwanda: 800,000 Tutsi tribespeople variously exterminated by the more powerful Hutu establishment [external resource].

[see external resource]

Darfur Allocaust, 1983-ongoing

Sudan: Perhaps as many as two million non-Muslim fellow citizens variously exterminated by the more powerful Muslim establishment [external resource].



As to precisely what motivates a factually innocent survivor to come to regard the simple happenstance of their survival as a cause for guilt, little is known. What we may say reasonably safely is that the mental processes responsible are, like those underlying bereavement and mainstream PTSD, only peripherally available for conscious introspection, and the manner of their operation is that of a deeply wounded and out-of-balance system. So, all in all, Niederland was probably close enough to the truth when he coined the phrase Seelenmord [German = "murder of the spirit/soul"] as a synonym for survivor syndrome. These and related questions are still being actively discussed by scholars worldwide. In January 2007, for example, Tel Aviv University hosted a conference exploring the KZ experience's continued relevance to a world in which political conflicts and catastrophes continue unabated [further details]. The ICD-10 classification of mental disorders added the category Enduring Personality Change after Catastrophic Experience in 1992, and there are moves afoot to have survivor syndrome officially included in future revisions of the DSM-IV as DESNOS, that is to say, as a Disorder of Extreme Stress, Not Otherwise Specified. We close by noting that noting that the term "survivor syndrome" is nowadays often encountered outside its original context .....


1. Occupational Psychology: Following Brockner (1992), management theorists now regularly describe as "survivor syndrome" the state of demotivation of the residual workforce after a round of enforced redundancies (e.g., Sahdev and Vinnicombe, 1998). King (1997) lists a number of characteristic signs and symptoms, including mistrust, loss of loyalty and morale, increased stress levels, aversion to risk, low productivity, increased absenteeism, and even outright sabotage. The upshot tends then to be a general erosion of corporate culture, corporate knowledge base, and brand image, which may cost the corporation far more than the direct savings achieved by the downsizing.


2. Childhood Sexual Abuse: Likewise, paediatricians regularly describe signs of survivor syndrome in the victims of child abuse (e.g., Kirschner and Kirschner, 1993, 2007 online).



Sybil Dorsett: See case, Sybil Dorsett.



Syllogism: [Greek = "reasoning"] A form of deduction in which there are two premises, one primary and one secondary, and a conclusion. Example: Here, from Cohen and Manion (1989, p3) is an unflawed syllogism [note the flow from general rule to particular example]: First Premise: All planets orbit the sun. Second Premise: The Earth is a planet. Conclusion: Therefore the Earth orbits the sun.



Symbol: In every language, a symbol is "something that stands for, represents, or denotes, something else" (O.E.D.). In philosophy, "a symbol is any given or experienced substitute stimulus that leads to a reinstatement of the original stimulus in a form that is observable only from the self-inclusive point of view.


ASIDE: Compare the definition of sign as a physical action engendered by some stimulus or mental state, and acting upon the world indirectly, through the mediation of external agencies, and in a premeditated way.


Less technically stated, a symbol is any portion of experience that has become a substitute for and a reminder of some other portion of experience" (Morris, 1927b, p284). Morris is duly reserved, however, on the issue whether the reappearance of the stimulus [that which characterizes a symbol, remember] is truly an "image". The term is "perhaps acceptable" in the case of auditory and visual sensory modalities, but needs to be used very cautiously for the modalities of touch, smell, and taste. This phenomenological confusion creates theoretical difficulties which might explain why different psychological schools approach the symbol in fundamentally different ways, as here abstracted .....


"Titchener, for instance, admits that thought requires symbols, but he gives no detailed analysis of what a symbol is and consequently no adequate treatment of thought, beyond implying that it is unanalyzable into sensation, image, and affection. [.....] The behavioristic account is even less adequate to perform this function [..... because it] is unable on the basis of its chosen perspective to distinguish the symbol from the substitute stimulus" (Morris, 1927a, p259).



Symbolic Forms: See consciousness, Cassirer's theory of.



Symbolic Play Test (SPT): [See firstly clinical psychometrics.] This test was devised by Lowe and Costello (1976), and is designed to assess children's early concept formation and symbolisation, independently of their receptive or expressive language skills. [See product advertisement.]



Sympathetic Resonance: See materialism and underlying mechanism.



Synecdoche: [See firstly figures of speech.] [Greek = literally "to take with something else".] As taken into literary English, synecdoche is "a figure by which a more comprehensive term is used for a less comprehensive, or vice versa" (O.E.D.), as in "the arrival of the silver screen [= the entire cinema industry] changed the face of entertainment", or "whereupon the law [= one policeman] arrived". As with all figures of speech, the principal mystery is why the human cognitive system finds so little trouble coping with the resulting construction, even when produced or heard for the first time.



Synthesis: TO FOLLOW.



Synthetic Judgment: See judgment, synthetic.



Synthetic Unity of the Manifold: See manifold, synthetic unity of.



Synthetic Unity of Self-Consciousness: [See firstly transcendental unity of apperception.] This is Kant's notion that the rules for the "synthesis of the manifold" might apply to self-directed perception as well as to object-directed. He writes .....


"Hence only because I can combine a manifold of given presentations in one consciousness, is it possible for me to present the identity itself of the consciousness in these presentations. I.e., the analytic unity of apperception is possible only under the presupposition of some synthetic unity of apperception. The thought that these presentations given in intuition belong one and all to me is, accordingly, tantamount to the thought that I unite them" (Kant, 1787, Critique; Pluhar translation, pp178-179).


Self-consciousness is thus the natural by-product of a cognitive system accustomed (a) to transcending the empirical, and (b) to synthesising meaningful scenes from whatever handful of grains our grainy world currently has on show. Moreover, if it were not like this, if everyday experience did not "rest on a transcendental basis of unity, then it would be possible for our soul to be filled with a crowd of appearances that yet could never turn into experience" (op. cit., p161).


ASIDE: It looks as though Kant, at this juncture, is on the same desperate search to state "the go" of subjectivity as Heidegger was when discussing Dasein's ability as Being-in-the-world to "understand itself pre-ontologically" (Being and Time, p119). Neither author totally succeeded, but both clearly set the target for today's machine consciousness researchers.




See the Master References List