Two major advantages to conceiving of humans as signaling systems with micro, meso, and macro levels are:
- we can get clearer data on signals than by other approaches, and
- analyzing micro. meso, and macro levels allows us to see even more clearly how human signaling works and why problems occur
I will discuss each of these points in the first two sections below. In the third section, I will discuss some aspects of micro analysis of communication.
we can get clearer data on signals than by other approaches
Behaviorism is an approach to human psychology that developed out of the need to get better, more objective data on how the human mind works. Rather than work with self-reported subjective data, behaviorists sought to work with observable behavioral data that could be tested scientifically.
The behaviorist school of thought maintains that behaviors as such can be described scientifically without recourse either to internal physiological events or to hypothetical constructs such as thoughts and beliefs. (Behaviorism)
Much good has come from the behaviorist approach, but it is also limited because behavior, especially complex behavior, often has a rich subjective context out of which it arises. As with many other approaches to human psychology, behaviorists see the individual from too far away and too far outside.
If we look to human signals—and behavior is a signal—we can begin to grasp that human thought, feeling, and behavior can be broken down into discrete units or signals. If we analyze human signals “from the outside” or “from too great a distance,” however, we will see them only in outline or simplified form. And we will never be sure of how they seem to the signaler. Behaviorism, in this sense, can be compared to a general linguistic analysis, a general semiotic analysis, or a general psychological analysis based on some theory.
All of these approaches work at meso or macro levels of understanding, but not at micro levels.
analyzing micro. meso, and macro levels allows us to see even more clearly how human signaling works and why problems occur
In Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding, we defined the micro level as being:
…very small units of thought or communication. These can be words, phrases, gestures, etc. and the “psychological morphemes” that accompany them. A psychological morpheme is the smallest unit of an emotional or psychological response.
The meso and macro levels were defined as:
- Meso levels lie between macro and micro levels. Longer discourse, a sense that people have personalities or egos, and the basic ideas of any culture appear at this level.
- Macro levels are the larger abstract levels that sort of stand above the other two levels. Macro levels might include religious or scientific beliefs, political ideologies, long-term personal goals or strategies.
Of course all of these levels are part of a continuum, but it is very helpful to group psychological data in these three categories.
When we do so, it becomes apparent, with some thought, that very few humans communicate well on the micro level. And with a bit more thought, it becomes apparent that since we do not communicate well on this micro level, we are forced to use meso and macro levels for communication.
When we are in formal or professional settings or in settings with many people, there is little else we can do than use meso and macro levels for communication. Problems arise, however, when we use these levels to communicate intimately with people that are important to us.
Each human being has a rich inner world of micro understanding, subjective micro understanding. Some of us can communicate some of this micro inner world to others, but even when we do we tend strongly to use meso and macro perspectives and semiotics. But these levels ignore the deeply perceived reality of subjective inner being as it is experienced in real-time. When we ignore micro levels, they become turbulent and cause suffering.
Communicative micro data must be shared and analyzed in real-time for humans to feel deeply and fully connected. When this micro data is not shared and analyzed, humans are forced to substitute the memes and cliches of meso and macro understanding for the rich world of subjective being.
Clearly, no one can share micro data all the time. So when do we share it? We can share it whenever we want to if our partner is willing. And we can—in fact, we should or must—share it whenever we have formed a strong impression or noticed a strong impression or interpretation forming or arising in ourselves.
Sharing in this way, prevents what might be called “turbulence” within the micro-sphere. The more turbulence within the micro-sphere, the more emotional problems there will be. Why does not sharing our impressions and interpretations produce turbulence? Because that multiplies unknowns and variables.
practice over theory, or why theory without practice doesn’t work
A major problem with behaviorism, psychology in general, and even linguistics is these fields are dominated by experts who share theories, but do not provide techniques for actual micro analyses. If you decide to seek help for a psychological problem, you will either pay a doctor to prescribe a pill or pay a therapist to “guide” you based on some theory.
But significant psychological micro-analyses cannot be done in this way. A professional analyst can only help you with meso and macro contradictions, not micro turbulence.
Micro analyses must be shared by equal partners—who care about each other, not paid theorists—in real-time during real-life events. Real moments of communicative understanding or misunderstanding can only be grasped by the parties involved during those moments. Analyses after the fact do help, but relying solely on analyses of that type will never remove subjective micro turbulence. Furthermore, analyses of that type will strengthen tendencies to engage in meso and macro theorizing in place of doing micro analyses.
Most of us are so used to having subjective micro turbulence we think there is nothing we can do about it. Instead of working with micro communication levels, we fill our time with meso activities or pump ourselves up with “positive” meso or macro thoughts about things that will never be completely satisfying as long as there is micro turbulence.
One way to do micro analysis today is FIML practice. Links about this practice can be found at the top of the page. Honestly, I do not know of another way to go about it.