Latent Diversity in Human Concepts

Many social and legal conflicts hinge on semantic disagreements. Understanding the origins and implications of these disagreements necessitates novel methods for identifying and quantifying variation in semantic cognition between individuals. We collected conceptual similarity ratings and feature judgements from a variety of words in two domains. We analyzed this data using a non-parametric clustering scheme, as well as an ecological statistical estimator, in order to infer the number of different variants of common concepts that exist in the population. Our results show at least ten to thirty quantifiably different variants of word meanings exist for even common nouns. Further, people are unaware of this variation, and exhibit a strong bias to erroneously believe that other people share their semantics. This highlights conceptual factors that likely interfere with productive political and social discourse.


This study shows a very basic reason to do FIML. The study emphasizes semantic variation at the level of social discourse and common words. FIML operates at the interpersonal, idiosyncratic level where our sense of being lurks like a chained animal in the midst of an enormous plethora of semantic variation and semiotic ambiguity. Simply stated, there is no way to negotiate the intimate interpersonal realm well without doing FIML. In this realm, the kinds of misunderstandings identified in the linked study are multiplied in literally every imaginable way. At the same time, the dangerous importance of communication errors is greatly amplified and psychologically cumulative. This is a main reason interpersonal relationships can become volatile and end in suffering. If you can see what the study is about and understand the importance of the ‘semantic disagreements’ it describes, you should be able to see the importance of doing FIML in real-time with an understanding partner. From birth to death, our entire psychologies rest on the dynamic foundation of our intimate, interpersonal communications. If you want to optimize your psychology, you must clear up communication at this level. ABN

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