Psychology & Society
Psychology & Society


Current Issue - September 2013

This special issue of Psychology & Society on semiotic mechanisms has been put together by guest editor Kevin Carriere. The concept of a semiotic mechanism is crucial for explaining the process of meaning-making in diverse cultural settings. The new concepts in the cultural psychology of semiotic dynamics that are developed include: a) semiotic processing; b) self-recursivity; c) semiotic switch; and d) semiotic commemoration. Readers are especially encouraged to comment upon any of these contributions in the space provided on the journal’s website.



The Importance of Being Young
Valsiner, J.

It is a rare opportunity that one gets to write a preface to the set of accomplished scholarly works of one’s students who are still at the very beginning of their academic pursuits. Yet they not only do interesting work—they also publish it.

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Introduction to the Special Issue: Semiotic Mechanisms in Everyday Life
Carriere, K. R.

This introduction seeks to introduce the special issue for Psychology & Society on semiotic mechanisms. The goal of this issue is to propose a focus on the mechanisms that promote and control the process of meaning-making through a detailed, minute study of signs and their transformations both interindividually and intraindividually. A specific form of methodology – that of an idiographic, microgenetic approach – is used in the papers. The commentaries seek to elaborate and extend the ideas presented in the series from a global group of scholars.

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Objects of Commemoration: Sign Convergence and Meaning Transfer
Wall, S. A.

When a person experiences the death of a close friend or relative, objects associated with the deceased take on a new meaning. These objects are often kept safe in hiding or put on display in acts of commemoration. After World War I, “trench art” put on display in the house of British civilians expressed memories of the war and dead soldiers. In modern day Britain, photographs of dead soldiers are used in memorials to express the personality of the soldier, to show that the soldier was individually important, not just another cog in the war machine. Seven participants were interviewed about objects they associate with deceased friends and/or family.  Objects were found to express memories of the deceased, to take on a sacred nature and in some cases objects were even found to express the presence of the deceased. The link between objects and the deceased was established through repeated exposure to the object and the deceased before death or through one meaningful experience before or after death. Using a post-Saussurean semiotic framework, this paper seeks to develop a model of asymmetrical sign-convergence that explains the emergence of semiotic commemorative objects and the expression of the deceased through linked objects.

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Hunting and gathering for signs: A theoretical development of semiotic processing
Carriere, K. R.

This paper seeks to examine, establish, and elaborate semiotic processing-- the mechanism by which we come to make conclusions of other persons, places, or things.. Semiotic processing includes three sub-processes—semiotic acquisition, semiotic assessment, and semiotic construction. The goal of this paper is to propose a model of semiotic processing and to test the theory within an experimental setting of perceived shared realities, based on a microgenetic variation of the classic “I-Share” experiments in social psychology. I will also illustrate and discuss the broader implications of semiotic processing in applying to previously discussed literature, as well as continually re-connecting it to real-life settings.

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Relation in action: The self and the other
Minikes, G. A.

Usually smooth and continuous, the process of human sign-based meaning-making is occasionally obstructed by the emergence of one (or more) counter-suggestive signs. The capacity for continuing meaning creation from sign [A] that usually could enable a meaningful action X is halted by the emergence of sign [B] that emerges simultaneously and with a contradictory meaning to sign [A]. Such a contradiction illuminates a fault-line in the existential framework from which the person derives meaningful action. The contradictory meaning is here referred to as a semiotic block. One way to proceed with continuous, consistent and coherent meaning construction, in lieu of abandoning or ignoring either of the emergent meanings, is to navigate around the semiotic block. This can be achieved through the use of semiotic actions called circumvention strategies. What I am exploring in this paper are the components of a person’s situational relatedness (how the person relates to the situation) that facilitate the person’s choice of one particular circumvention strategy over another. I will investigate the dynamic between the external elements and internal psychological components of an “awkward” situation—in relation to how the participants (n=2) outwardly reacted to that situation. To explain this dynamic, I have constructed a model of situational relatedness that results in the choice of circumvention strategy—the Semiotic Switch. It is by throwing this switch that one decides how the meaning block can be circumvented, and the process of making meaning can continue as before.

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Making a place into a home: The affective construction of the feeling<>being differentiation
Carriere, K. R.

Human beings, perhaps more so than ever, are constantly moving from place to place. This changing, ambiguous, environment is constantly reconstructed within the idea of the Umwelt (von Uxeküll, 1940/1982). Yet, there is almost always a place may call home. How can one construct the idea of home? Phenomenologically, there are times when, under certain conditions, the feeling of home can emerge regardless of where the person may be located. A person may visit a distant synagogue and upon hearing a family hymn is overcome by the complete feeling of home. While the synagogue may not be an individual’s home, the feeling of home is instilled within the non-home. The dynamics between being at home and feeling at home provides an arena for in-depth investigation of the affective adaptation of surrounding environments to personal needs, and the adjustment of our needs to fit the environment. Using interview data on the construct of home, I will support the differentiating of “being” and “feeling” in surrounding environments by displaying the process of affectivation in regards to the goal-directedness of creating oneself constantly throughout time. This shall be done by analyzing the structure of these conceptual borders and conditions of the development of affective sign constructions.

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Semiotic mechanisms and the dialogicality of the self: Commentary on Carriere (2013), Minikes (2013), and Wall (2013)
Bento, T.

The semiotically mediated nature of human experience is being increasingly stressed in contemporary psychology. In this paper, the consistency of this axiomatic assumption with the type of communicational constructivism being proposed by dialogical models of selfhood processes is explored. A general semiotic conception if the dialogical self is suggested that characterizes it as a semiotic pre-adaptive system. It is described as a fuzzy control system that equilibrates operating field forces to delimitate a locus for meaning construction in immediate future. The contribution of the semiotic mechanisms proposed by Carriere (2013), Minikes (2013), and Wall (2013) for the operation of this pre-adaptive system is stressed and the nested operation of semiotic processing, sign convergence and semiotic switches within the pre-adaptive system is elaborated. Other possible ways through which those semiotic mechanisms enable us to specify the dynamically intertwined processes that constitute the dialogical self are also elaborated.

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Meanders of meaning: Exploring semiotic mechanisms to overcome Psychologys research problems
Lordelo, L.

 This commentary addresses some of the ways through which we construct knowledge from a semiotic cultural psychological oriented point of view. My specific intention is to apply some of the mechanisms discussed in this issue – in particular, semiotic processing and meaning transfer – to a specific topic of my research interests, which is how children make sense of their everyday activities and routines, and how these meanings are constructed within their personal and collective cultural spheres.  From that analysis, I conclude that, whichever concepts we choose to address the general notion of meaning-making in our daily lives – which is the theme of this issue - , the focus on mechanisms (the focus on HOW the process happens) is what can unify different perspectives inside cultural psychological theories.

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