Universal Human Commonalities (UHC)

Evolution of Behavior

Behavior is thought to have evolved through the principles of natural selection: the behaviors that help organisms survive are more likely to appear than those with no benefits. Behaviors that aided in the survival of distant human ancestors were likely passed down to offspring, eventually forming the set of behaviors that make up natural instinct. However, humans are able to consciously act in ways that contradict instinct, either enhancing or harming chances of survival.

Inappropriate Language

Inappropriate language is any form of speech, expression, or gesture that elicits a strong, negative emotion in the recipient. Inappropriate language is found in all cultures, though what is considered inappropriate varies from culture to culture, based on customs. Researchers examined whether individuals internally monitor their speech to prevent inappropriate language from being spoken. In this experiment, researchers elicited speech errors from participants that were either inappropriate or simply incorrect.

Suppression and Language Comprehension

Suppression, in terms of communication, is a cognitive process that interferes with thought and stifles any superfluous or improper information before it can be spoken. Suppression enhances both the effectiveness of communication on the part of the speaker and the ease of understanding on the part of the listener. Studies have shown that suppression affects many aspects of language, including recollection of word meanings, decoding of grammar, and individual differences in language comprehension skills.

Pointing as a Form of Communication in Babies

Pointing is a universal action for babies, used as an elementary form of communication. Before they can speak, babies will often point to objects to alert adults of what they want. “Pointing is a means of making definite reference that is intimately linked to gesture and speech.” When adults speak back to a baby as they point to objects, it creates a link between the baby’s vision and hearing that becomes essential to language development and communication. “Pointing allows visual objects to take on auditory qualities, and this is the royal road to language.”

Synonyms

Synonyms are different words that have identical or similar meanings. Synonymy is one of the least understood semantic relationships in language, mostly because perfect synonyms are rare and “near synonyms” are numerous. Near synonyms are words that are very similar in meaning but may be used in slightly different ways, such as the words ‘high’ and ‘tall’. Some linguists argue that no two synonyms are exactly identical since phonic qualities, etymology, and usage can still differ between words.

Conjecture

Conjecture is an inference or conclusion drawn from incomplete evidence, often through use of presumption or guesswork. Conjecture is an important feature of language, as it allows people to make assumptions about situations without knowing all the facts. This is particularly important in scientific fields, since the hypotheses of most scientific studies involve some degree of conjecture. For example, in the field of linguistics, conjecture is often used by researchers who attempt to study ancient languages.

Organizing Action through Communication

The way that communication is interpreted can differ from one individual to another. The behavior and actions that follow communication are directly linked to how that communication is interpreted. Organized action can occur amongst groups even when individual interpretation of instructions varies within the group.

Metonymy

A metonymy is a figure of speech distinctly used to describe one entity that is representing another entity (such as using “head count” to mean "the number of people"). Metonymy differs from metaphor in that metonymy uses one entity to stand in for another, whereas metaphor uses one entity to describe another.

Synesthetic Metaphor

A synesthetic metaphor is a metaphor that crosses different senses to describe one entity in terms of another. For example, one might refer to a vibrant color as “loud” or a pleasant smell as “sweet.” Synesthetic metaphor specifies a certain sense, but invokes imagery that is linguistically described in terms belonging to a different sense.

Language and Consciousness

Consciousness is an essential component of not just psychology, but linguistics as well. During communication, consciousness allows individuals to distinguish between given information, or what the speaker assumes the listener already knows, and new information, or what the listener is hearing for the first time. Much of communication revolves around the dynamics of information sharing, since speakers must determine what listeners already know and what they need to know in order to advance the conversation.

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