I have always been fascinated by hermeneutics, which is the study of meaning and understanding. What does it mean to mean something? More importantly, how what does it mean to understand something that someone else is communicating?
In my PhD thesis, I explored whether it was possible to use the structures in a text (syntax, mostly) to help decipher its meaning. I wanted to understand how we understand the writing of others – not necessarily from a neuroscientific perspective, but more from an interpretive, subjective one.
Why? Because when an average person understands what another person has said or written, they don’t achieve that understanding by consciously knowing the brain processes that are functioning under the hood. Rather, the person feels more or less confident that they understand. Sometimes, they even know that they have understood – but that is actually quite rare. Think back to the times you have heard or read what others have said or written to you. Be truthful – did you feel 100% confident that you fully understood what the person really meant?
I have always be fascinated by the subjective process of arriving at understanding. Is it measurable? I think it is. How is it measurable? Now that is a great question!
If you think about it, this process of arriving at knowledge of how we understand one another is central to theory of communication and public relations.
In a series of blog posts to come in the next few weeks, I will be exploring this idea.
Stay tuned and click on the “Discourse Analysis” link to your right to keep track.