Stuff you must read today (Fri, 11 Oct 2013) – The Psychology of Language Edition

  • The psychology of language: Which words matter the most when we talk | The Buffer Blog
    “By always focusing on ‘How will this make someone feel?’ whenever [we wrote] even a single line, we immediately improved the amount of responses we got from our users”.
  • The Power of Names | The New Yorker
    “…words carry hidden baggage that may play at least some role in shaping thought. What’s surprising, perhaps, is how profoundly a single word can shape material outcomes over time”.
  • The Power of a Word | The Dilbert Blog
    Observe how an argument is transformed when a loaded word is substituted with another word that reframes the discourse.
  • What It Should Have Been: Edition #3 | Vox Nostra: A Voice Of Our Own
    Part of the Disabled People’s Association, Singapore’s public education initiative on the use of proper terminology to describe people with disabilities. Find out more about how this started here.
  • Are You a Language Bully? | Slate
    “Those who engage in public corrections of this sort often are looking to feel good about themselves, and…displays of language all-knowing-ness provide a ready-made, two-pronged opportunity to do so. ‘The way we evaluate our competence is relative to other people,’ he says. ‘If I need to feel good about my language skills, one way that I could do that would be to give myself evidence that my language skills are awesome. Another is to give myself evidence that other people’s language skills suck. So by putting down other people, I can feel better about myself.'”.

    Whoops :S

How are you looking at information today?

How language and the media works in shaping our thoughts.

Today, before you open the newspaper, turn on the radio or switch on the television, I’d like you to take the time to plough through these two articles:

  1. Critical Discourse Analysis
  2. Principles of Critical Discourse Analysis

If you are of the TL;DR ilk, here is a quick primer:

  • What is Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)?
    From the first article, CDA is a way of looking at things to “stud[y] the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context”.
  • Why is a knowledge of CDA necessary?
    Unbeknownst to many, language IS power. He or she who controls the words, controls the minds of they who read what is written, watch what is shown or hear what is said.

    CDA is thus necessary “to understand, expose, and ultimately resist social inequality”.

  • What are some examples of an application of CDA?
    • Looking at how pictures are used in, say, a newspaper. Are some pictures of certain people unflattering to them? Why is this so? Was there a larger intention in portraying them as such?
    • Comparing how words are used to describe people e.g. when comparing three people of the same standing, Person X is called “fresh-faced”, Person Y is called “innocent”, while Person Z is called “naive”. All three words are synonyms. However, has Person X been given a more positive image? Why?
    • Assessing coverage, or the quantity of information reporting done on a particular topic or subject. Is one topic or subject given more ‘air-time’ than another? Why?

For those of you who have the time, you may want to, say, practice analysing and evaluating information from articles, reports, etc. that have been published – in print or otherwise – over the last one week or so.

With this knowledge, I hope you are more equipped to deal with any new information that might come your way, today or in the future.