Osgood mediation theory: what it explains and examples

Osgood Mediation Theory raises a variation of the more classic behavioral equation, which contained only stimuli and responses to understand how an individual reacted to the demands of the environment.

Charles E. Osgood postulated the existence of concepts to which human beings tended to ascribe meaning, thus setting a historical milestone in the evolution of behaviorism. From his model would emerge the technique of semantic differential, the aim of which was to evaluate this extreme.

In the following lines, we will delve deeper into the fundamental ideas of his theory of mediation, which was a milestone for psychology and inspired much research on how individuality means in the relationship between stimuli and responses.

    Osgood Mediation Theory

    Osgood’s mediation theory attaches particular value to words, as it assumes that they harbor the ability to represent tangible objects of reality and to mobilize all human beings some of the behaviors that would be articulated in the direct presence of those -this. It is therefore about a model that places particular emphasis on the symbolic properties of language; and that it adds richness to the classical behavioral equation (from which any reaction to the environment was limited to the well-known stimulus-response).

    This theory is based on the fact that words, and the cognitive processing that can be suggested by them, act as the axis of mediation between the presentation of any stimulus and the response associated with it. that’s why it is considered a clear neo-behavioral model, As it expands its theoretical framework and contemplates the constructive capacity of the human being in his interaction with the reality that surrounds him.

    Next, we propose the three levels which are included in Osgood’s postulate, in which the progressive transformation of sensations is detailed (dependent on the sense organs) into perceptions and meanings, which involve higher level elaborations and which base the selection of ‘a range of behaviors with which to meditate on the natural environment.

    1. Projection level

    The level of projection refers to the realm of immediate sensationsAs they occur the moment they are perceived by the sense organs. It includes both those that belong to the visual realm and the rest of the sensory modalities, and traces how each human being immerses himself in the physical environment around him. In particular, it is a vast universe of sensations that unfold during the experience, in a composition of nuances that can be grasped by sensory and organic limits.

    This initial process obeys a perception of the facts as they are. (Icons), without the interpretation of the same or the contribution of the individuality of those involved in this situation.

    At the other end of the equation, the level of projection includes all the possible behaviors (movements) that the agent subject can use to interact with what surrounds him. Thus, the projective level unites potential stimuli and responses, without using filters of any other kind.

    2. Level of integration

    In this second level, two sequential processes take place, independent in their definition but functionally connected. First, the stimuli of the previous phase come together in a rich subjective experience which integrates them according to the way they tend to present themselves. Either way, they are part of the fabric of a complex experience and can hardly be reduced to the sum of all of its parts.

    How they all fit in depends on past experiences, Which constitute the second point of this process. Through our interaction with the world, we learn that certain phenomena tend to present themselves together (due to temporal and spatial contingency) and, moreover, that their confluence gives them a new meaning.

    This process is equivalent to perception, through which sensation is reworked and certain behavioral expectations are generated. It is therefore not a passive reception of the stimulating matrix, but the person gives it a value or a meaning.

    3. Level of mediation

    At this level, it would arise a semantic meaning to capture the experience, which would be translated into verbal terms (words) that they are distant as regards the structure of the object to which they allude, but that they suppose that a symbol in the essence resides the convergence of all the elements which conform it. This symbol would play the role of an explosive stimulus, but not purely physical, but one with a very remarkable subjective charge (emotional, for example) of the abstract type.

    And it is that life allows us to understand that certain events have a meaning when they are presented together, and that we do not react to each of them separately, but to what makes their semantic uniqueness. This can be represented by a single word, the appearance of which is the result of social consensus. Of him, and of the value given to him, responses will be deployed in the form of behavioral patterns and complex emotions personal fit.

    Just as the stimulus is the union of icons of the perceptual field into a meaningful unit, the response involves a pattern of movements (understood as the most basic form of action) which are selected from the full range of possibilities. person values ​​semantic unity. For this reason, each of them reacts differently to the same situation.

    Representation capacity

    At this point, it is essential to consider that the words symbolically represent things that occur in reality and elicit responses comparable to what they represent, therefore the key point in the treatment of mediation. The aforementioned process it is a cognitive elaboration that goes beyond sensation or perceptionAs it falls into the realm of meanings that fact can have for everyone.

    Thus, the sensations that accompany each word (icons) they depend on the experiences they have had with what it represents (A storm is not the same for someone who has never lived near anyone as it is for someone who lost their home in a storm), so it would precipitate in each individual a pattern different in behaviors / emotions when presented to consciousness (as a result of the perception of suggestive cues of the same in the environment).

    The truth is that words like “storm” could be associated with a wide range of responses, but the individual will only display those that are consistent with their value to them.

    So, for those who have never experienced its dramatic effects, it will be enough to return home on foot, but for those who will have suffered from it, it will be inevitable to make the same ordinary journey as if their life depended on it or to seek a place in which to save immediately.

    The semantic differential

    The semantic differential is an evaluation procedure to explore how a person perceives a particular word (And therefore what it represents).

    A list of several pairs of adjectives is usually used, each of which forms a continuum at the ends are the opposites expressed in bipolar terms (good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate, etc.), and the subject is located at some point between them. two (with seven different response options, ranging from -3 to +3 and with a value of 0 indicating neutrality).

    Because the best way to understand Osgood’s mediation theory is through examples, we proceed to bring up the case of a person facing a natural disaster. We will break down the process into its more specific parts, in order to shed light on each of the points raised throughout the article.

      Osgood’s mediation theory in action

      It was a placid June afternoon on the east coast of Japan. Shigeru spent his time fishing on a makeshift rocky beach, although he hadn’t had much success until now. For some reason, the fish were reluctant to bite the hook, so he simply rested after a busy week of work. He often found there a haven of peace, in which he could take refuge from the bustle of the city.

      Suddenly he felt the earth shake beneath him. A flock of seagulls slid off the horizon of the inland sea, rattling erratically until they disappeared after the silhouette of the huts aligned. a few meters from the coast. A dense, foamy wave lapped the shore and strode unusually into the sand. After her, the ocean seemed to shrink and shrink as if inhaling, exposing hundreds of feet of shiny pebbles and colorful seashells. A wild roar, bubbles and water, filled the air and crashed into his ears.

      Somewhere a nervous bell rang, which he could barely make out after the furious roar of a suddenly raging sea. It wasn’t the first time that I had experienced something like this. His body shook and began to encroach on everything he had seen and heard within seconds. The noise, the fleeing birds, the shaking … It was definitely a tsunami. He stood up like an exhale and picked up a few devices, the ones he liked the most, coming out of there like a soul carrying the devil.

      A few years ago he lost everything because of a natural phenomenon like this, So wild and uncertain. His possessions were wiped out or swallowed by a brutal mass of destructive water, and since that day he had always lived with the floating sensation that could repeat itself. Just hearing the word “tsunami” felt a deep horror, so dense it even took her breath away. After all, it was something they could only understand as they had experienced first hand the destruction the sea can leave in its wake.

      He survived, but after many months Shigeru kept thinking about everything that had happened. The word “tsunami” came to his mind every now and then, and it was only when he said it that he felt the need to run and hide somewhere. It was as if he suddenly had the power to awaken a primal panic, Fleshy and visceral; which forced him to seek refuge. But he was sitting on a central and secure terrace in a city in the center of the Japanese archipelago. Far, very far from the coast.

      She then saw that a few meters away, a group of young women were talking aloud about the recent news of another tsunami that had devastated fishing villages in the south and east of the country. And although his words were supposed to be affected by this tragedy, we realized after them that they had never felt in their skin the cruel fury of naturea. They paid for their respective coffees and left the premises, discussing a mundane and completely different topic.

      Interpretation of the example

      Shigeru was spending a pleasant day in solitude, fishing without pretension. After a while, he heard a series of events around him (raging seas, flight of birds, and the deep roar of the ocean) which could mean in one word: tsunami.

      This term would act for him as a stimulus to respond, of which he already had sufficient knowledge to understand its scope and risk. And all this despite the fact that the tsunami was not really present in the natural environment, but only the objective signs of its imminence (being at that time, therefore, a symbolic threat).

      Because he lost everything due to a natural phenomenon like this, and associates the term “tsunami” with very specific negative experiences, Choose to move away quickly (among all the options available in this situation). Thanks to the behavior he exhibited, he managed to take refuge and save his life.

      The word “tsunami” would symbolize for him a whole series of difficult ailments, for he had the power to conjure up dramatic events in his life, but the women who drank coffee were able to address this question without feeling embarrassed by the same. pain. That much the different meanings that each human being can attribute to the same term are appreciated, Depending on how he has bonded over the course of his life to the reality he is referring to, which is intimately associated with the behavior and emotion that will unfold when it emerges into consciousness.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Holland, PC (2008). Cognitive learning versus stimulus-response theories. Learning behavior, 36 (3), 227 – 241.
      • Tzeng, O., Landis, D. and Tseng, D. (2012). Charles E. Osgood’s continuing contributions to intercultural communication and beyond! International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 36 (6), 832 – 842.

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