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. 2016 Apr;123(3):324-47.
doi: 10.1037/rev0000026. Epub 2016 Feb 8.

Depicting as a Method of Communication


Depicting as a Method of Communication

Herbert H Clark. Psychol Rev. .


In everyday discourse, people describe and point at things, but they also depict things with their hands, arms, head, face, eyes, voice, and body, with and without props. Examples are iconic gestures, facial gestures, quotations of many kinds, full-scale demonstrations, and make-believe play. Depicting, it is argued, is a basic method of communication. It is on a par with describing and pointing, but it works by different principles. The proposal here, called staging theory, is that depictions are physical scenes that people stage for others to use in imagining the scenes they are depicting. Staging a scene is the same type of act that is used by children in make-believe play and by the cast and crew in stage plays. This theory accounts for a diverse set of features of everyday depictions. Although depictions are integral parts of everyday utterances, they are absent from standard models of language processing. To be complete, these models will have to account for depicting as well as describing and pointing.

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