Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar

Greg Thompson was the Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar from 2010-2012. In this capacity, Greg conducted research in the field of General Semantics and developed two courses teaching General Semantics. Course descriptions of the courses and syllabi for these courses can be found below.

Greg received his PhD from the University of Chicago’s Department of Comparative Human Development where he studied communication processes in pedagogical interactions with low-SES inner-city adolescents. For this work, Greg received a Mellon Graduate Student Fellowship, a Social Science Teaching and Research Fellowship, and a Benjamin Bloom Fellowship. In this research, Greg analyzed the communicative work involved in participants’ understanding (or not) of one another in these settings. In doing so, Greg has developed a theory of interpersonal recognition as way of understanding the complex processes whereby our communications with one another can function as motivations and disincentives to engage in challenging intellectual work.

In his work, Greg has found that General Semantics offers a particularly productive perspective from which to consider how understanding unfolds in actual instances of human interaction. General Semantics is particularly well suited for making sense of the many opportunities for misunderstanding in human communication. In keeping with the work of General Semantics scholars such as Irving Lee and Sanford Berman, Greg seeks to find ways to help others lessen misunderstandings when communicating with others.

Greg is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Brigham Young University where he continues to research the communicative and cultural ties that bind us together.

COMT 175: How People Mean: Understanding Language in order to Communicate Clearly and Think Effectively

(taught Spring 2011)

Syllabus for the course

This course explores one of the fundamental concerns in the study of communication, namely, how people mean. Using the approach of General Semantics, this course asks how language and language habits can cause confusion for oneself and for others. As a methods course, this course considers case studies of the use of language across four domains: interpersonal, intrapersonal, political, and health/business.

COHI 175: Consequential Communications: More than sticks and stones – how words can really hurt you

(taught Spring 2012)

Syllabus for the course

Most people raised in English speaking countries will have encountered some variant of the saying “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” And yet the need for such a saying suggests that we often experience the opposite as being true and that words can, in fact, hurt us – and possibly do much more to us. This course considers: how do words hurt, soothe, heal, touch, move, or otherwise change us? In this course we will explore communication across a number of different practices including: educational, psychotherapeutic, interactional, political, ritualistic, and mass mediated practices. Starting with the General Semantics perspective on language and meaning, we then build out a theory of meaning that seeks to account for the power of communication in practice.