Re-Thinking the Place of Semiotics in Psychology and its Implications for Psychological Research
Authors: (Agnes Petocz, University of Western Sydney)
Abstract: The fields of semiotics and psychology overlap to such an extent that it seems impossible for either to flourish alone. Yet their relationship has been one largely of mutual neglect or hostility. Mainstream psychology's negative attitude towards semiotics can be attributed to four interrelated factors: psychology's subscription to the science/meaning divide; psychology's combination of scientific practicalism and metatheoretical confusion; the view that semiotics is inextricably wedded to ideologies opposed to scientific realism; and the view that semiotics has little concern with the sign user. These factors help to explain why recent attempts at semiotics-psychology rapprochement have met with mixed success, and why so little of that work has filtered through to mainstream scientific psychology and its research programs. A solution lies in taking seriously psychology's explicit (but sometimes faltering) commitment to realism. Within a coherent realist framework, integrating semiotics with psychology offers a number of contributions to mainstream psychological research, the most salient of which are: clarifying the irreducible tripartite relational nature of meaning; extricating the legitimate concerns of representation in the information sciences from incoherent epistemological representationism; applying the Peircean distinctions between different types of sign (viz. icon, index, and symbol) to solve problems in information representation research; using iconicity as the bridge between conceptual metaphor and nonconventional symbolic phenomena; and promoting increased methodological sophistication by underscoring the scientific legitimacy of nonquantitative methods.
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