Some years ago I had become a kind of perpetual student in France, coming there on the GI Bill from my native Virginia and America. I was a curious man in his early twenties, and was interested in medicine, but had not chosen a field therein.
I was 22 years old and had a BS/BA in pre-med and a major in foreign Languages.
I was interviewed by a leading professor in a research-oriented medical school, who posed to me this question: Have you heard anything about the new field of psycholinguistics?
I hadn’t heard , so I listened to his explanation that it was a MEDICAL field leaning toward PSYCHOLOGY in which one might accurately determine the real meaning of a person’s linguistic emissions, verbal and written and viewed, by his selection of words, his face and body movements, his general and specific behaviors.
Captivated by the appeal of this new science, I put a very long period of study into it, even unto the present.
My thesis is: Can we depend upon an expertise in psycholinguistics to know its target’s truths, beliefs, physical condition, mental condition, veracity, politics and level of threat to society from viewing or reading him?
My own belief is that yes, we can believe in the science and rely on it, but only on the most rigorous self-scrutiny as we operate in the field. It is NOT a form of psychotherapy, but a form of psycho-scrutiny.
What are its applications?
The most obvious and most used form of psycholinguistics assaults us hundreds of times a day. Advertising! Though most of it is crude in creation, and thoughtless in application, every product we see offered on television, radio, newspapers,and bill-boards has had somewhere and by somebody an application of a plan to influence us to want to buy, and thus to buy, its products.
This use of psycholinguistics, persuasion in the marketplace, is the most unscrupulous example. There is little use of truth, and overwhelming searching for a vulnerability in the sales target. Just last evening there was a news announcemet of a drug for lowering cholesterol that had sparked a billion prescriptions and a million advertisements but had been found to have no effect at all on cholesterol.
What Other Fields Does Psycholinguistics Touch?
If you have need of psychological counseling and visit a psychologist or psychiatrist, when you are interviewed and talk of your problem, your doctor is subjecting you to an intense psycholinguistic scrutiny, searching for a truth in your malady. he listens carefully to your word-patterns. He notes your fidgeting and body movements. He watches you eye movements. He notes your clothing, your state of health and appearance, and your demeanor.
In politics, the successful swayer of opinion en masse is the winner. All great speakers and eventual Presidents and high level executives have at some point in their lives realized that there were certain rules that one followed to success and the most important one was what words to choose in a speech, what appearance to make in the speech, what facial and eye-movements to use, what timbres of voice and what meshing of all of these things.
In writing their speeches or in having them written, the politician chooses the exact words to affect your opinion of him positively, which of course is not always the truth. But a Wiley watcher can determine for himself the eye movement, the movement of body and arms and head, that indicate sincerity or duplicity.
Not just in psychological and psychiatric instances but also in visits to the physician for physical complaints, the talented physician has long learned to regard the words and movements of the patient that may denote the presence and the seriousness of his ailment, if he or she really has it. About 35% of proported ailments brought to doctors are imaginary, and cause great loss of time and skills in the profession. A knowledge of psycholinguistics can aid the medical doctor in his diagnoses.
Face-to-Face Sales Psycholinguistics
All great sales peoples have learned to watch the eyes and body movements of their prospects.
There is a definite point of vulnerability in accepting the sales pitch that occurs, or in abandoning interest and thus sting the salesman’s time…when skilled enough to know these things, the salesperson become successful.
Psycholinguistics and Espionage and Interrogation
We have had recently many examples of brutal and non-productive torture and illegal treatment of persons suspected of crimes and espionage and acts of terrorism.
It is certain that highly intelligent and properly trained psycholinguistics familiar and expert in the languages of suspects could easily get to the truths of the matters in the most obdurate of persons.
Do you know someone that you or your friends comment on as having a wonderful way with people and thus being popular and accepted everywhere in his or her society?
You can bet that knowingly or unknowingly that human being has learned the basic tenets of psycholinguistics, though he or she may not be able to spell the word. They are good people usually, and read you and try to enter your esteem by recognizing who you are. That is applied psycholinguistics
The Psycholinguistic Writer
As a lifetime reasonably successful writer, I am always aware that I intend to impress you, the reader, with my words. The impression I desire may be to SELL you the words, or to TEACH you the words or to OFFER you the words evenly for you to have,hopefully, the opinion I wish to bestow upon you.
Enough of psycholinguistics. It is enough for the average reader to be aware of what words are, spoken or written. And also aware that the old adage “Sticks and stones may break mt bones but words cannot hurt me.” is a lie! Stick and stones would be painful, but words can render you ecstatic, or kill you, you enticed by them into peril of many sorts!