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Re: [xmca] Princeton University's obituary for George A. Miller
- To: kellogg <email@example.com>
- Subject: Re: [xmca] Princeton University's obituary for George A. Miller
- From: mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2012 17:36:00 -0700
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Miller himself wrote about the cultural/interactional process through which
the number 7 came to be interpreted as it was.
Why did Binet disapprove of "simulation"? Did he mean by it what Leontiev
meant by it?
I did not follow the LSV-James paragraph. Miller was a great admirer of
James, one of the few among leading psychologists who had bothered to read
him seriously. If there is a not-too-time consuming way to draw the idea
out, it would be most appreciated.
Great explication of the Zipf phenomenon.
On Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 4:35 PM, kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Miller will mostly be remembered in my profession for the "Magical
> Number Seven Plus or Minus Two", which is (quite wrongly) believed to be a
> psycholinguistic limit on vocabulary acquisition. But Vygotsky shows how
> this is really just a biological limit, and it can easily be overcome by
> cultural means (what Binet calls, disapprovingly, "simulation"). For
> example, when you learn the alphabet, a sequence of twenty six units of
> information, you just learn it as a single unit (try saying it backwards,
> and you will see what I mean!)
> But what I remember Miller most for was the BRILLIANT intro he wrote to
> Zipf's nutty book "The Psychobiology of Language". Zipf had discovered that
> the most frequent word in any language occurs exactly twice as frequently
> as the second most frequent word, and exactly three times as frequently as
> the third most frequent word, etc. This apparently banal observation
> appears, at first glance, to have incredibly exciting applications.
> For example, it can explain why, in English, there are a small number of
> given names, and tend to be rather short, but a large number of family
> names, and they tend to be rather long, whereas in Korean, there are a
> small number of family names which are VERY short and a large number of
> somewhat longer given names. The reason is frequency--the more frequent a
> word is, the shorter it has to be.
> Now, if Miller's essay had JUST showed all these exciting applications, it
> would have been more than enough to keep you awake at night and fill a few
> of your breakfasts with something more filling than cornflakes. But Miller
> went beyond the exciting applications and showed that underneath them all
> was something profoundly superficial.
> Zipf's law holds true of language, but also of telephone numbers, street
> names, and just about anything else where the assignment of a sign is more
> or less arbitrary and thus begins by assigning short names and only then
> tends to longer ones. And as a result it has almost no explanatory power.
> It just has to do with what happens when you have a system that can
> generate an infinite number of names. Eventually, you run out of things to
> name first.
> I guess I feel the same way about chaos complexity theory and language.
> But, to return to Richardson, I ALSO feel this way about spiritualistic
> explanations of consciousness (and I note that novelists who write about
> consciousness as a shadow don't write very good novels). There's a good
> reason why Vygotsky is hostile to James' idea that it is only thanks to the
> grace of God that you can lift your arm whenever "you" want to. It's
> actually the same reason why he doesn't like to consider intelligence as
> being automatically or painlessly or inevitably "emergent" from
> non-intelligence. It is, but only in ways that are deeply banal and
> uninteresting, because they only give us the FORMS and not the content of
> In his essay on Zipf, Miller really thought that one through, and the more
> he thought about it, the less he thought of it.
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> --------- 원본 메일 ---------
> *보낸사람*: mike cole <email@example.com>
> *받는사람* : "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> *날짜*: 2012년 7월 27일 금요일, 02시 07분 41초 +0900
> *제목*: [xmca] Princeton University's obituary for George A. Miller
> Some of you may find interesting this obituary for George Miller. A unique
> guy with whom we shared
> a large, early, wired activity room at Rock U where Meryl Gerhardt and
> Denis Newman did their work
> on talking and drawing and we at lchc carried out our first afterschool
> work associated with the issue
> of ecological validity. One of those people you can feel honored to have
> known and worked with.
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Philip N. Johnson-Laird <email@example.com<http://mail2.daum.net/hanmail/mail/MailComposeFrame.daum?TOfirstname.lastname@example.org>
> Date: Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 9:27 AM
> Subject: [Sep_forum] Princeton University's obituary for George A. Miller
> To: sep_forum <email@example.com<http://mail2.daum.net/hanmail/mail/MailComposeFrame.daum?TOfirstname.lastname@example.org>
> Dear folks,
> Here is the obituary, which was written by Michael E. Hotchkiss:
> It is also on line at:
> Sep_forum mailing list
> xmca mailing list
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