Chapter 13


Jonathan Leicester


Symbols are things that people (or animals) have learned refer to or stand for something else. They are the basis of nonverbal communication in animals. Humans use symbols that relate to in-group psychology, loyalty, power, and remembrance. Such symbols often have a strong emotional charge, and may lead to overvalued or mistaken beliefs and magical thinking. Graves, flags, and the Christian Eucharist are examples. Some symbols are private and personal. Some symbols are unrecognized and exert their influence through unconscious processes. Other human symbols relate to the new function of language and do not have the same emotional power. Some evidence is presented that symbols work by an ‘as if’ mechanism, using some of the same neural circuits that the thing symbolized uses. People can think in symbols, for example, a sentence can use the word dog without either the speaker or the listener having a mental image of a dog.

Total Pages: 106-112 (7)

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