Psychology

History

Science

Neurology

Christianity

MBTI

Aliens

What's New?

HomeIndexForumLinksDownloadsContact

PersonalityTESOL Presentation

Lorin Friesen (September 2013)

(The final sections on third culture kids and EIL vs. EFL were rewritten and expanded in November 2013.)

Angelina van Dyke and I presented a paper applying the theory of mental symmetry to the field of TESOL at the Canadian TESOL conference in 2012 as well as at the BC TEAL conference in 2013. This essay briefly describes a number of aspects of language and culture that can be explained by the concept of mental networks. The powerpoint for the presentation contains all the references, and the Roman numeral headings in this text correspond to the headings in the powerpoint slides. The first few slides of this powerpoint introduce the diagram of mental symmetry by relating seven different ways of thinking to different aspects of grammar. For more information on the diagram of mental symmetry, please go to the homepage and click on the various terms in the diagram. This essay will focus upon how mental symmetry applies to the various aspects of TESOL.

Before we look at TESOL, we need to describe a few basic cognitive concepts.

Both concrete and abstract thought can function in one of three primary ways:
technical thought, normal thought, and mental networks.

Mental symmetry suggests that both concrete and abstract thought can function in one of three primary ways: technical thought, normal thought, and mental networks. One can see from the diagram of mental symmetry that Contributor thought lies at the core of the mind and ties together Perceiver and Server. Perceiver thought deals with facts and connections, while Server thought handles sequences and actions. In simple terms, Perceiver thought notices spatial connections that are repeated and Server thought notices temporal connections that are repeated. Contributor thought mentally bridges space and time by connecting Perceiver facts with Server sequences.

Mercy thought remembers experiences from the external world. Perceiver thought discovers facts by looking for repeated patterns in these Mercy experiences. In other words, Perceiver thought organizes Mercy experiences into categories based upon ‘same and different’. Reality is messy, therefore Perceiver facts that come from observing reality overlap, have uncertain boundaries, and can only be asserted with partial certainty. A similar statement could be made regarding Server thought. One never repeats an action exactly the same way the second time, and interaction with the real world continually forces one to adapt and change what one is doing.

As a result, normal thought works with Perceiver facts that are partially known and Server sequences that are partially determined. What guides normal thought is pattern and metaphor. Perceiver thought notices that one object is like another, and Server thought notices that one sequence is similar to another.

I. Paradigms—Thomas Kuhn

Technical thought emerges when Perceiver facts are clearly defined and Server sequences are well formed. However, as we have noted, reality is messy. Therefore, whenever the mind enters technical thought, assumptions must be made about facts and sequences. As a result, technical thought always deals with a caricature of reality. For instance, this type of simplification occurs when solving a physics problem. One may be told to ignore friction, assume that gravity is constant, or treat a collision as totally elastic. In each case, technical thought is being used to solve a simplification of a messy real world situation.

Summarizing, normal thought applies labels of analog certainty to partially determined Perceiver facts and Server sequences, whereas technical thought works with a limited set of Perceiver facts and Server sequences that are assumed to be known with digital certainty. Saying this another way, technical thought turns reality into a game with a limited set of clearly defined rules.

Limiting and defining thought makes it possible for Contributor thought to improve and optimize by rearranging Perceiver facts and Server sequences. In concrete thought, this Contributor improvement is guided by some bottom line or goal within Mercy thought, such as making more money or scoring a goal. In abstract thought, Contributor improvement is guided by some paradigm within Teacher thought, as illustrated by the rigorous technical thinking of logic and math.

Thomas Kuhn says that problem-solving is a characteristic of what he calls ‘normal science’. But what is normal for the scientist is not normal for the average human. Therefore, Kuhn’s normal science corresponds to technical thought, whereas normal thought is only used in science when a paradigm breaks down, leading to an episode of what Kuhn calls revolutionary science.

Putting this all together, if one wishes to interact with reality, then one must use the semi-rigorous metaphor-based thinking of normal thought. However, if one wishes to adopt a more scientific approach by entering technical thought, then one must make assumptions about reality and deal with a simplification of reality. The problem arises when one insists upon using technical thought to interpret reality. One must then either pretend that part of reality does not exist or one must conclude that logic does not work. Whenever technical thought is overused, then this will eventually lead to an epistemological crisis. Kuhn’s revolutionary science is an example of an epistemological crisis.

However, it is also possible to move between normal thought and technical thought by compensating for the strengths and weaknesses of each. The engineer does this all the time. He makes assumptions about reality when moving from normal thought to technical thought and he adds ‘fudge factors’, or margins of safety, when returning from technical thought to normal thought.

The distinction between normal thought and technical thought can be seen by comparing the typical behavior of the Perceiver person and the Contributor person. The Perceiver person enjoys learning facts and connections from a variety of fields, while the Contributor person tends to limit himself to some area of specialization. The Perceiver person struggles with uncertainty and tends to pull back from committing himself to some plan or theory. The Contributor person, in contrast, is able to ignore uncertainty that falls below a certain threshold. Once he has worked out the details of a plan, he will apply it to reality with total confidence. Much of the progress of society is driven by Contributor persons who develop plans and apply them with confidence. But history is also littered with the corpses of Contributor persons (both literally and figuratively) who used technical thought to develop and implement plans that did not survive contact with reality.

II. Technical Thought and its Overuse in Language

Turning now to TESOL, Chomsky’s generative grammar is an illustration of using technical thought to analyze speech. Early experts, such as Greenberg in 1975, suggested that formal logic should be used to analyze language. The result was an epistemological crisis, because normal language is an expression of normal thought. As Lakoff and Johnson pointed out in 1980, meaning comes from metaphor, and metaphor is an expression of normal thought. In 1999, Lakoff and Johnson suggested that metaphor forms the basis for all human thought. Mental symmetry agrees that metaphor describes normal human thought, but suggests that it is possible for the mind to adopt the more rigorous processing of technical thought, by choosing to focus in a technical, Contributor-controlled manner upon some limited caricature of reality.

Similarly, language teaching used to be driven by technical thought, because the instructor would portray language as a set of well-defined grammatical structures, well-formed phrases, and precise meanings. The end result was a caricature of language that had very limited connection with reality. The language student was capable of generating complex speech within the limited world of the classroom, but found that he could not communicate when faced with the messy world. The resulting inevitable epistemological crisis was verbalized by Krashen in 1982, who recognized that language acquisition is not the same as language learning.

While Chomsky’s technical approach to universal grammar may be overstated, mental symmetry suggests that there is a form of universal grammar that is based in cognitive mechanisms. In simple terms, the mind will naturally express itself verbally in a way that is consistent with the functioning of cognitive modules. For instance, Slobin in 1973 summarized a number of principles that describe the development of language in the child. As outlined in the opening slides of the powerpoint, it is possible to explain these principles in terms of cognitive modules. However, this explanation is based in analogy and not technical thought. Mental symmetry suggests that the mind will function in a similar manner in different contexts because the same cognitive modules are being used in each context. Lakoff and Johnson (1999) suggest that mental metaphors have their basis in physical reality and the structure of the human body. Mental symmetry agrees that the mind acquires its initial metaphors from reality and the physical body, but suggests that what ultimately defines and constrains metaphors is the structure of the human mind.

III. Community of Practice and Normal Abstract Thought

Most business is an example of concrete technical thought. A business will focus its efforts upon some limited set of products and use technical thought to develop and improve these products guided by the Mercy goal of making a profit. O’Donnell (2003) compares this concrete technical thought with what he calls Community of Practice, which corresponds to what mental symmetry calls normal abstract thought. Community of Practice is not driven by any specific goal, but rather is guided by a general desire to acquire and evaluate Perceiver facts and build Teacher understanding.

Community of Practice could be described as semi-rigorous. On the one hand, it is more rigorous than mere conversation, because it assumes that participants are capable of evaluating Perceiver facts and building Teacher understanding. On the other hand, it is less rigorous than technical thought, and Community of Practice will be stifled if a manager steps in and attempts to turn it into technical thought.

Livemocha is an example of Community of Practice as applied to learning another language. Participants share expertise in language by offering and receiving language lessons. As one plenary speaker at a TESOL conference pointed out, livemocha was not developed by language experts. But livemocha goes beyond mere online chatting by sharing expertise in language guided by the goal of building linguistic understanding. In a similar vein, Hall (2006) has suggested that language itself can be viewed as a Community of Practice.

IV. Implicature

Implicature is a term that was coined by Grice (1975) in order to describe language that jumps to conclusions based upon partial information. In the language of mental symmetry, implicature recognizes that they are aspects of normal speech that go beyond abstract technical thought. However, if one examines Grice’s analysis of implicature, one sees that Grice is still speaking the language of technical thought.

One can see this by examining Grice’s four maxims. The Maxim of quality says that conversation should be guided by Perceiver facts that are known above a certain threshold of certainty. The Maxim of quantity suggests that conversation should be guided by Teacher order-within-complexity, which means avoiding unnecessary details. The Maxim of relation states that conversation should remain within the limited playing field of the topic. The Maxim of manner indicates that one should use well-formed Server sequences. Thus, Grice’s maxims actually describe the essential characteristics of abstract technical thought, stated in a less technical manner.

Using technical thought to describe something which goes beyond technical thought will lead eventually to an epistemological crisis, as illustrated by post-Grician analysis of implicature. Lindblom (2001) pointed out that Grice’s explanation does not include social interaction, Davies (2007) observed that Grice had a logical bias, and Sperber & Wilson (2002) noted that children practice implicature even though they are incapable of using abstract technical thought.

V. Mental Networks

Mental symmetry suggests that implicature involves the third aspect of human thought, which is mental networks, which are described in more detail elsewhere. In brief, when the mind contains a number of similar emotional memories, then these will coalesce to function as a unit. When a mental network is triggered, then it will generate a positive hyper-emotion when input is consistent, and it will generate negative hyper-emotion when experiencing inconsistent input. (The term hyper-emotion is used to distinguish the emotions generated by a mental network from the emotions associated with the memories within that mental network.) Thus, a mental network can be thought of as a schema that responds emotionally.

Mental symmetry suggests that the mind uses mental networks to represent people. People emote, they generate experiences, and they behave in a consistent manner. Therefore, any form of extended interaction with a specific person, such as my friend Jane, or a type of person, such as a fireman, will cause a mental network to form. When that person comes to mind, then the mental network that represents that person will be triggered and that mental network will predict how that person will respond.

This means that most social interaction is occurring cognitively within the minds of people, because interaction is triggering mental networks that already exist, and these mental networks are adding emotional depth to social interaction. In other words, when I meet another person, I am interacting with that person and simultaneously interacting with the mental networks that are being triggered by that person.

The powerpoint gives the hypothetical example of Jack interacting with Jill. Jack is browsing the Internet and happens to see a picture of a pizza, which triggers a mental network in his mind containing sensations of hot pepperoni, stringy cheese, and seasoned tomato sauce. This mental network prompts him to say “Jill, what about making pizza?” The words ‘making pizza’ triggers a mental network within the mind of Jill, because the last time they made pizza, it ended up burnt and inedible. Merely saying “The last time..” provides sufficient information to trigger this unpleasant mental network within his mind. Guided by his mental network that represents her, he then comes up with a solution that will make them both happy. “Don’t worry, I’ll order pizza.”

Applying this to implicature, mental symmetry suggests that mental networks are ‘filling in the blanks’ when speech is incomplete by predicting what will happen next when they are triggered. Sperber (2002) suggested that implicature requires a mechanism that is ‘cognitively efficient’, and computer science uses a method known as the lookup table when results are required with a minimum of calculation. Both a mental network and a lookup table minimize processing time by using input to access information that has been calculated beforehand. An address book in an e-mail program is an example of a lookup table. Instead of entering a person’s e-mail, one merely selects the name of the individual which then retrieves the person’s e-mail that has been stored beforehand.

Notice how mental networks are representing the typical behavior of Jill as well as the pleasant experience of eating pizza and the unpleasant incident of making pizza. In other words, a mental network represents both people and emotional situations. As a result, the mind will often treat impersonal situations as if they are people, and experiments have shown that “animated movements of simple geometric shapes can readily be interpreted as depicting social events in which animate agents are engaged in intentional activity.” This tendency to place a personal interpretation upon impersonal events provides a theoretical foundation for the field of the cognitive science of religion, where it is referred to as the agency detector, or the hyperactive agency detector device.

In more general terms, mental networks provide a cognitive explanation for what is known as theory of mind, in which one person mentally ‘puts himself in the shoes of another person’ in order to predict how that other person will respond.

Sperber and Wilson (2002) also pointed out that children are capable of implicature even though they cannot practice technical thought. Tying this in with mental networks, Piaget pointed out back in 1926 that children are guided by schema. (A schema is similar to a mental network but lacks the emotional aspects). Piaget (1972) also observed that pretense plays a major role in the child. In the language of mental symmetry, the childish mind is filled with unrelated, partially connected mental networks, and the behavior of the child is being guided by the mental network that is currently active. Thus, the child may pretend to be a fireman, father, or an airplane. Tying this in with theory of mind, Leslie (1987) suggested that pretense is the basis for theory of mind.

Looking at this more generally, mental symmetry suggests that personal identity can be defined as the set of mental networks that cannot be ignored. For instance, a child may temporarily pretend to be an airplane, but the physical sensations and limitations of being a little child continually return the mind of the child to the mental networks that represent his actual identity.

VI. Politeness Theory

We have seen that science has a natural tendency to use technical thought to explain behavior that goes beyond technical thought. Arundale (1999) pointed out that technical thought cannot explain politeness, and came up with a co-constituting model to explain implicature and politeness. Mental symmetry agrees that both implicature and politeness can be explained with a single mechanism, but suggests that most of the interaction is happening between mental networks within the mind of each individual, and that social interaction is playing the secondary role of triggering and updating these mental networks. In other words, I am interacting primarily with my memory of another person, my memory of someone who is like another person, or my memory of some set of expectations that has been triggered by another person.

Mental symmetry suggests that implicature emphasizes the structure of a mental network whereas politeness focuses upon the emotions that are generated by a mental network. If one examines politeness from the viewpoint of mental networks, then one comes up with three main conclusions. First, if a mental network is triggered, then that mental network should not be suppressed. In simple terms, everyone has a right to exist. When someone walks into the room, his presence needs to be acknowledged, and it is impolite to ignore someone and act as if he does not exist. Second, if a mental network is triggered, then it should be permitted to function in a way that is consistent with the structure. This explains the indirect nature of politeness. For instance, saying “Jack, could you pass the sugar?” triggers the mental network that represents Jack without imposing structure upon a mental network, as opposed to “Pass the sugar Jack!”, which both triggers the mental network and tells that mental network how to behave. Third, if a mental network is triggered then they should be provided with positive emotions. The first requirement deals with the existence of a mental network, the second with its structure, and the third with the individual memories that are contained within the mental network. In simple terms, the third requirement could be summarized as ‘be nice’.

Rephrasing these requirements in terms of face, positive face activates a mental network, allows it to function, and provides it with positive input. Negative face, in contrast, suppresses, ignores, or overrides a mental network. Negative politeness activates a mental network in order to request a certain form of response, but this request is stated indirectly so that the mental network is free to function in its own manner without having structure imposed upon it.

VII. Culture

Culture can be defined in simple terms as a set of common mental networks. The mental networks of a culture are typically acquired in childhood as people grow up in similar circumstances, perform similar rituals, and attend similar schools. However, the Internet now makes it possible for people with similar mental networks from different physical locations to form a culture. If a group of people possess similar mental networks, then each will naturally behave in a way that is consistent with the mental networks of others within the group, leading to positive hyper-emotion. In simple terms, people will want to be around those who are similar to them.

By the same token, people from different cultures will be driven by mental networks to behave in ways that are inconsistent with each other. Thus, not only will people want to be around those who are similar to them, they will also want to remain separate from those who are different, in order to prevent incompatible mental networks from being triggered. If a mental network continues to experience incompatible input, then it will start to fall apart, and there will be a strong emotional drive to protect the integrity of that mental network by retreating to familiar circumstances. This describes culture shock.

Whenever inconsistent mental networks collide, then each will attempt to impose its structure upon the other. The losing mental network will then be forced to act in a way that is consistent with the structure of the winning mental network. As a result, cross-cultural interaction will often lead to a power struggle, in which mental networks jockey for position.

Culhane’s (2004) Intercultural Interaction Model describes different levels of cultural interaction between mental networks. In his Marginalized stage, individuals are interacting at purely an instrumental level in order to avoid triggering any major mental networks. This describes the typical tourist on a package tour, who visits a foreign country encased within a bubble of familiar mental networks. When the marginalized individual leaves the foreign culture, he may discover to his surprise that mental networks have formed and that he now misses some aspect of the foreign culture.

In the Separated stage, individuals interact with each other at an emotional level but still satisfy the requirements of core mental networks within an enclave of familiar culture. This describes the typical ex-pat, or ethnic neighborhood, in which foreigners live next to those with a similar culture. The person functioning at this level may appear to be integrated because public behavior is being guided by mental networks that are consistent with the dominant culture. However, core mental networks are not being triggered in public, because the public environment is significantly different than the environment of the cultural enclave. If core mental networks do become triggered in public, then it will become obvious that cultural integration is incomplete.

The person in the Integrated stage has acquired some of the core mental networks of the foreign culture in which he lives. This makes it possible to mentally transcend a single culture with a hybrid culture that combines elements of various individual cultures. This will be discussed further when looking at Third Culture Kids.

In the Assimilated Stage, only a few core mental networks of the original culture remain. We saw when looking at culture shock that when the integrity of a mental network is threatened, then it will respond with a strong emotional drive to experience consistent input, as illustrated by the drive to preserve a habit when one attempts to break it. Therefore, the person who is in the assimilated stage will often go through an existential crisis in which he must decide whether he will allow his identity to become submerged into the new culture or whether he will choose to remain with his original culture. As a result, there may be a cultural backlash in which individuals protect core aspects of their original culture in order to avoid being completely assimilated. One sees this, for instance, in the African backlash to Western colonization that occurred in the mid to late 20th century.

VIII. The Power of Mental Networks

Mental networks typically function under the surface, providing an emotional drive to continue with the status quo. As long as no one ‘rocks the boat’, the average person may not even realize that personal and cultural behavior is being driven by mental networks. Instead, the power of a mental network usually becomes apparent only when it is violated.

Cross-cultural interaction will violate mental networks, because people from different cultures will naturally be driven by their own mental networks to behave in a way that is inconsistent with the mental networks of other cultures. Thus, one could describe cross-cultural misunderstanding as misfiring theory of mind.

Mental networks will also tend to be violated when culturally sensitive issues are approached by those who do not share these mental networks. This happens, for instance, when a non-religious person analyzes the religious practice of some group. Similarly, Kubota (1999) responds with indignation at what she regards as the insensitive manner in which Asian culture is being analyzed by researchers from Western cultures. One historical example is the War of the Golden Stool, which occurred in 1900 when a British representative attempted to sit upon a chair that represented the Ashanti people. As the Wikipedia article relates, “Not understanding the significance of the stool, Hodgson clearly had no inkling of the storm his words would produce; the suggestion that he, a foreigner, should sit on the Golden Stool, the very embodiment of The Ashanti state, and very symbol of the Ashanti peoples, living, dead, and yet to be born, was far too disrespectful for the crowd.” For Hodgson, the chair was merely an object. For the Ashanti, it was mentally associated with a potent mental network.

Cultural sensitivity is required to avoid inadvertently violating mental networks when traveling to a different country or teaching students of a different culture. However, learning to speak a foreign language will by its very nature lead to cross-cultural interaction, which will inevitably end up violating mental networks. Therefore, if cultural sensitivity is taken too far, then one will end up deconstructing the TESOL field itself. Linguistics will then be reinterpreted as power struggles between cultural groups, each attempting to impose its mental networks upon the other, as portrayed by Norton (1997).

Similarly, the TESOL teacher may lose control of the learning process if students from the same culture are permitted to band together and form a cultural clique within the classroom. For instance, when I was teaching in Korea, I learned that one-on-one teaching is never a problem, but once there were several students, then the students often formed a cultural group that attempted to exclude the foreign instructor.

IX. Societal Stages—Habermas

We have seen that cross-cultural interaction leads to conflicts between knowledge and mental networks. Mental networks are composed of emotional experiences within Mercy thought, whereas Perceiver thought deals with facts and connections. Jürgen Habermas has described how the relationship between these two changed in Western Europe during the 18th century, going from what Habermas calls representative publicity to the bourgeois public sphere. Habermas describes these two stages in social terms. Mental symmetry agrees with these stages but suggests that the social interaction is a secondary expression of cognitive mechanisms.

Mental symmetry suggests that Perceiver thought can acquire a knowledge of truth in one of two ways. First, emotional status can mesmerize Perceiver thought into blindly accepting the statements of some authority as absolute truth. A person who practices blind faith usually does not realize that he is using blind faith. He is just certain that he knows what is true. But if asked to give a reason for his knowledge, then he will respond ‘it is obvious’ or ‘everyone knows that...’ or ‘the experts say’. Thus, he has belief but not necessarily knowledge. If everyone within a community shares the same set of blind beliefs, then these beliefs will be assumed and never questioned. Blind faith only becomes apparent when assumed facts are questioned, either by contrary evidence or by other people.

Habermas’ representative publicity describes a society in which emotional pressure from mental networks was used to overwhelm Perceiver thought into believing facts. As Habermas describes, political leaders used their personal status to create an aura of authority. The pronouncements of a leader were accepted as true by Perceiver thought because of the status possessed by the leader. The Palace of Versailles, for instance, was designed to overwhelm the senses of the visitor.

In educational terms, this is known as rote learning, in which the student acquires facts from the teacher because of the emotional status possessed by the teacher. We have seen that the mind of the child is governed by mental networks. This means that rote learning is the primary method of education for the child. If the teacher or parent does not use personal status to impose truth upon Perceiver thought in the child, then some other authority figure will.

Second, instead of blindly accepting facts based upon emotional status, Perceiver thought can look for facts which are repeated. Blind faith has certainty. Perceiver thought, in contrast, struggles with doubt. However, it is possible to use Perceiver thought to increase certainty and minimize doubt. The more times a fact is encountered, the more certain Perceiver thought will be that this fact is correct. Thus, when Perceiver thought is used, then there will be less belief but there will also be more knowledge. And when questioned, the person who uses Perceiver thought will be able to give reasons for his belief.

All of these factors are present in Habermas’ second stage of the bourgeois public sphere. Facts were no longer accepted blindly from leaders. Instead, the attitude of blind devotion was replaced by the rule of law, in which Perceiver facts applied equally to all people, regardless of their personal status. Perceiver thought acquired information through travel and news and the printing of newspapers. Power struggles between mental networks were minimized by using laws of private property and personal identity to prevent one mental network from imposing itself on another.

In educational terms, this describes critical thinking, in which a person uses Perceiver thought to evaluate facts that were initially acquired through rote learning. Mental symmetry suggests that education is a two-stage process. The primary student uses rote learning to acquire an initial set of facts for Perceiver thought, while the secondary student uses critical thinking to evaluate the information that was originally acquired through rote learning.

Mental symmetry suggests that the transition from rote learning to critical thinking is not straightforward. Instead, Perceiver thought gradually gains confidence as it holds on to facts in the middle of emotional pressure. Similarly, Habermas suggests that the coffeehouse played a major role in the development of the bourgeois public sphere, as facts were tested through debate.

Mental symmetry suggests that building Perceiver confidence can be compared to a weight training program. If there is insufficient emotional pressure, then there will be no need to develop Perceiver confidence. However, if there is too much emotional pressure, then Perceiver thought will become overwhelmed and return to the earlier stage of rote learning. Similarly, Arnold Toynbee, the British historian, suggests that societies grow when facing an optimal level of challenge. “Toynbee argues that ‘self-determining’ civilizations are born out of more primitive societies, not due to racial or environmental factors, but as a response to challenges, such as hard country, new ground, blows and pressures from other civilizations, and penalizations. He argues that for civilizations to be born, the challenge must be a golden mean; that excessive challenge will crush the civilization, and too little challenge will cause it to stagnate.”

Perceiver confidence makes it possible for Perceiver thought to function in an emotional environment of mental networks. The result is a cooperation between Perceiver thought and Mercy thought. When Perceiver confidence is lacking, then Perceiver thought can only function in the absence of Mercy emotions. Perceiver thought then turns into MBTI Thinking, which is factual thinking that suppresses feelings, and Mercy thought turns into MBTI Feeling, which describes Mercy thought that overwhelms Perceiver thought.

Looking at this further, Habermas’ first stage is an example of mono-cultural thinking because Perceiver thought is mentally controlled by the dominant cultural MNs of a specific society. These MNs may be picked up through example during childhood, leading to the traditional society in which everyone continues doing things ‘the way that they have always been done’, or these MNs may be imposed upon society by leaders who create an aura of authority. In both cases, MNs in Mercy thought are overwhelming Perceiver thought and preventing it from functioning independently.

Multi -cultural thinking emerges when there is a multiplicity of incompatible MNs. When this happens, then Facilitator thought, the cognitive module that blends and mixes, will switch and blend between these various MNs In order to fit in appropriately in each specific situation. depending upon the specific situation. One could describe this as the social chameleon, and we will examine this mindset in more detail when looking later at the Third Culture Kid. Notice that the basic mental building block is still the MNs of culture.

Habermas’ second stage leads to cross-cultural thinking, because Perceiver thought is being used to compare situations in many cultures in order to discover common traits that cross culture. With cross-cultural thinking, culture is no longer the basic mental building block, because thinking is being constructed using Perceiver facts that are independent of culture.

For instance, European thinking tends to be multi-cultural because Greeks are being compared with Germans and so on. The basic building block is the typical mindset of each country or region. Mental symmetry, in contrast, is cross-cultural because the basic building block is the cognitive module and the cognitive style, and human behavior and culture are defined in terms of cognitive mechanisms.

X. Male versus Female Cognitive Development

Perry described the typical path of male cognitive development in 1970, while Belenky compared this with the typical female path in 1986. (Belenky’s model is also described in a more recent review by Love & Guthrie (1999).) It should be pointed out that these gender differences are statistical and apply to the typical male and female, and will be affected heavily by the cognitive style of the individual person. In simple terms, both male and female mindsbegin with the attitude of rote learning, in which Perceiver thought is overwhelmed by mental networks, and both male and female minds eventually arrive at the same cognitive state of being able to use Perceiver thought to evaluate mental networks. However, the path between start and finish is different for the typical male and female.

The average male learns how to use Perceiver thought in an environment that avoids mental networks. First, Perceiver thought is overwhelmed by the emotional status of experts. Then, Perceiver thought breaks free of this attitude but lacks the content to function effectively. As factual content is acquired, Perceiver thought becomes able to function but lacks sufficient confidence to function in the presence of strong mental networks. Finally, the male mind acquires the ability to apply critical thinking to emotional topics.

The average female, in contrast, remains within an environment of mental networks. Belenky describes a zeroeth stage of silence in which the female feels that the mental networks of personal identity have no right to exist. As Belenky emphasizes, this stage is rare in North America but more prominent in other societies in which women are suppressed and quarantined. In the next stage, the female feels that the mental networks of personal identity must behave in a manner that is consistent with the mental networks of societal pressure. This is followed by the ‘infallible gut’ stage in which thought and behavior is guided primarily by the mental networks of personal identity. Next, the female learns to compare her mental networks with the mental networks of others. This is followed by the final stage in which the ability is acquired to apply critical thinking to emotional topics.

One final note of a more personal nature. While MNs have been an aspect of the theory of mental symmetry for a number of years, they were given a more prominent role in the theory fairly recently (after reading about the Agency Detector used by the cognitive science of religion). Since then, I have found that most of my intellectual interaction has occurred with women, lending credence to the idea that MNs play a major role in female thought. As readers may notice, I have resisted the use of inclusive pronouns, partially because I think that it is grammatically messy. In general, I suggest that it is far more significant to have a cognitive model that includes both male and female thought rather than merely change one’s writing style to be more inclusive, because the latter is a cosmetic change while the former reflects a paradigm shift.

XI. Possible Selves

Higgins (1987) described three types of possible selves, the actual self, the ought self, and the ideal self. Dörnyei has done more recent work on possible selves that expands upon the work of Higgins and applies it to the TESOL field.

Mental symmetry suggests that any mental network is potentially a self, and earlier on personal identity was defined as the set of mental networks that cannot be ignored. We also saw that there is a mental struggle between Perceiver thought and mental networks. Perceiver thought needs confidence to assert facts when faced with the emotional pressure, and mental networks can use emotional pressure to overwhelm Perceiver thought into believing certain facts.

If a mental network is repeatedly being triggered, then it is inescapable and cannot be ignored. This defines the actual self. Obviously, the characteristics and limitations of one’s physical body play a major role in defining the actual self. That is because a person cannot escape his physical body. Knowledge and skills also define the actual self because they are continually present. Perceiver thought looks for connections that do not change, and we have seen that it takes Perceiver confidence to assert Perceiver facts when faced with emotional pressure. As a result, it is often difficult for a person to recognize or acknowledge aspects of the actual self.

Perceiver thought can be overwhelmed by emotional pressure. Therefore, if a powerful mental network is triggered, then it will impose its structure upon the mental networks of personal identity and the resulting emotional pressure may overwhelm Perceiver knowledge of the actual self. This forms the basis for the ought self. The ought self is defined by parents, culture, and authority figures, because these are the source of potent mental networks. The ought self is usually inconsistent and contradictory. That is because mental networks only impose their structure when they are triggered. Therefore, the structure of the ought self will depend on which authority figures are currently present either physically or mentally.

We saw earlier that the power of mental networks becomes most evident when they are violated. Similarly, Dörnyei (2009) adds that the ought self is most active when it is violated. In other words, it is when people do not follow the expectations of parents and authority figures that these individuals will respond in ways that trigger mental networks in order to enforce compliance. The actual self and ought self are similar to Freud’s ego and superego. We will see later that Higgin’s ideal self goes beyond both the ought self and the actual self.

For instance, one can see an interaction between actual and ought self in dogs . Research has shown that if owners forbid dogs from taking some food, then the dogs are most likely to steal the food if they think that their owners are not watching. In other words, the dog’s actual self recognizes the physical ability to jump up on the table and take the food, while the ought self uses the mental network that represents the owner to impose a different pattern of behavior upon the dog.

We saw earlier that Perceiver thought can only function in the midst of mental networks if it has sufficient confidence. However, if a mental network is sufficiently powerful, then Perceiver confidence by itself will be insufficient. Instead, the only way to change core mental networks will be by playing one mental network against another.

Teacher Mental Networks

So far, we have only discussed mental networks that are composed of emotional experiences within Mercy thought. However, a general theory within Teacher thought is also emotional. Teacher emotion comes from order-within-complexity. In simple terms, Teacher thought feels good when many items fit together and feels bad when there is an item out of place. Earlier on we referred to paradigms when discussing Thomas Kuhn. A paradigm is an example of Teacher order-within-complexity, because a simple explanation is being used to bring order to a complexity of items.

If a person continues to develop or use a general theory, then it will eventually turn into a Teacher mental network or TMN. All theories function emotionally, however when a theory turns into a TMN, then it will function at a deeper and more insistent level of emotion. Like a habit, the theory will begin to function autonomously, driving a person to use this theory to explain situations, and to respond emotionally when this theory is threatened. This corresponds to Thomas Kuhn’s description of how scientists respond when faced with competing paradigms.

Applying this to TESOL, linguistics provides an obvious example of TMNs, because a language is composed of words that are held together by the general theory of a system of grammar, and words form the basic building block for Teacher thought (as described in the slide on Lexis). While language structure is too inexact to be described as a rigorous Teacher theory using abstract technical thought, normal abstract thought can be used to construct a semi-rigorous theory of a language, and using a language will turn this theory into a TMN.

As with MMNs (Mercy mental networks), the power of a TMN usually becomes apparent when it is violated. For instance, we saw earlier that modern science uses abstract technical thought, which is characterized by rigorous logic. We also saw that technical thought tends to specialize. If a scientist continues to use a certain paradigm, then this paradigm will form a TMN. As long as the scientist continues to work within this paradigm, it will appear that thought is being guided by the rigorous logic of abstract technical thought. However, if the paradigm is challenged, then the underlying TMN will drive the scientist to ignore and/or belittle the competing paradigm.

Thus, there are actually two kinds of culture shock. There is the Mercy culture shock that occurs when a person travels from one culture to another and experiences incompatible MMNs. There is also the Teacher culture shock that happens when there is a paradigm shift and a person moves intellectually from one TMN to another.

I should mention in passing that TMNs also add an additional dimension to implicature. We saw earlier that MMNs can prompt the listener to ‘fill in the blanks’ when presented with incomplete speech. TMNs will also cause the listener to jump to conclusions when they are triggered. This happens when understanding, common sense, or training is used to guess what the other person is saying.

Semantic Shifting

When mental networks collide, then each will attempt to impose its structure upon the other. This happens when competing MMNs lead to cultural conflicts, and also when competing TMNs result in paradigm conflicts. The interaction between a TMN and a MMN is more subtle. That is because Teacher theories focus upon general sequences, while Mercy thought emphasizes specific experiences. Therefore, there is an indirect interaction between these two in which one modifies the other. As Norton (1997) has pointed out, TESOL is an unusual field because it combines linguistics with culture. Thus, TESOL is forced to deal with the interaction between TMNs and MMNs.

Semantic shifting provides a linguistic example of the interaction between TMNs and MMNs. As shown on the slide on Semantics, Perceiver thought handles the meanings of words. In concrete thought, Perceiver thought organizes Mercy experiences into categories, leading to object recognition. In abstract thought, Perceiver thought limits and defines the domain of general Teacher theories. (When Perceiver thought lacks facts, then Teacher thought will overgeneralize, one of the major characteristics of language learning—mentioned on the Lexis slide.) Words become defined when Perceiver thought combines object recognition with limiting and defining domain. Going further, one of the major steps involved in moving from normal abstract thought to technical abstract thought is giving precise definitions to words.

For instance, object recognition allows the young child to recognize father and mother. Teacher thought in the child will then come up with a general theory in Teacher thought that corresponds to these objects. The child will see father and respond by saying ‘papa’. However, the tendency will be for Teacher thought to overgeneralize, therefore the child may apply the term ‘papa’ to any adult male. By distinguishing father from other male adults, Perceiver thought can limit the domain of the Teacher theory and make the definition more accurate. Normal thought defines Teacher domain but leaves the boundaries of this domain fuzzy. Technical thought goes one step further by clarifying precisely what is and is not a father.

Since meaning is based ultimately in object recognition, meaning will shift when objects change. Because each culture has its own collection of objects, learning precise meanings can question cultural assumptions, as Citron pointed out in 1995. For instance, to a German, the word ‘car’ brings to mind a white Mercedes traveling at high speed down an autobahn, whereas for a Cuban, a car indicates a carefully maintained American vehicle made in the 1950s. In other words, each culture contains a unique assortment of Mercy experiences which will be organized by Perceiver thought into different categories and these categories will form the basis for assigning meanings to words. Learning the precise meaning of a word means exploring the culture within which that word is used.

Going the other way, altered meanings can also affect object recognition. Thomas Kuhn (1962) describes how changing a paradigm causes a scientist to assign slightly different meanings to words, which causes the scientist to view the world in slightly different ways. Kuhn refers to this as incommensurability. Because a paradigm explains many facts, changing a paradigm will adjust the meanings of many Perceiver facts, which will alter object recognition in many areas.

Lambert (1972) describes something similar occurring with language. When advanced students began to think and dream in French, then they experienced culture shock or anomie, because they were undergoing the linguistic equivalent of a paradigm shift. They were now viewing reality through the lens of a new set of semantic categories which were subtly different than their previous categories.

Summarizing, because of semantic shifting, learning precise meanings in foreign language will question existing MMNs. Going further, adopting a new TMN will alter existing MMNs. This is consistent with Acton’s (1979) finding that language acquisition improves when there is a perceived social distance between the first and second language. In this case, uncertain MMNs make it easier to acquire the TMN of a new language.

XII. The ‘Ideal’ Possible Self

Earlier on, we looked at Higgins’ actual and ought selves. Mental symmetry suggests that Higgins’ ideal self is related to Platonic forms. Dörnyei (2009) asks what makes a possible self ideal, realizable, stable, and intrinsic. Mental symmetry suggests that Platonic forms naturally possess these characteristics. First, a Platonic form is ideal because Teacher thought builds general theories by looking for the essential essence. Second, a Platonic form is realizable because it is based in many real experiences. Third, a Platonic form is stable because Teacher thought looks for universal concepts that apply over space and time. Fourth, a Platonic form is intrinsic because it is an internal, imaginary concept that does not exist anywhere in the real world.

The end result is that the ideal self motivates the actual self, while the actual self realizes the ideal self. Freud’s superego is an extrinsic motivation that is based in the ought self. The ideal self provides an intrinsic motivation that is based in Teacher thought and Platonic forms.

XIII. Third Culture Kids

One can explore the relationship between culture and understanding by examining Third Culture Kids (TCKs). (Quotes in this section are from The Third Culture Kid Experience, by Pollock and Van Reken.) A TCK is an individual who has experienced significant cultural dislocation during formative years. Remember that the childish mind is organized around a collection of disconnected MMNs, and that the MMN that is currently active is determined by the environment. Remember also that an MN will attempt to impose its structure when it is triggered and will respond with hyper-pain when it encounters inconsistent input. If a child from one culture is placed within an environment with a different culture (such as a new school), then the MNs of the child will cause him to behave in a way that is inconsistent with the MNs of his new classmates, this behavior will be regarded by the MNs of his classmates as inappropriate, and they will respond by rejecting it as bad. And because the transplanted child cannot escape this new environment, he will conclude that he is bad because his MNs are continually causing him to act in a way that leads to personal disapproval. Finally, because children cannot control which MNs are active, this process will occur automatically.

In addition, most TCKs live under what Pollock and Van Reken call a sending organization, such as a government, Armed Forces, corporation, or mission organization. The sending organization provides for most of the personal needs of the TCK when he lives abroad as well regulating his personal behavior.

Summarizing, the TCK is unusual in two respects. First, unlike a normal child who grows up in a culture composed of stable MMNs, the MMNS of the TCK fragment at an early age. Second, the average child only learns about Teacher thought when entering Piaget’s formal operational stage, while the TCK is guided from an early age by a TMN that mentally represents the sending organization.

This combination results in what Pollock and Van Reken call uneven maturity, which we can analyze with the help of Habermas’ first two stages. In the periphery, TCKs have an unusual ability to cross cultures, enjoy different cultures, analyze cultures, and feel at home in many cultures. This is indicative of Habermas’ second stage, in which Perceiver thought looks for common principles that bridge many cultures. Here, the typical TCK is more mature than the average person.

In the core, the average TCK lacks a stable identity, finds it difficult to make choices, and feels driven by conflicting moral standards. In this region, the TCK is a chameleon who adjusts and switches persona in order to fit into the current social environment. Here, the typical TCK is less mature than the average person. This exemplifies the thinking of Habermas’ first stage, in which Perceiver thought is subject to the dominant MMNs of the current environment. However, instead of being guided by a single collection of MMNs that represent the local authorities, The TCK is being guided by a multiplicity of conflicting MMNs, and Facilitator thought is being used to mix and blend between these various MMNs. As was mentioned before, the result is multi-cultural thinking that includes many cultures, but still regards culture as the basic building block.

The TCK can deal with this background in one of two major ways. Methods that approach the painful MMNs from a Mercy perspective, such as bitterness, blame, denial, passivity, escapism, or grieving a lost childhood, will not be beneficial. In contrast, Teacher-based methods will help. Pollock and Van Reken emphasize naming and analyzing childhood experiences, as well as realizing that all TCKs have similar experiences. They also warn that starting the process of understanding will lead to anger, as wounded childhood MMNs are finally free to express themselves. Finally, they mention that TCKs may take longer to finish college and they may have problems choosing their specialization, but 81% of TCKs acquire at least a bachelors degree, as opposed to 21% of the normal American population.

The TCK experience irrevocably alters the identity and thinking of a child and it is not possible for the adult TCK to revert to being a ‘normal’ person driven by the ‘normal’ MMNs of culture. Instead, the MMNs produced by the experience of living as a TCK will themselves create a cross-cultural culture. In the words of one TCK, “The ability we have to merge and adapt, to absorb the elements of our surrounding at a level First Culture Kids can’t even begin to understand, gives us a level of separation from other cultures that only fellow TCKs truly understand. It’s that natural adaptation level that brings us together and forms our unity with other TCKs.”

If the TCK focuses upon the painful Mercy experiences of cultural dislocation, then Pollock and Van Reken state that the result will be personally detrimental. In contrast, if the TCK uses personal experiences as a basis for gaining cross-cultural understanding, then the net effect will be positive. However, merely building a theory upon the personal experiences of repeated cultural dislocation is insufficient, because this will lead to a theory of ‘repeated cultural dislocation’ which Pollock and Van Reken refer to as the migratory instinct. Like any theory that turns into a TMN, this will emotionally drive the TCK to move on whenever he is beginning to settle down or achieve personal success.

In order to understand this positive effect more fully, one must analyze the impact that Teacher thought has upon Mercy experiences. Mental symmetry suggests that this interaction leads to the development of Platonic forms. A Platonic form is an imaginary Mercy image that results from adjusting Perceiver facts in a way that increases Teacher feelings of generality, similar to what happens with Kuhn’s incommensurability. For instance, think about the Platonic form of a circle. First, Mercy thought is filled with images of round things from the real world. Perceiver thought notices that these images are all similar and comes up with the category of circle. Teacher thought then forms a general theory of circles by looking for the essence of ‘circleness’, in order to generate order-within-complexity. This Teacher simplification modifies Perceiver facts about circles leading indirectly to the imaginary image within Mercy thought of an ideal, perfect circle, the type that one encounters when studying geometry. The perfect circle of geometry does not exist within real life. Real circles can become more like geometric circles but there is no such thing as a real circle of geometry. Thus, even though the raw material for a Platonic form comes from the external world, the Platonic form is an imaginary image that emerges when Perceiver facts about this raw material are modified by Teacher understanding.

Applying this to the TCK, what motivates them peripherally is the Platonic form of a culture that combines and idealizes the best elements of existing cultures. Pollock and Van Reken mention the example of one TCK who “wished for just one moment she could bring together the many worlds she had known and embrace them all at the same time, but she knew it could never happen.” Pollock and Van Reken warn that there is a tendency for TCKs to adopt an attitude of cultural superiority and look down on mono-cultural individuals who do not share their MMNs. I suggest that the solution is for the TCK to extend the cross-cultural thinking that is practiced in the periphery to the core of personal identity. This is where a meta-theory such as mental symmetry could be helpful.

XIV. EFL vs. EIL vs. WE

Mental symmetry suggests that the experiences of the TCK can be used to shed light upon the current controversy between English as a foreign language, English as an international language, and World English. ( Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language by Aya Matsuda was used as a resource for this section.)

Let us look first at the distinction between EFL and EIL. Language combines TMNs with MMNs. On the one hand, a language can be described in a semi-rigorous manner using formal rules of grammar, leading to the formation of a TMN. On the other hand, we have just seen that the words and expressions of a language are also closely linked to the MMNs of a specific culture. Teaching English as a foreign language emphasizes the cultural MMN side of a language, whereas teaching English as an international language emphasizes the universal TMN aspect of a language.

Learning a foreign language leads naturally to cultural conflicts between MMNs, because it is assumed that learning a foreign language will be accompanied by adopting the associated foreign culture. However, it is possible for an international language to coexist alongside cultural languages. This describes the current situation in Europe, where citizens from various countries use English as an international language to communicate without adopting either American or British culture. Obviously, If culture is based in MMNs, the cultural impact of an international language can be minimized by emphasizing the aspects of language that relate to Teacher thought while minimizing the aspects that relate to Mercy thought.

Looking at this more specifically, the Pragmatics slide mentions that accent and tone of voice are interpreted by Mercy thought. Therefore, EFL will focus upon teaching students to speak with the accent of a native speaker. For EIL, in contrast, the focus will be upon upon universality. Therefore, the goal will not be to eliminate accent but rather to maximize intelligibility by eliminating pronunciation idiosyncrasies that make it difficult to understand what the student is saying. A language also contains many idioms that are expressions of the local culture. If one wishes to teach EIL, then one must refrain from using such idioms. Similarly, teaching EIL should include examples from many cultures rather than associating English with a single culture. This does not mean that one ignores local culture when teaching EIL, but rather that the focus will be upon crossing cultures rather than upon embracing a specific culture. Likewise, while it is not possible to teach education in a manner that is free of moral values, it is possible to approach values from a universal perspective, rather than from the viewpoint of some specific culture. In philosophical terms, this means examining issues from the viewpoint of Kant’s categorical imperative. As a reading of Matsuda and similar books will show, these principles are already being generally followed.

Let us turn now to the parallel between World English and the TCK. We saw that the typical TCK is characterized by fragmented and inconsistent cultural MMNs, combined with a close personal connection with the TMN of some sending organization. The international spread of English has had a similar effect. On the one hand, English is the primary language of technology and higher education, and about 80% of scientific papers are currently published in English. Thus, English is strongly connected with the TMN of the ‘sending organization’ of Western scientific thought. On the other hand, the arrival of English has also brought cultural dislocation and cultural confusion as international trade, communication, and entertainment have exposed individuals to a multiplicity of cultures. Thus, internationalization is turning everyone into a form of TCK, and one can learn what this means by examining the TCK. In the words of Pollock and Van Reken, “The TCK experience is a microcosm of what is fast becoming normal throughout the world. Few communities anywhere will remain culturally homogeneous in this age of easy international travel and instant global communication...Sociologist Ted Ward claims that TCKs of the late 20th century are ‘the prototype [citizens] of the 21st century’” (p.7).

The first lesson that one can learn from the TCK is that there is no turning back. Just as the TCK cannot relive his childhood in order to become a normal person, so it is not possible to restore the world to the state that it was before globalization. That is because cultural MNs have been irrevocably altered.

The second lesson is that the disruption of globalization has resulted in uneven maturity. In peripheral issues, the acquisition of cross-cultural Perceiver facts and the development of Teacher understanding continues unabated, while in core issues, the multiplicity of cultures is causing individuals to question personal identity and doubt the existence of universal guidelines.

The third lesson is that one can approach English either from a cultural perspective or from a cognitive perspective. A cultural perspective will conclude that inner circle countries are using English to impose their culture upon other countries, and that English is only masquerading as a universal standard. This describes the approach advocated by Fairclough and critical discourse analysis.

For instance, the sending organization behind the TCK feels universal to the TCK because it governs most of his personal existence. It provides housing, school, social interaction, and assistance in navigating the local culture. It also governs his personal behavior to an extent that does not normally occur. Pollock and Van Reken give the illustration of a diplomat losing future promotion prospects because his child sprayed graffiti on some public building (p.49). If the TCK steps back and examines the situation critically, he concludes that the sending organization is actually a specific cultural group that is using the MMNs of its leaders to create a structure that appears universal.

A similar principle applies to language, because language standards are also ultimately imposed by language institutes and official publications. This relationship between language and culture is explicitly recognized when teaching English as a foreign language. EIL, in contrast, acts as if it is universal, but it is still based in the standard English of inner circle English-speaking countries. It is this apparent contradiction of English masquerading as a universal language but actually being rooted in the culture of inner circle countries that Matsuda and other proponents of World English address. Thus, Kubota (writing in Matsuda and elsewhere) teaches that standard English is ultimately based in a power struggle between different cultures. The problem with this conclusion is that it ultimately deconstructs the very concept of international English. For instance, in Matsuda, Kubota says that “the idea that English is an international language can be viewed as a discourse rather than an absolute fact, shaping people’s consciousness, social practice in institution and policies, including the current heavy focus on teaching English worldwide” (p.55).

It is interesting to note that the inner circle English-speaking countries are currently experiencing precisely the same question with regard to the Internet and international communications—both of which are major factors in the global use of English. The inner circle English-speaking countries of America, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand also belong to an intelligence sharing network known as Five Eyes, headed by the NSA in the US and the GCHQ in Britain. Recent revelations have shown that the Five Eyes have totally infiltrated international communications as well as the Internet for national advantage. One of the major fallouts is that these inner circle English-speaking countries have now lost the credibility that is required to promote international standards. The end result of this path may be a balkanization of international standards based upon the imposition of political power.

Linguistically speaking, the non-native English speaker has a disadvantage, because he lacks the fluency and accent of the native speaker. If the non-native speaker takes a cultural perspective, he will feel inferior, because English is based in the MMNs of the inner-circle countries and not the MMNs of his own culture. As a result, one of the goals of World English is to free the English student from this feeling of cultural inferiority by basing English in the MMNs of local culture. This emphasis is seen in the following quote. “Simply raising student’s awareness of the diverse forms of English language in the program seems to be insufficient to remove the stigma from non-native speaker like English. This is because the diversification of English, its users and the associated cultures may be perceived as either deficient – because of differences and thus inferior to so-called standard inner circle varieties of English – or diversity (a general line view of pluralism and multiplicity, not a superficial celebration of differences with an assimilationist mindset). Thus, in line with the claim about the integration of issues of power and language use in teaching WE – EIL discussed by Kubota and in her chapter in this edited book, EIL students at MonsU are not only exposed to the phonological, lexical, syntactical, pragmatic and socio-cultural differences used by speakers of world images, but they’re also asked to address political issues arising from language variation. Students are continually invited to critically reflect on their experiences and observations of using/teaching/learning English and to critically question, unpack and challenge any hidden politics behind their experiences and observations of the discourses of the use of English as well as the pedagogy of English in a variety of intra/international context” (p147). Sharifian suggests viewing different forms of English as different rather than incorrect. However, such a strategy is self-defeating, because students in expanding countries are primarily learning English to become part of the international community, and if English is permitted to fragment into various incomprehensible dialects, then there is no longer any point in learning to speak English.

It is also possible to approach World English from a cognitive perspective. we have looked at the relationship between English and the inner circle countries. There is also a strong relationship between scientific thought and inner circle English-speaking countries. For instance, as of 2013, 36 of the 50 top ranked universities in the world were located in the inner circle English-speaking countries of America, UK, Canada, and Australia.

Science is guided by the TMNs of natural law, which is based upon facts that are independent of culture. The law of gravity, for instance, is not imposed by the MMNs of any cultural group, but rather is based upon universal principles that are independent of social pressure. The problem is that it is not cognitively natural for the mind to think in terms of TMNs. As Piaget's stages of cognitive development indicate, the pre-operational child is mentally guided by MMNs. The concrete operational child can use abstract thought, but only as long as it is based in the MMNs of concrete examples, and it is only in the formal operational stage that the teenager acquires the ability to use abstract thought that does not depend upon concrete thought--to be guided mentally by TMNs that are independent of MMNs.

I suggested earlier that a Platonic form emerges when Teacher thought modifies object recognition. A Platonic form is an imaginary image that does not exist but it is based upon the idealization of many real images that do exist. In other words, it is a utopia that is both a ou-topia that is a ‘no-place’ and a eu-topia that is a ‘good-place’.

This is illustrated by the European joke which states that “Heaven in Europe is where the English are the policemen, the French are the cooks, the German are the mechanics, the Italians are the lovers, and the Swiss organize everything, while hell in Europe is where the German are the policemen, the English are the cooks, the French are the mechanics, the Swiss are the lovers, and the Italians organize everything.” In other words, the ideal culture transcends all existing cultures by combining—and idealizing—the best elements of each culture. The ideal culture is a Platonic form that does not exist anywhere but it is realized in partial form by existing cultures which all strive to become more like the Platonic form.

A TMN perspective mentally links English with the Platonic form of the ideal global society and recognizes that every country, including the United States, is only a partial expression of this Platonic form. This is where the non-native English speaker has a cognitive advantage over the native English speaker. The typical monolingual American assumes that ‘America is the best place on earth’ because he mentally associates English, higher education, science and technology, (together with freedom, democracy, personal prosperity, and ‘the American way’) with the MMNs of American culture that he acquired during childhood. In contrast, a Platonic form of ideal culture emerges when Perceiver thought compares many different cultures in order to discover common cross-cultural principles and Teacher thought describes the essence of these principles. The non-native English learner (as well as the TCK) is already doing this to some extent, while the native speaker must learn how to think cross-culturally. Thus, when it comes to thinking, then the non-native English learner has the advantage. But he will lose this cognitive advantage if he adopts the approach advocated by Matsuda et al.

‘Correct’ language is generally evaluated using technical thought. Rules of grammar are carefully defined and any speech that lies outside of these boundaries is rejected as incorrect.1 When language is guided by a TMN, then a different correction mechanism is engaged. Instead of staying within a certain set of technically defined boundaries, the goal is to become more like a prototype defined by Teacher generality. This distinction between the walls of technical thought and the central goal provided by a Teacher theory is illustrated by a comparison between the manufacturing of Ford and Mazda . Both companies were constructing precisely the same gearboxes, but those made by Mazda were far more reliable than those made by Ford. That is because Ford was making components whose sizes fell within the boundaries of some given tolerance, while Mazda was constructing components that were as close as possible to the ideal. Thus, the Mazda components were easier to assemble and they functioned together more smoothly.

Applying this to World English, if no single country is able to define the walls of ‘correct’ English, then cognitive mechanisms suggest that English does not have to devolve into different dialects if it is mentally connected with the TMN of the ideal international society. There will then be an organic drive for various Englishes to maintain inter-comprehensibility and become more like the ideal English. This ideal English will probably still be close to the English spoken by inner circle countries, but it will no longer be mentally equated with the English of inner circle countries. A similar situation exists in electronics manufacturing. Standards do exist and there are standard setting organizations. However, most of the adherence to standards is driven by a desire to ensure that device A will interface properly with device B.

Note that we are not looking here at the situation in which Facilitator thought is being used to average between English of various cultures, for that is an example of multi-culturalism. Instead, what is being described here is more a community of practice guided by a Teacher driven desire to increase the mutual intelligibility and elegance of global English.


1 The structure of a language can only be partially described using technical thought. However, when the beginning student is taught how to speak ‘correctly’, then he is being judged by a set of clearly-defined grammatical rules that make it clear what is correct and what is incorrect.