Interesting psychologist video
Thread poster: Phil Hand

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 23:57
Chinese to English
Jun 2, 2012

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/daniel-kahneman-on-the-trap-of-thinking-that-we-know/
This is Daniel Kahneman talking about science communication. He's making a point about how hard it is to communicate global warming to people who aren't inclined to believe in it, but that's not precisely what's relevant to us. The interesting bit for translators is talk about "priming" (he doesn't use the word, but that's what it's called in linguistics).

When you hear one word, it instantly conjures up a range of connotations which colour how you interpret subsequent parts of the sentence. And crucially, when you make an interpretation based on priming, it is instantly hardened into a conclusion in your mind. There's no doubt; even if the interpretation is absurd, a reader/listener's reaction is to question the source, rather than consider the possibility that she misunderstood.

He gives an anecdote to illustrate: he's talking to his wife about a friend, and she comments that "He's very sexy." OK. But she then goes on to say, "He doesn't undress the maid himself." This is a bit shocking, and Dr. Kahneman begins to wonder what kind of juicy gossip is coming up... but it turns out that his salacious story was entirely a product of his own mind, prompted by associations with the word "sexy"; his wife was actually telling him that this man "doesn't underestimate himself". The point was that this linguistic priming overrode all kinds of logical alerts, the listener's knowledge of the context and the kind of thing that his own wife was likely to say; and his mind left him in absolutely no doubt that he had heard this weird statement.

To me, this shows why we have to be so careful when we translate to set up our "frames" properly. Using proper terminology and writing in a natural target language idiom make it *possible* for readers to understand the texts properly. It doesn't matter how "grammatically correctly" we write, or if we manage to reproduce the argument of the source. If a reader has to pick through it, puzzling over each phrase, then they're not really "reading".

Anyway, just thought I'd share. The lecture is well worth a watch.


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Interesting psychologist video

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