OF MAPS AND GAPS IN THE MINDS OF MAN
The first issue is information: its storage,
interpretation, use, change, increase and its
absence. This section will primarily deal with the
culture-level aspects of this discussion. Another
section devoted to individual level aspects in a
problem-solving theory framework will follow.
The concept of an information system as introduced above implies information storage. This storage process is fundamental in that it defines the amount of modification possible in the system and the mechanisms involved in such modification. Margalef describes the information forwarded by life as being divided into three channels: the genetic, the ecological and the cultural (1968: 98-99). The genetic channel is based on "replicable individual structures". The ecological channel is based on interaction between (or within) species. The cultural channel "transmits what has been learned by individual activity or experience and is transmitted to future generations outside the genetic channel". The interface between the genetic and cultural channels is of particular interest in characterizing the human information system. Two types of genetically determined responses have been described in ethology. Stereotyped response is a totally determined reaction hard-programmed into the organism. Open response is an environmentally interactive, soft-programmed reaction which can be modified to particular circumstances rather than simply triggered by them. It provides the basis of learning and, ultimately, culture. However, what these responses amount to in practice are information-carrying impulses of varying strength and plasticity what are expressed in various ways including emotionally in environmental responses. The environmental channel is defined as all experienced non-cognitive information. This information may or may not exist in association with a cognitive interpretation. The capacity to learn, to interpret emotion through cognition, makes the interpretation of the emotional channel problematical. Having these two channels (i.e., emotion and cognition), while increasing the amount of information coming into the individual, allows errors in labeling because the interpretation may be incomplete or wrong.
An example of this sort of error is often encountered in cases of mononucleosis. Many times the disease goes undetected because the individual mislabels and explains the disease in other ways. Experimental examples of this phenomenon will be given in the section to follow. However, the potential confoundability of emotion and cognition points to another characteristic of the relationship between the two. Experience stored for use in interpreting the present situation and the reaction one makes to it comprises a set of potentially reflexive responses. As B.F. Skinner (1953) demonstrates, to a large extent we all control our responses--our emotional and cognitive contexts--by modifying our situation. Thus, we use behavior to control the future situation. For example, if one wishes to stop smoking, one might remove all smoking materials from the house so that they will not be around to trigger the desire.
Cognition can cope with predicted variation in emotion by controlling a part of the situational input through behavior. The behavioral origin and application of this information defines the relationship of this information to the reality it maps. However, there is no reason to suppose (considering subsystem limitations) that every reaction potential to human experience is mapped and indexed with an effective response. It is useful to consider the frequency of experiencing and mapping as complementary. The more times one faces a situation, the more chances one has to figure out what it means, how to respond and what the consequences of the response will be. Which is to say that an information system will be most developed where it is most used and that it is most used where it is most developed.
This relationship is tied to the connection between behavior and information and their functional interdependence in the system. Information both informs and is informed by behavior such that, in a sense, behavior is information. Behavior tests the reliability of and provides the basis for the modification of information.
However, this identification points out a significant potential for confusion in the operation of such a system. The stochastic predictions encoded in the cognitive channel impose artificial boundaries on both the individual and the group using the information system. In essence, the greater the control afforded by the information, the greater the potential for not appreciating its limitations (confusing the map with the territory). Such a phenomenon might be seen as operating in the individual in the concept of self or identity. The self can be seen as a relationship of predictive control operating on some subset of experience. As long as the boundaries of such a reflexive subsystem are not exceeded, as long as it remains within the thickly mapped region of experience, the information can support a concept of subsystemic control in that the knowledge of behavioral options and consequences implies control of behavioral exigencies through control of the situation (cf. Skinner's (1953) discussion of "self control" cited above which gives many other examples of this as well).
The same appreciation can be made concerning the operation of an information system within a group. The non-identity relationship between information and reality feeds back into the system in the form of unpredicted perturbations defining unpredicted situations with unknown implications. Some perturbations are less severe than others allowing them to be ignored at least temporarily and thus not affecting boundaries. Others of a more extreme nature seemingly demand attention. One example of this type of boundary penetration can be seen in the Azwan High Dam wherein a technological "miracle" turns out to be an ecological disaster. A connected but broader example of the penetration of perturbation into the information system itself is perhaps reflected in the dramatic rise in ecological concern in contemporary political and economic thought. However, a more instructive case highlighting some of the issues and implications of such perturbations can be seen in what A.D. White calls "the warfare of science with theology in Christendom".
Medieval theology constituted a notably intransigent information system. However, the self-consciousness of the church apologists makes the reaction of this system to perturbation: the procrustean efforts to make the map fit the territory, much more illuminating than a simple case of conservatism. It also highlights the observation that one does not necessarily respond to perturbation. The theologians consciously appreciated the importance of fundamental, axiomatic assumptions in defining and delimiting the cognitive, emotional and behavioral superstructure they underpin. An axiom delimits the territory of its application. To understand the reaction of the theologians, it is necessary to appreciate, as they did, that by assigning organizational characteristics to reality, one imputes a tone defining the way things work, one with one another. It was argued against Newton that he "took from God that direct action on his works so constantly ascribed to him in Scripture and transferred it to material mechanism" (White 1960, I: 16). Pope Pious IX commented on Darwin's work in declaring that:
were quick to see that the basic assumptions of
'science' not only contradicted the basic
assumptions of Christian theology but implied an
incompatible system of rules for interpreting
experience that would effectively undermine
Christianity by making the reality of Christianity
look like the emperor's new clothes.1
In the individual, such disarticulation reflects the presence of a situationally activated by unmapped area of experience. This experience might be expressed as an unmapped source of concern or unintended behavioral impulse which the disarticulation caused, or perhaps better put, is in the first place. The individual has little choice about attempting to solve the problem because in an experiential sense, he is the problem. However, from the group perspective, it makes little sense to consider a gap in the information system simply as an individual concern. Given that each individual in a group acts on more or less the same information as drawn from a common information pool, one expects to find that common gaps and perturbations generate common vagaries and miseries, common stereotyped expressions, and common techniques or strategies for attempting to solve these common problems. Schizophrenia will considered as one such response and the characteristics distinguishing this response from others will be discussed.
Like all behavior, schizophrenia is a response to and an attempt to deal with a situation. Schizophrenia is behavior. It is also information. However, if normal behavior is what happens when one responds to mapped experience in the experiential universe, schizophrenia is what may happen when one responds to the prolonged experience of some type of unmapped perturbation. In essence, schizophrenia can be considered a problem-solving mechanism applied to a prolonged and "unusual" problem in experience.
This approach is attractive in that it can explain a number of the faces of schizophrenia which often cause problems in its theoretical treatment as noted above (cf. Bateson and Lidz). First, the schizophrenic syndrome, as an isomorphic response, can theoretically be generated by anything which defines the conditions requisite to trigger the response (drugs, diseases, double binds, etc.). Second, in intragroup expression, one encounters a tremendous amount of minute stereotypy as the same limited information is applied to the same gaps (e.g., the particular words encountered in auditory illusions are predictable). Third, one finds a great deal of intergroup variation as a result of different groups having different maps and different gaps.2 Fourth, one finds intragroup variation over time as problems are solved and new perturbations expose new gaps. Silvano Arieti remarks that:
An extreme incidence of intragroup variation over time is apparent in cases of culture contact and adoption. Tooth observes that:
In a rather metaphoric vein, man's existence is a massive collective problem-solving enterprise, a wave surmounting the obstacles that stand before it until the energy and the information available mount and fall short and man finds his boundary in time. The "minds of Man" are those units which perceive these problems in a particular frame. As we have seen in the example of Christendom, the frames too come and go with their applied utility, their ability to solve the problems that arise.
Schizophrenia fits into this scenario in that not only is the map associated with specific problems that become apparent, that are meaningful in the contemporary milieu, but also, in large measure, with the paths and pitfalls that come out of attempts to solve these problems. Another area wherein this is expressed is in the fits and fashions of art and music: Right now, as you stumble about on the Web seeking solice, instruction, escape and diversion, finding the various curiosities that have arisen here, you are participating in an awesome, albeit neonatal, influence on our collective perception of what is and what it all means, on our understanding of who, what and where we all really are.
1. The depiction given by the church was found to err on many points. Though some perturbation would probably have been tolerable in the information system, unfortunately for the church, the deficiencies which came to light were both important and, in time, obvious. However, the hydra-like foe of Capella, de Cusa, Bruno, Copernicus, Galileo et al. leads to another observation. Discounting variable access, nearly the same information is available to all members drawing on an information system [cf. L.A. White's simultaneous invention material (1949: 170)]. The lengthy expression of such perturbations both obliges and enables the information system to find out what they are about in order to deal with the disarticulation they manifest. Seemingly, the many individuals who expressed heterodox views reflect a general, system-wide condition.
2. Opler's (1967) comparison of manifest symptomatology in Irish and Italian schizophrenics shows significant differences between groups within European culture. Referring to this finding, Opler argues that:
J.C. Carothers comments concerning African psychopathology that, while some patients show patterns of reaction, "similar to those included in neurotic categories in Europe, the diagnostic criteria applicable in Europe cannot be stretched to include many other patients" (Opler 1967: 115) who exhibit specifically African disorders. Opler reports that: