Emergence of Meanings Through Ambivalence

Emily Abbey, Jaan Valsiner


Ambivalence has been a key notion that is used in most basic areas of psychology—research on perception, thinking, personality, and communication. However, its implications for processes of meaning-making have been largely overlooked. All meanings are created in the present (integrating elements of past experience) in relation to a future that can never be entirely determined at the present. We outline a developmental model of how meaning emerges through the tensions between the present and the future. Three trajectories can be found in this process. First, lack of ambivalence (the null condition) leads the meaning production to reach a status quo and decline. Secondly, low to moderate ambivalence leads to erratic movement of starting and stopping of the meaning making through the production signs. These signs tentatively control meaning in the present while not constraining the path meaning may take in the future. Thirdly, maximum ambivalence leads to the emergence of "strong" signs that function to constrain the uncertainty of the future as it is becoming present. Empirical data from a microgenetic study of meaning making in the development of young adults will be used to illustrate the model.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0501231


ambivalence; uncertainty; microgenesis; semiotic mediation; ambiguity; pre-control; attractor point; semiotic emergence; projective contextualization

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Copyright (c) 2005 Emily Abbey, Jaan Valsiner

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