Language conceals reality

How words guide our choices

We normally think of words as a tool for describing the world around us. A helpful shorthand or label for expressing meaning. But words have power. The way we describe things affects how we see them. But worse still, words, by directing attention, can act as off-switches for the mind, limiting a broader understanding of a situation, argues Nick Enfield.


How I see an image is a private matter. But how I label it is an imposition upon others. Think about this when you are next in an art gallery. The plaque next to each exhibit contains words that constrain how you view the exhibit. Inversions and reversals are familiar from the abstract imagery of Gestalt Psychology. We all know the trophy-faces image:  Trophy-faces image

If the above image were labelled “Faces”, this wouldn’t mean that the trophy can’t be s

Continue reading

Enjoy unlimited access to the world's leading thinkers.

Start by exploring our subscription options or joining our mailing list today.

Start Free Trial

Already a subscriber? Log in

Join the conversation