The Base in Communications Theory

Our approach is based on that part of communications theory which Russell has called the Theory of Logical Types.72 The central thesis of this theory is that there is a discontinuity between a class and its members. The class cannot be a member of itself nor can one of the members be the class, since the term used for the class is of a different level of abstraction — a different Logical Type—from terms used for members. Although in formal logic there is an at-tempt to maintain this discontinuity between a

* This paper by Gregory Bateson, Don D. Jackson, Jay Haley, and. John H. Weakland is here reproduced from Behavioral Science, Vol. I, No. 4, 1956, by permission of Behavioral Science

71 This paper derives from hypotheses first developed in a research project financed by the Rockfeller Foundation from 1952-54, administered by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Stanford University and directed by Gregory Bateson. Since 1954 the project has financed by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation. To Jay Haley is due credit for recognizing that the symptoms of schizophrenia are suggestive of an inability to discriminate the Logical Types, and this was amplified by Bateson, who added the notion that the symptoms and etiology could be formally described in terms of a double bind hypothesis. The hypothesis was communicated to D. D. Jackson and found to fit closely with his ideas of family homeostasis. Since then Dr. Jackson has worked closely with the project. The study of the formal analogies between hypnosis and schizophrenia has been the work of John H. Weakland and Jay Haley.

72 A. N. Whitehead and B. Russell, Principia Mathematica, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1910.

class and its members, we argue that in the psychology of real communications this discontinuity is continually and inevitably breached,73 and that a priori we must expect a pathology to occur in the human organism when certain formal pat-terns of the breaching occur in the communication between mother and child. We shall argue that this pathology at its extreme will have symptoms whose formal characteristics would lead the pathology to be classified as a schizophrenia.

Illustrations of how human beings handle communication involving multiple Logical Types can be derived from the following fields:

1. The use of various communicational modes in human communication. Examples are play, non-play, fantasy, sacrament, metaphor, etc. Even among the lower mammals there appears to be an exchange of signals which identify certain meaningful behavior as "play," etc.74 These signals are evidently of higher Logical Type than the messages they classify. Among human beings this framing and labeling of messages and meaningful actions reaches considerable complexity, with the peculiarity that our vocabulary for such discrimination is still very poorly developed, and we rely preponderantly upon nonverbal media of posture, gesture, facial expression, intonation, and the context for the communication of these highly abstract, but vitally important, labels.

2. Humor. This seems to be a method of exploring the implicit themes in thought or in a relationship. The method of exploration involves the use of messages which are characterized by a condensation of Logical Types or communicational modes. A discovery, for example, occurs when it suddenly becomes plain that a message was not only metaphoric but also more literal, or vice versa. That is to say, the explosive moment in humor is the moment when the labeling of the mode undergoes a dissolution and re-synthesis. Commonly, the punch line compels a re-evaluation of earlier signals which ascribed to certain messages a particular mode (e.g., literalness or fantasy). This has the peculiar effect of attributing mode to those signals which had previously the status of that higher Logical Type which classifies the modes.

3. The falsification of mode-identifying signals. Among human beings mode identifiers can be falsified, and we have the artificial laugh, the manipulative simulation of friendliness, the confidence trick, kidding, and the like. Similar falsifications have been recorded among mammals. 75 Among human beings we meet with a strange phenomenon—the unconscious falsification of these signals. This may occur within the self—the subject may conceal from himself his own real hostility under the guise of metaphoric play—or it may occur as an unconscious falsification of the subject's understanding of the other person's mode-identifying signals. He may mistake shyness for contempt, etc. Indeed most of the errors of self-reference fall under this head.

4. Learning. The simplest level of this phenomenon is exemplified by a situation in which a subject receives a message and acts appropriately on it: "I heard the clock strike and knew it was time for lunch. So I went to the table." In learning experiments the analogue of this sequence of events is observed by the experimenter and commonly treated as a single message of a higher type. When the dog salivates

73 G. Bateson, "A Theory of Play and Fantasy," Psychiatric Research Reports, 1955, 2: 39-51.

74 A film prepared by this project, "The Nature of Play; Part I, River Otters," is available.

75 C. R. Carpenter, "A Field Study of the Behavior and Social Relations of Howling Monkeys," Comp. Psychoi. Monogr., 1934, 10: 1-168; also K. Z. Lorenz, King Solomon's Ring, New York, Crowell, 1952.

between buzzer and meat powder, this sequence is accepted by the experimenter as a message indicating that "The dog has learned that buzzer means meat powder." But this is not the end of the hierarchy of types involved. The experimental subject may become more skilled in learning. He may learn to learn,76 and it is not inconceivable that still higher orders of learning may occur in human beings.

5. Multiple levels of learning and the Logical Typing of signals. These are two inseparable sets of phenomena—inseparable because the ability to handle the multiple types of signals is itself a learned skill and therefore a function of the multiple levels of learning.

According to our hypothesis, the term "ego function" (as this term is used when a schizophrenic is described as having "weak ego function") is precisely the process of discriminating communicational modes either within the self or between the self and others. The schizophrenic exhibits weakness in three areas of such function: (a) He has difficulty in assigning the correct communicational mode to the messages he receives from other persons. (b) He has difficulty in assigning the correct communicational mode to those messages which he himself utters or emits nonverbally. (c) He has difficulty in assigning the correct communicational mode to his own thoughts, sensations, and percepts.

At this point it is appropriate to compare what was said in the previous paragraph with von Domarus'7 approach to the systematic description of schizophrenic utterance. He suggests that the messages (and thought) of the schizophrenic are deviant in syllogistic structure. In place of structures which derive from the syllogism, Barbara, the schizophrenic, according to this theory, uses structures which identify predicates. An example of such a distorted syllogism is:

Men die.

Grass dies.

Men are grass.

But as we see it, von Domarus77 formulation is only a more precise—and therefore valuable—way of saying that schizophrenic utterance is rich in metaphor. With that generalization we agree. But metaphor is an indispensable tool of thought and expression—a characteristic of all human communication, even of that of the scientist. The conceptual models of cybernetics and the energy theories of psychoanalysis are, after all, only labeled metaphors. The peculiarity of the schizophrenic is not that he uses metaphors, but that he uses unlabeled metaphors. He has special difficulty in handling signals of that class whose members assign Logical Types to other signals.

If our formal summary of the symptomatology is correct and if the schizophrenia of our hypothesis is essentially a result of family interaction, it should be possible to arrive a priori at a formal description of these sequences of experience which would induce such a symptomatology. What is known of learning theory combines with the evident fact that human beings use context as a guide for mode discrimination. Therefore, we must look not for some specific traumatic experience in the infantile

76 G. Bateson, "Social Planning and the Concept of Deutero-Learning," Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion, Second Symposium, New York, Harper, 1942. (See above, p. 159) ; also H. F. Harlow, "The Formation of Learning Sets," Psychoi. Review, 1949, 56: 51-65; also C. L. Hull, et ai., Mathematico-deductive Theory of Rote Learning, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1940.

77 E. von Domarus, "The Specific Laws of Logic in Schizophrenia," Language and Thought in Schizophrenia, J. S. Kasanin, ed., Berkeley, University of California Press, 1944.

etiology but rather for characteristic sequential patterns. The specificity for which we search is to be at an abstract or formal level. The sequences must have this characteristic: that from them the patient will acquire the mental habits which are exemplified in schizophrenic communication. That is to say, he must live in a universe where the sequences of events are such that his unconventional communicational habits will be in some sense appropriate. The hypothesis which we offer is that sequences of this kind in the external experience of the patient are responsible for the inner conflicts of Logical Typing. For such unresolvable sequences of experiences, we use the term "double bind."

4.4.2 The Double Bind

The necessary ingredients for a double bind situation, as we see it, are:

1. Two or more persons. Of these, we designate one, for purposes of our definition, as the "victim.". We do not assume that the double bind is inflicted by the mother alone, but that it may be done either by mother alone or by some combination of mother, father, and/or siblings.

2. Repeated experience. We assume that the double bind is a recurrent theme in the experience of the victim. Our hypothesis does not invoke a single traumatic experience, but such repeated experience that the double bind structure comes to be an habitual expectation.

3. A primary negative injunction. This may have either of two forms: (a) "Do not do so and so, or I will punish you," or (b) "If you do not do so and so, I will punish you." Here we select a context of learning based on avoidance of punishment rather than a context of reward seeking. There is perhaps no formal reason for this selection. We assume that the punishment may be either the withdrawal of love or the expression of hate or anger—or most devastating—the kind of abandonment that results from the parent's expression of extreme helplessness. 78

4. A secondary injunction conflicting with the first at amore abstract level, and like the first enforced by punishments or signals which threaten survival. This secondary injunction is more difficult to describe than the primary for two reasons. First, the secondary injunction is commonly communicated to the child by nonverbal means. Posture, gesture, tone of voice, meaningful action, and the implications concealed in verbal comment may all be used to convey this more abstract message. Second, the secondary injunction may impinge upon any element of the primary prohibition. Verbalization of the secondary injunction may, there-fore, include a wide variety of forms; for example, "Do not see this as punishment"; "Do not see me as the punishing agent"; "Do not submit to my prohibitions"; "Do not think of what you must not do"; "Do not question my love of which the primary prohibition is (or is not) an example"; and so on. Other examples become possible when the double bind is inflicted not by one individual but by two. For ex-ample, one parent may negate at a more abstract level the injunctions of the other.

5. A tertiary negative injunction prohibiting the victim from escaping from the field. In a formal sense it is perhaps unnecessary to list this injunction as a separate item since

78 Our concept of punishment is being refined at present. It appears to us to involve perceptual experience in a way that cannot be encompassed by the notion of "trauma."

the reinforcement at the other two levels involves a threat to survival, and if the double binds are imposed during infancy, escape is naturally impossible. However, it seems that in some cases the escape from the field is made impossible by certain devices which are not purely negative, e.g., capricious promises of love, and the like.

6. Finally, the complete set of ingredients is no longer necessary when the victim has learned to perceive his universe in double bind patterns. Almost any part of a double bind sequence may then be sufficient to precipitate panic or rage.

The pattern of conflicting injunctions may even be taken over by hallucinatory voices. 79

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