Semantic Shift to Pragmatic Meaning in Shared Decision Making: Situation Theory Perspective

Semantic Shift to Pragmatic Meaning in Shared Decision Making: Situation Theory Perspective

M. Canan A. Sousa-Poza S.F. Kovacic

Engineering Management & System Engineering, Old Dominion University, USA

30 September 2015
| Citation



The way humans establish communication depends on the generation and conveyance of meaning. Linguistically, meaning in information is dependent on the meaning that is ascribed to signifiers in the context of the communication. These signifiers can include items such as words, phrases, signs, and symbols. Conveyance of meaning may, however, imprecise and prone to error.

The meaning of information in communication may arise from a change in the context in which a signifier is placed (intrinsic), or a change in the paradigm with which the signifier and context are perceived (extrinsic). In simple situations, where paradigms are reconcilable, semantic shift is solely intrinsic. In complex situations, where differing paradigms will generally lead to irreconcilable perspectives (paradoxes and dualities); the semantic shift will be both intrinsic and extrinsic. Decisions are based on an individual’s (or individuals’ shared) understanding and understanding is in turn contingent on perspective. Decision making will, therefore, be affected by discrepancies in meaning.

It is critical to understand the nature of the discrepancies where shared awareness is necessary to enable group decisions. The theoretical construct presented recognizes that (1) a semantic shift may be required where multiple perspectives based on different paradigms come into play and (2) a semantic shift may introduce error, inefficiency, noise or redundancy. Therefore, individual limits can be recognized via shared awareness, which can be studied with situation theory.


semantic, pragmatics, situation theory, situational awareness, shared awareness, decision making


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