When we acquire a concept there is an extended family of possible ways of acting on it. We may, for example, use it in recognizing instances or non-instances and treating them accordingly. We may also use it in hypothesizing, imagining, predicting, wondering, instructing, speculating, asking, wishing, demanding, denying, pondering, or asserting. And more. In general, the acquisition of a concept opens up behavioral possibilities. It adds to our behavior potential. For example, the acquisition of the concept of a Person gives us the behavioral possibilities of a person. (Compare: the acquisition of the concept of chess gives us the behavioral possibilities of a chess player.) In Descriptive Psychology the formulation of the Person Concept and of more detailed subject matter is accomplished by means of a number of notational devices. One reason for this strategy is that since concepts have no possible truth value, statements are never involved in an essential way in the conceptual formulations themselves, but at most appear in some accompanying commentaries or illustrations. As a result, the possibilities of straightforward discursive presentation are very limited, and so some alternative is required. Because notational devices of verbal and other sorts are public and communicable, they play an essential part in the public and communicable character of concepts. Because of this essential connection, and also for certain heuristic purposes, the notational devices used in Descriptive Psychology are generally designated as conceptual-notational devices. We also distinguish between particular conceptual-notational devices and the more general types of which they are exemplars. The latter are designated as conceptual-notational device types. Our present concern is with four related device types. These are (1) the definition, (2) the paradigm case formulation, (3) the parametric analysis, and (4) the calculational system. Various exemplars of each of these are found in the literature of Descriptive Psychology. One reason for considering thes~ as a group is that each has some relevance to the problem of introducing a subject matter without any essential reference to any other subject matter or dependence on any other subject matter. A second reason is that these four device types are systematically related to one another. The domain within which these relationships have a place will require further elucidation at a later time. I expect to have more to say about it in "The Behavior of Persons."

Date Created

Spring 1979


Linguistic Research Institute


38 pages; 10.59 x 8.23 inches

Document Type

Technical Report