First-time author Brooks makes the case for the application of scientific principles to everyday speech communication.
Drawing primarily on the work of physicists Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg, the author aims to help readers base their speaking on valid judgments and to communicate in an orderly way. Part I, “Outputs,” begins with summaries of Einstein’s theory of relativity and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and then moves on to consider “the most apparent aspects of communication”: the importance of specificity when speaking; the difference between a layperson’s and a scientist’s generalizations; stereotypes (“an inadequate generalization”); and the “oversimplification” inherent in either–or thinking. Although the author attempts to enliven the discussion of theories, the often unnecessarily complex explanations of his ideas do little to further his readers’ understanding. For example, considering the need for a common frame of reference, he states that “the inertia of the frame of reference by which each side justifies its actions becomes a built-in drive to ignore a relativist view.” Part II, “Inputs,” considers the sometimes-unrecognized assumptions that lie behind talk. One of his more engaging observations contrasts the number of English words to the smaller French lexicon. The difference, Brooks believes, may lead to French children developing “a more authoritarian mindset.” Other topics include euphemisms, as well as the “economy” and “precision” of scientific language. Part III presents an overview of philosophies developed by Aristotle, whose presence here seems a bit of a stretch. The final section, with hard-to-follow comments and graphs, tries to show how statistical ideas “are mathematical analogs for the outputs and inputs of evaluation”—an ambitious, not wholly convincing conclusion to this unusual take on communication.
A mind-expanding discussion, but most readers will find these precepts impracticable.