Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations

By Joseph D. Novak | Go to book overview
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4
The Construction of New Meanings

THE MEANING OF MEANING

From infancy onward, healthy human experience is a constant search for meaning. The 1- or 2-year-old child begins to recognize that older people use sounds to represent things or events, and soon the powerful hereditary potential begins to be expressed as mama, dada, doggie, and so on. Human beings have the innate capacity to do something no other animal species is capable of doing, albeit there is some debate on this. They can recognize and use language labels (or sign language) to represent regularities in events or objects. It is this incredible ability that distinguishes Homo sapiens from all other species of animals. The marvels of change in living things over the eons of time have somehow led to an animal species that has this unique language capability. Humanness implies this capacity, and it also implies a capacity to discern these regularities with feelings. Humans think, feel, and act. Every experience they have involves thinking, feeling, and acting. This is as self-evident as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West. What is not obvious is why and how humans construct their meanings for events or objects.

The meaning of an event or object depends on what we already know about that kind of event or object. School, work, joy, and fear are labels for regularities in experience, but their meanings may be radically different depending on a person's experience. Meaning, to a person, is always a function of how he or she has experienced the combination of thinking, feeling, and acting throughout life experiences. How humans choose to act depends on how they think and feel about an object or event to which they relate. School, work, joy, and fear involve experiences that can lead to radically different meanings to children growing up in radically different environments. It is evident that the context of experience has an important

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