On the Equilibrium Dynamics of Meaning

Boker, S. M. & Martin, M. (in press) On the Equilibrium Dynamics of Meaning. In Current Issues in the Theory and Application of Latent Variable Models, M. Edwards & R. MacCallum, (Eds). New York: Taylor & Francis.

Meaning is at the heart of what we do in latent variable modeling. A latent construct is a way to aggregate and focus meaning into quantifiable constructs. Structural models, and in particular factor models, are a way to use the considerable power of product moment matrices to focus meaning in such a way that it aggregates across participants (or within participant across time) in the hope that the meaning that the psychologist had in mind is the meaning that emerges in the latent variable indicated by the participants’ responses. But, what is meaning? And how is it attached to words or utterances? Philosophers of language have written about this problem, and so we review some recent arguments in epistemology in order to build the central thesis of this paper: If one takes context into account, intraindividual meanings are likely to have intrinsic dynamics that tend towards stable equilibria. We then discuss the implications from a lifespan psychological perspective for the meaning of an example variable: quality of life. Finally, some we discuss some ideas about what might be necessary in order to specify a factor analysis of sufficiency rather than a factor analysis of aggregation.

The manuscript of this article accepted for publication can be requested as a pdf file from the first author: Steve Boker.

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