ruminations on the big 5; two-thirds-- and 3!
Tue, 26 Sep 1995 22:43:26 +0000

Jim Mancuso writes:

> I'll support John on that one -- factor analysis is nice stuff -- but
>it never leaves us free from imposing our social constructions on the links

Absolutely: how neatly put!

And Rolf Marvin quotes John Kihlstrom, (I think it was),

>> Why five dimensions? Because that's all the information we can
> > keep in our head at once. Remember the magical number 7, plus or
> > minus 2?
before responding
>I think I can see how this proposition, tho highly speculative, does
>make some sense

Which got me pondering on all the psychonumerological mnemonics we know and

a) The big 5 in multivariate personality analyses because of the way in
which we chunk information, 7 + / - 2? (Weeell, I'd like to see an account
of the mechanisms that make the former a function of the latter!)

b) The (roughly) two-thirds to one-third ratio, i.e. the "Golden Section"
relationship between positively and negatively evaluated constructs. (This
one, established so carefully, precisely and, to my mind, conclusively by
Jack Adams-Webber, fascinates me. I'd love to hear an explanation of the
mechanisms that might bring it about, and have, albeit utterly unable to
justify it, a feeling in my water that an explanation of the mechanism is
more likely to be convincing than any posited for the "magic number 7 +/-
2" phenomenon being linked to the big 5 in personality assessment!)

And, while in this extremely free-wheeling mood (thanks for your patience,
folks!), could I conceivably be the first person to posit

c) The Self-Referential 3-Way Mirror Limit???

Has anyone noticed, taken seriously enough to research, or even published
something on the following limitation in our apperceptions of iterated
self-referential statements: (*)

- I can aprehend the meaning of a sentence like "I think" readily, of course
- I can similarly apprehend the meaning of the sentence "I think (that) you
think" easily enough
- I can manage to apprehend "I think you think I think"
- but one more iteration, "I think you think I think you think" and my
ability to hold the reflected meaning evaporates, and all I'm left with is
the value of the written text as a calculus for (i.e. representation of)
the meaning.

(*) If no-one has, I hereby claim this as _Jankowicz's_ Self-Referential
3-Way Mirror Limit; fame at last!

Something to do with information-processing limitations, no doubt;
something to do with the way in which we encode information, perhaps.

(Okay, now tell me that this is completely idiosyncratic and that
_everyone_ can go to more than 3 iterations, then!

Actually, I'll freely admit that I sometimes have problems with
double-negatives and find that the best way to deal with a really whopping
one is to write it down and cancel the negatives against each other.
Operating with the calculus in order to apprehend the meaning, in other

(And isn't it interesting that the meaning which does survive such a
cancelling process is subtly different from the original meaning present in
the double-negative statement? In English, "I'm not uncertain", without any
particular emphasis on the "not", conveys a rather different meaning to
"I'm certain".)

(Do double-negatives exist and operate similarly in other languages?
Cancelling a double-negative in Polish, for example, tends to convey the
_same_ meaning, if a double-negative were to be used at all, which is

Enough, enough!

Kind regards,

Devi Jankowicz