MOOC Assignments

General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior was developed and presented on the Canvas Network by Steve Stockdale, Mary Lahman, and Greg Thompson. It is reproduced here under terms of the Creative Commons Share Alike License as published on Canvas Network from 13 January – 24 February 2014.

GS on Canvas Network

This page summarizes all of the weekly assignments, quizzes and other activities from the course.

Module 1 (back to Module 1)

Module 1 AssignmentRaising a Wall Together

Now that you’ve been introduced to general semantics, participate in this Discussion topic. Provide a short answer (no more than 2 sentences) to these questions.

  1. What is the most surprising or unexpected thing you learned this week?
  2. What is the most significant or meaningful thing you will take away from this week’s material?
  3. What material or information are you skeptical about or just don’t accept as valid?
  4. After you post this reply, read the responses from your classmates and reply to at least two of them – one that you like or agree with, and another that you disagree with. Each comment should be limited to one complete sentence.

Module 1 Quiz

1. Which of the following statements is most relevant to General Semantics?

  1. The territory is always a figment of the map maker’s imagination.
  2. A map is not required to be structurally similar to the territory.
  3. A map cannot depict all of the territory.
  4. A map can be an exact replica of the territory.

2. Korzybski was inspired by his experiences in which war?

  1. Spanish Civil War
  2. Spanish American War
  3. World War II
  4. World War I

3. Which statement best reflects the notion of abstracting as Korzybski used the term?

  1. What we see is not all of what’s there to be seen.
  2. Our thoughts, words, and deeds are always different from what we intend.
  3. Everything is abstract, nothing is concrete.
  4. The world is an illusion; nothing is real, everything is imagined.

4. Which statement supports the contention that there is a difference between the “out there” world and our “in here” experience of that world?

  1. All of these statements support the contention.
  2. “The spooky truth is that your brain constructs reality, visual and otherwise.”
  3. “Your perception of the world is … really a fabrication of your model of the world.”
  4. “The eye is not a camera.”
  5. There is not a “one-to-one relationship between the outside world and my inner mental experiences.”

5. Which statement comes closest to expressing the gist of Korzybski’s theory of time-binding?

  1. Unbounded by time constraints, animals will eventually become symbol manipulators.
  2. Time is a man-made construct, but we have become bound by it.
  3. Because of our symbol manipulating capabilities, humans can build on the knowledge of previous generations.
  4. Time heals all wounds, so eventually time will address all human problems and conflicts.

6. Which of the following statements is most correct regarding the scientific method?

  1. Even if your test results support your hypothesis, that doesn’t mean the hypothesis is true or proved.
  2. If your test results support the hypothesis, by definition the hypothesis is true and becomes a fact.
  3. Even if your test results don’t support your hypothesis, you might still be able to design a better test that would support what you’re trying to prove.
  4. The most important aspect of an experiment is to believe strongly in your hypothesis.

7. The significance of recognizing that we live in a “process-oriented universe” is best stated by which of the following statements?

  1. Everything is changing all the time, even if we cannot see the changes, therefore we should hold our evaluations tentatively.
  2. The universe is predictable once humans use time-binding to discover all of the true processes that underlie the physical and metaphysical worlds we live in.
  3. Everything is changing all the time, even if we cannot see the changes, therefore we should cling tightly to our beliefs and never doubt our certainty.
  4. Everything we experience happens according to a pre-defined process, therefore there is no such thing as “free will.”

8. If you and I observe the same stimulus at the same time, what might account for any differences we report in our descriptions of the stimulus?

  1. We’re observing from different perspectives.
  2. We may have different sensory capabilities or acuities.
  3. Our prior experiences may lead to different observations and evaluations.
  4. All of these statements are correct.

9. The extensional device of indexing uses ______________ to remind us that _______________.

  1. subscripts or index numbers; individuals within a group, class, or label are each unique
  2. quote marks; we should be careful not to judge others prematurely
  3. quote marks; we should recognize that every label lies a little
  4. subscripts or index numbers; individuals within a group, class, or label are the same and indistinguishable from each other.

10. The extensional device of dating uses ______________ to remind us that _______________.

  1. etc.; it’s okay to change our minds over time
  2. dating: regardless of when their life experiences happen, time-binders will maintain unchanging beliefs and evaluations
  3. dates; we should strive to not change
  4. dates; the same person or thing will change over time

11. The extensional device of etc. uses ______________ to remind us that _______________.

  1. etc.; there is always more that could be said or experienced.
  2. subscripts; there are always other members of the group of category to consider.
  3. quote marks; we should be careful about ending a statement prematurely.
  4. dates; it’s okay to change your mind at a later time.

12. Why might you want to avoid using absolutisms?

  1. By definition, absolutisms are absolutely true in all cases so they should NOT be avoided.
  2. If you want your language to reflect the tentativeness and uncertainties that are inevitable aspects of your evaluating processes.
  3. We should always avoid using words that end in “ism”.
  4. Because the fewer words said, the better.

13. _____________ serves as the primary tool that enables _______________.

  1. E-prime; humans to avoid absolutisms
  2. Time-binding; humans to continually re-invent the wheel
  3. Language; time-binding
  4. Chemistry-binding; humans to move through space

14. Ricardo was supposed to pick up Suri at 8:00pm for dinner. By 8:20pm, the normally punctual Ricardo had still not arrived. Rather than become overly worried, angry, or upset with Ricardo’s tardiness, Suri patiently waits. From a GS-perspective, Suri’s evaluative response can be best attributed to her:

  1. consciousness of abstracting and limiting her inferences.
  2. passive personality and not wanting to let Ricardo know she was worried.
  3. date-timing her reaction and inferring that it’s not unusual for dates to be late.
  4. ambivalence about Ricardo because she didn’t care much for artists.

15. Recognizing that we each individually evaluate events from our own unique perspectives and according to our own personal histories and sensory abilities, can be referred to as:

  1. to-me-ness
  2. emotional intelligence
  3. individual truthiness
  4. theory of intensional relativity

16. We should avoid making assumptions, inferences, or judgments, because we all know what happens when you ASSUME anything.

  1. True
  2. False

17. “You’re either with us or against us” is an example of a multi-valued orientation.

  1. True
  2. False

18. Alfred Korzybski was a communist because he fought for Russia in World War I.

  1. True
  2. False

19. A primary objective of GS is that you should strive for absolute precision in your language behavior and always use the right word according to the most recent dictionary.

  1. True
  2. False

20. The best way to practice the principles of General Semantics is to concentrate on spotting errors in other people’s evaluations and language behavior.

  1. True
  2. False

Module 1 Completion Checklist

  1. Did you complete the Point of View Survey? (20 points)
  2. Did you complete all the assigned readings?
  3. Did you view all of the videos?
  4. Did you take a look at any of the Optional Activities?
  5. Did you contribute to your Personal Journal and the Ongoing Course Discussion?
  6. Did you contribute to the Abstracting-Evaluating Discussion assignment? (30 points)
  7. Did you contribute to the Module Discussion assignment? (50 points)
  8. Did you successfully complete the Module Quiz? (50 points)

Module 2 (back to Module 2)

Module 2 Quiz

How Things Work
How Things Work

This quiz includes four True/False questions, two multiple choice, and four matching questions. Each answer is worth 5 points. Select the best response to each question.

There is no time limitation. You may take the quiz three times to improve your score, but note that the score for your latest attempt will be recorded.

1. The antidote for allness is to avoid abstraction. (True/False)

2. Allness is acting as if what we say includes all that is important about the subject. (True/False)

3. Allness occurs because we forget the General Semantics premise that “maps refer to the parts of the territory becoming reflexive to other parts at different levels of abstraction.” (True/False)

4. Allness is defined as the attitude of those who are unaware that they are abstracting and thus assume that what they say or know is absolute, definitive, complete, and certain. (True/False)

5. When adamantly disagreeing with her mother, Jill remembers her General Semantics training for each of the three stages of listening process. Which of the following is NOT one of the three stages?

  1. Receiving: postpone evaluation of the message
  2. Constructing meaning: set aside bias and prejudice
  3. Responding: clarify meaning by asking questions
  4. Evaluating: to argue for personal values

6. Which corrective to allness is defined as “remaining open”?

  1. ask if I have an “all-wall”
  2. develop a genuine humility
  3. get more data
  4. add etc.

7. Match the contributing factors for allness with the accurate definitions.

  • A) I unconsciously assume that my experience with one or a few members holds for all.
  • B) I have limited details due to my nervous system.
  • C) I assume that my way is the correct way.
  • D) I assume that what I know is what you know.

a. abstracting different details

b. closed to the new or different

c. evaluating a group

d. unawareness of abstraction

Module 2 Completion Checklist

  1. Did you complete the reading about Allness?
  2. Did you complete the Reflection and Action activity at the bottom of the reading about Allness?
  3. Did you contribute to the Module 2 Discussion? (50 points)
  4. Did you contribute to one of the six case character discussions: Sue, Professor Smith, Officer Jones, Shane, Amber, or Agatha? (50 points)
  5. Did you view and reflect on the Irving J. Lee videos on allness?
  6. Did you successfully complete the Module 2 Quiz? (50 points)

Module 3 (back to Module 3)

Bypassing DiscussionSame Boat

Now that you’ve had some experience studying the contributing factors and correctives for the GS behavior known as bypassing, please share your learning experiences with others in the course by discussing these two questions by replying to this topic.

  1. Explain how you taught bypassing to a friend or relative.
  2. What did you learn about bypassing from this experience?

Remember, you won’t be able to see others’ responses until you’ve posted yours.

After reviewing others’ responses, provide at least one insightful response to a classmate’s post by building on his/her ideas and encouraging further exploration. Avoid simple statements of agreement or disagreement, support or criticsim.

Module 3 Review Quiz (50 points)Seeds of Knowledge

1. (5 pts) There are times when doublespeak can be ethically defensible.

  • True
  • False

2. (5 pts) The word is not the object it represents.

  • True
  • False

3. (5 pts) Cultural context, according to Hofstede, involves just 2 dimensions: power difference and tolerance of ambiguity.

  • True
  • False

4. (5 pts) When we say “words have mono-usage,” we are operating on the assumption that a word has only one meaning.

  • True
  • False

5. (5 pts) Bypassing resonates with which General Semantics premise?

  • The map is not the territory and there is no “not” territory.
  • Maps refer to parts of the territory becoming reflexive to other parts at different
  • levels of abstraction.
  • A map covers not all the territory, so any map is only part of the territory.
  • None of the above.

6. (5 pts) When you are trying to discover what a word means to another person, which of the suggestions below is NOT a corrective for bypassing?

  • Query and paraphrase
  • Be person-minded, not word-minded
  • Finding definitions in the dictionary
  • Be sensitive to contexts

7. (20 pts) Match the following terms to their descriptions.

a. euphemism
b. jargon
c. inflated language
d. gobbledygook

  • Inoffensive or positive word/phrase used to avoid harsh, unpleasant, or distateful reality
  • A matter of piling on words or overwhelming the audience with words.
  • Specialized language of a trade, profession, or similar group.
  • Designed to make ordinary seem extraordinary.

Module 3 Completion Checklist

  1. Did you complete the reading about Bypassing?
  2. Did you view the Twilight Zone: Word Play video episode?
  3. Did you contribute to one of the six case character discussions: Coach, Kendra, Trey, Calvin, Eliza, or Todd?
  4. Did you submit your case analysis assignment?
  5. Did you complete the Bypassing Review Discussion assignment?
  6. Did you view and reflect on the William Lutz and Irving J. Lee videos, then contribute your thoughts to the Ongoing Course Discussion?
  7. Did you successfully complete the Module 3 Quiz?

Module 4 (back to Module 4)

Module 4: Discuss Personal Examples

Indicate whether you are mono-lingual (English-only, in this case), bi-lingual, or multi-lingual, and tell us which languages you speak. Then provide an example from your own life where language proved particularly consequential.

For bi- and multi-lingual speakers

This could be an instance where there was a problem with translation from one language to another. Or, it could be a general experience that you have of feeling like you are one kind of person when speaking one language and an altogether different type of person when speaking another language. Or, it could be a difference that you experience in your ability to think about particular topics in one of the languages that you speak (assuming that this isn’t just a matter of insufficient vocabulary).

For mono-linguals

Describe some domain in which you had to learn a new set of terms (e.g. a job specific language or perhaps a mathematical language). How did learning that new set of terms affected how you understood the behavior that you were engaged in?

Module 4 AssignmentLanguage

Pick a controversial issue that you have heard practiced in another culture and do some web research in order to better understand the cultural frame of reference within which that practice is understood. By “controversial,” we mean an issue that is considered normal when seen from another culture’s frame of reference but which may not be seen as normal or acceptable from your own or someone else’s cultural frame of reference. Pay particular attention to the way language and labels encourage you to see the issue in a particular cultural frame of reference.

Here is a short list of some possible controversies:

  • eating dogs in some countries
  • Muslims chopping off hands of thiefs
  • Americans with guns
  • Americans with the death penalty
  • female genital mutilation
  • honor killings
  • arranged marriages
  • death penalty for gays

Assignment: Write a short essay (250 words or less) describing what you learned from your research. You can type in the box below, or copy/paste from another application. If you found a particularly helpful online resource, include the link.

Module 4 Completion Checklist

  1. Did you complete the readings about Linguistic Relativity: Language, Thought, and Behavior; What We Do With Language – What It Does With Us; Relativity; and Implications of Linguistic Relativity
  2. Did you view the Lera Boroditsky video presentation?
  3. Did you post your reactions to the Boroditsky presentation? (50 points)
  4. Did you contribute to the Personal Example discussion? (50 points)
  5. Did you submit your Module Assignment? (50 points)

Module 5 (back to Module 5)

Module 5 Discussion

What topic or illustration most resonated with you in this module regarding Who Rules Your Symbols? Discuss your evaluations, reactions, responses, etc.

Module 5 AssignmentBehavior

In this module, we attempted to describe a “tension” that exists between individual evaluators (symbol users) and those who would seek to manipulate, control, or influence (the symbol rulers).

Submit a short essay of approximately 250 words with your evaluation of this “tension.” Do you agree with the premise that this is a concern to be concerned with? If so, provide examples in which someone attempted to rule your symbols. If you don’t agree that this “tension” exists or represents a serious concern, explain why you feel it isn’t.

To submit the assignment, look to the Submit Assignment link to the upper right. You can type your answer into the edit window or copy/paste from another program. You may also submit a media comment or attach a link.

Optional Activities for Module 5

Audio Resources

The National Public Radio (NPR) program, On the Media, provides a weekly update on stories related to journalism, advertising, and general interest topics pertinent to all forms of media, including the Internet. These recent segments relate to the Module 5 content.

Another NPR program, The Diane Rehm Show, has also produced several programs recently related to journalism, advertising, and the brain.


  • New York Times on the Washington Redskins name controversy
  • New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, “Still Mad as Hell

Module Completion Checklist

  1. Did you review the Point of View Survey results, compare them to your own survey, and participate in the Discussion? (50 points)
  2. Did you read the explanations about Orientations and Environments and Evaluations, Meanings, and Values?
  3. Did you evaluate your evaluating by reading about Brain Based Evaluating and Your Inner Interpreter?
  4. Did you evaluate your would-be symbol rulers by viewing The Persuaders, Persuade Shoes, and reading about Response Side Semantics?
  5. Did you contribute to the Module Discussion? (50 points)
  6. Did you submit the Module Assignment? (50 points)

Module 6 (back to Module 6)

Personal Time-binding Discussion

As an exercise in personal time-binding, review the Discussions from each of the previous five course modules. As you review the posts, note comments from your classmates that you’ve found personally meaningful and valuable.

Select three (3) posts that you personally found most meaningful and valuable. Then to earn 100 points:

  1. Contact the author of each post you select, via the Canvas Inbox internal email and express your appreciation to the author.
  2. Then share a summary of the 3 comments you selected using the “Reply” block below.

Unknown Author Issue

Unfortunately, about 55 of your classmates – including some of our most active participants – have been afflicted with a Canvas Network bug which, for reasons not yet understood or corrected, cause their names in the Discussions to be shown as Unknown Author.

If you select one of the posts by Unknown Author as one of your most meaningful and you cannot determine the author’s name, please Inbox (Canvas internal email) me with three pieces of information:

  • which module and discussion (please use the titles listed above)
  • date of the post
  • the first few words of the post

It’s not a big deal for me as an Instructor to associate the Unknown Author’s post with an actual name. Then I will send you the name and you can express your appreciation directly to the Known Author. 🙂

Module 6 AssignmentRaising a Wall Together

The title of this course is General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior.

In the Concerning Expectations video you viewed in Week 1, we asked you to consider what the course title might mean. We asked:

  • What other “approaches” to “language behavior” (effective or otherwise) are you familiar with?
  • How familiar to you is the phrase “language behavior”? Are you more familiar with “language” and “behavior” used separately? Do they even belong together?
  • And what about “effective”? What do you think that means?

Final Assignment – 100 points

In no more than 250 words, provide your evaluative response to this question:

After experiencing this introduction to General Semantics, what will you take away from the course that might contribute to the effectiveness of your own language behavior?

To submit the assignment: Click on the Submit Assignment link in the upper right of this page. You can then type your essay in the editing box, or copy/paste from another application.

Module 6 Completion Checklist

  1. Did you review the Extensional Orientation material?
  2. Did you read Heinlein and Ellis: Converging Competencies?
  3. Did you read Aldous Huxley’s On Language and the Individual?
  4. Did you read Suspended in Stereotypes?
  5. Did you read the Conclusion of Awareness and Action?
  6. Did you read After You’ve Studied General Semantics?
  7. Did you review the Map of Korzybski’s General Semantics and the list of available resources?
  8. Did you acknowledge three fellow students for their discussion posts, and did you contribute to the Personal Time-binding Discussion? (100 points)
  9. Did you submit the Module Assignment? (100 points)