Please Rename My Life’s Work

I need to re-name what I plan to study for the next couple decades.  I asked friends on Facebook, and got over a hundred ideas in a few hours.  Thanks so much!  Incredibly helpful!  Here’s more details on what I’m looking for.

Definition: I study our most basic, highly-generalized, adjectival beliefs about the world we live in and how it works.  Examples include: the world is interesting/boring, getting worse/better, good/bad, safe/dangerous, etc.  All such beliefs answers that most basic human question, “What is this place?” on the cosmic scale.  Long term, I want to see if some of these beliefs are helpful, design interventions, and scale change.  For the past year, I’ve called them “universal assessments” (UAs).  This, it turns out, is horrible, and I’m amazed so many people have gotten so interested in the UA concept anyway.

What’s wrong with universal assessment?  There’s trouble with both words.  First, assessments usually means ‘test’ or ‘survey’ in the social sciences.  Second, “universal” can mean ‘everyone,’ like ‘universal healthcare,’ rather than ‘everything.’  Also, “world” is likely a better approximation of the object about which we have these beliefs.  “Belief” is good, but UAs are more visceral and underlying than the term “belief” implies (or “assessments” for that matter).  Across the country, psychologists I respect have confirmed for me that my term should be changed before I’m too committed.

7 Criteria: Ideally the new term should be…

  1. Memorable
  2. Self-explanatory (e.g. I can say “I study ____” and people know what I am talking about)
  3. Works for both social scientists & a popular audience
  4. Builds on related ideas in the literature…but distinctiveness can be useful
  5. Not condescending (like “assumption”)
  6. Not making a claim I can’t yet (like “most-important-belief belief”)
  7. Not words I stutter on!

Today’s Top 7:

  1. world beliefs   –   basic…a fan favorite…safe choice…Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck who invented fixed/growth mindset likes it
  2. world impressions   –   Alicia’s idea…makes it a little more unique…then when I get to a general audience and create a comprehensive assessment tool we could call someone’s UA profile their “iWorld”
  3. cosmic outlooks   –   an idea from positive psychology founder Marty Seligman
  4. worldviews   –   lots of people I respect are rooting for this one like David Yaden, Seligman, Alejandro Adler…but there is a TON of baggage with this term as it refers to religion/moral systems/nationalism/views on abortion etc….it would have to be re-appropriated VERY strategically
  5. elemental worldviews   –  by use of the term “elemental” or something else we could distinguish from other forms of worldview
  6. worldlook   –   we could make a neologism that is similar to worldview but different (worldsense, worldgist, world take, etc.)
  7. pan-beliefs  –  maybe…”pan” or “panta” means ‘everything’ in greek…I like this one because I can see myself saying it and its fairly self-explanatory

Other options: megabeliefs, world conclusions, cosmic conclusions, world judgements, cosmic convictions, world characteristics, adjectival worldview, stark world beliefs, cosmic impression, total world beliefs, state of everything beliefs, total existence beliefs, pan-existence beliefs, existential inklings, world hunches, world schemas, totalized schemas, everything judgements, world nature, underlying world beliefs, world suppositions, habitus beliefs

Perhaps a neologism: worldset, omnitraits, ubiquitraits, omni-understandings, omni-judgments, worldjectives, omni-beliefs, omniristics, world nature, omniliefs, sublets, world meta-view, world looks, pan-beliefs, metaschema, worldschema,

Terms in the literature you would think refer to UAs but don’t quite: global beliefs, world hypothesis, world assumptions, etc.


About Jer Clifton

Look up, friend. The world is too beautiful for my eyes alone. View all posts by Jer Clifton

7 responses to “Please Rename My Life’s Work

  • Lorenzo

    How do these ideas account for beliefs that can be or are stated as having more than one clause (e.g., The world can be a pretty dangerous place BUT there is no use worrying about it). For one thing, it seems to me like more elaborate world beliefs would be more adaptive.

  • eric whitaker

    Skype me

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jer … loving reading all these conversations, here and on FB. Have a few thoughts that may inform your brainstorming. It seems you need two words (or a neologism with two parts):
    1. the first to denote the action of viewing, assessing, seeing (so, in the brainstorming, you’ve already got words like view, outlooks, assessments, etc)
    2. a word to capture what is being seen or viewed (such as world, pan, universe, globe, cosmos, etc in your lists)

    So, some slightly different ideas for each;

    1. the action =
    – lens (which suggests it is the filter through which we view the world, but has no “assessing” or cognitive connotation);
    – framework, scaffold or framing (like schema, it is about the construction we use to frame everything we see);
    – construction (which denotes a conscious building of the view, so perhaps not that helpful)
    – representations or mapping (again, very active, but kinda implies they come AFTER viewing the world, rather than a process by which we view it)
    “point of view” could be abbreviated in a neologism to POV

    2. the subject/object =
    – you could use “omni” together with lens – omni-lens/es is catchy
    – comprehensive might work as an adjective – eg, “comprehensive lens”
    – summative – eg summative maps
    – word like “aggregate” is interesting, too …

    Anyway, enough of my ramblings. I shall sleep on it, and if I have a wise vision overnight, I will message you again!

    “lens” still gets my vote …

    Em, XXX

  • Senia (@senia)

    Hi Jer,

    World beliefs sounds great. And seems like it hits your seven criteria nicely.

    Pan beliefs sounds fun. It sounds quite Greek and therefore with overtones of history, as if you study something perhaps less relevant to now. Also criteria #2 and #3 may not be as strong for pan beliefs.

    Best to you!
    Looking forward to hearing more about your work. The intro presentation at the MAPP Summit was great.


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