Structural Coupling: Simultaneity and Difference Between Communication and Thought
Version of Record online: 17 MAR 2006
Volume 3, Issue 2, pages 112–129, May 1993
How to Cite
Baraldi, C. (1993), Structural Coupling: Simultaneity and Difference Between Communication and Thought. Communication Theory, 3: 112–129. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.1993.tb00061.x
- Issue online: 17 MAR 2006
- Version of Record online: 17 MAR 2006
Starting from the theory of the Germen sociologist Niklas Luhmann, it is possible to describe the relationship between communication and individual thought in a new perspective. Thought is the autonomous production of a psychic system. Communication is the autonomous production of a social system. The relationship between psychic systems and social systems can be defined as “structural coupling.” Such a coupling is realized in two steps. First, a single communication and a single thought happen simultaneously, and this allows the indiuidual to think what he or she is understanding in communication. In this way, commuiaicon forms (social structures) may perturb a psychic system. Second, meaningful information about the perturbing social structures is produced in the psychic system, depending on psychic structures. Thanks to this autonomous production of meaning, a psychic system can be unique. It is necessary to describe both the structural coupling and the two different kinds of coupled structures; the social structures shaping the perturbing communication and the psychic structures shaping the meaning of this perturbation. The communication theory called coordinated management of meaning (CMM) provides an interesting description of the effects of structural coupling for individuals. The theory of structural coupling seems a promising way to explain how individual autonomy can be based on communication, avoiding harsh debates between individualism and collectivism.