You are here


30 September, 2015 - 12:05

Our definition of associations is as follows: An association exists when one person's satisfaction is being changed by the actions of another person. The two persons are then said to be associated.

This definition is not as simple as it sounds. To understand exactly what it means, we need to specify what is meant by several of the words used in defining it.

We have already stipulated that satisfaction, one of the key terms, will be defined as the ratio of a person's perceived attainments to his desires, and that it can be expressed as a point on a number line:



The second key term in the definition of an association is "changed". There are two possible kinds of change in the other person's satisfaction: an increase, or a decrease. For purposes of our definition, these changes are measured relative to the level of satisfaction at which there would be no association at all between the people in question, point 0 on the diagram.

Note that the 0 does not mean that the person whose satisfaction is being diagrammed has no satisfaction. Satisfaction is always a positive number, and since the diagram assumes (correctly) that the individual's satisfaction could be lower, its current value must be greater than 0. Rather, the 0 means that there is no association between the individual in question and some other specified person. (To diagram the relationship of our individual to yet another person would require an additional diagram: Jones may simultaneously be associated with Smith and not associated with Baker.)

It must also be emphasized that each diagram of satisfaction represents only a very few elements, abstracted out of a very complex situation because they and they alone are relevant to the existence and nature of an association between particular persons. As noted above, there are many people with whom a given person, Jones, might be associated. Imagine that he is associated with Smith because Smith has imposed a sanction on him, with Kennedy because Kennedy has conferred an inducement on him, and is not associated at all with Baker. All three of the following diagrams are therefore simultaneously true:

1. Jones' relationship to Smith:


2. Jones' relationship to Kennedy:


3. Jones' relationship to Baker:


0 = Jones' satisfaction if Baker didn't act at all.

0 = (also) Jones' actual satisfaction, since Baker hasn't acted, or if he acted it had no effect on Jones' satisfaction.

Obviously, these diagrams express only relative levels of satisfaction rather than absolute satisfaction. Absolute satisfaction after all will be a composite representing the net effects of actions by the many different persons with whom one is associated, by the person himself, and of events in the natural environment.

The third key term in our definition of an association is "actions". In its normal usage, this word can very well refer to inactions and to communications as well as to actions in a narrower sense: deliberate bodily motions whose primary significance is not their symbolic meaning. But for purposes of our definition of an association, "actions" will refer only to things done, not to words or to inactions.