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Finish your supper. Don’t you know there are children starving in Africa?”

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“If you don’t finish what’s on your plate, I shall give it to your brother.

Guilt has always to do with others, some perception of their suffering, and the role we may play in aiding, alleviating, or appreciating the same in light of our own perceived better-off capabilities, luck, and comparative wellbeing.

Jealousy has primarily to do with ourselves, doubts about our grasp and power, and our worried perception of cheat and theft by assorted and presumably conspiring others.

For the most part, grammar in language refers to structural properties and rules guiding the management of the written and spoken word; however, grammar may also refer to basic sets of social and psychological instructions — count the mother’s inventions for encouraging an economical approach and value to eating (waste not — want not) among such — that once interiorized may be forgotten but quite elaborated, for in both examples, food on the child’s plate may serve as a convenient subject for an integrated cluster of ideas involving the properties of other things:

“Take care of your things because . . . ” (you are lucky to have them . . . they’re expensive . . . somebody sacrificed something else for you to have them . . . etc.) and “If you don’t take care of your things . . . ” (somebody will steal them . . . they may be ruined . . . you’ll lose the use of them . . . you’ll be found out as incompetent or defenseless or both, and so on).

I wouldn’t presume to say with authority that the two lines offered here demonstrate precisely how a binary rule may be planted in the mind.

On the other hand, I would suggest tabula rasa applies only up to the moment a child first 1) hears an adult speak and with some accuracy interpolates the meaning of adult utterance and 2) subsequently discovers surfacing in language themes that embed socially reinforced rules that will go on to influence the development of attitudes, the recognition and interpretation of emotions, and perception itself with social perception — how to perceive others; how to behave among others — a crucial part of the psychology.

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