What is Shareability?

Jennifer J. Freyd, University of Oregon

Shareability of Information | Relevance to Memory for Trauma | Technical Notes | History / References | FAQs

Shareability of Information

Shareability refers to the extent to which information is shareable. Information has high shareability if it is easy to share between different individuals without loss of fidelity. Shareability theory (Freyd 1983, 1990, 1993) proposes that internal (e.g. perceptual, emotional, imagistic) information often is qualitatively different from external (e.g. spoken, written) information, and that such internal information is often not particularly shareable. The theory further proposes that the communication process has predictable and systematic effects on the nature of the information representation such that sharing information over time causes knowledge to be re-organized into more consciously available, categorical, and discrete forms of representation, which are more shareable.

Relevance of Shareability to Memory for Trauma

Much childhood abuse happens without the opportunity for communication, thus memory for non-shared abuse experiences may be fundamentally different in memory (Freyd, 1994, 1996). Non-shared memories may be more implicit than explicit, more procedural than declarative, more perceptual than language based, more continuous than categorical). Communication about an event (and the impact of shareability) may change the memories to become more language-based, explicit, declarative, and categorical.

Some Technical Notes about Shareability Theory

Shareability impacts both shared systems (like language) and individual internal knowledge

Freyd (1990) expressed shareability as two propositions (Freyd, 1990):

1. Shared knowledge structures (e.g. natural languages, shared musical systems) have the structures they have partly by virtue of the fact that the knowledge structures must be shared.

2. Internal cognitive representations are influenced by these shared knowledge structures.

A third proposition implied by Freyd (1994, 1996):

3. Specific Internal cognitive representations (say memory for an event) may be changed and shaped by tithe process of communication (e.g. sharing information about the event).

Shareability: Strong, Weak, and Brain Versions

The shareabilty argument can take a number of different directions (Freyd, 1983). The weaker argument is that many cognitive and linguistic structures have the form they do because they must be shared. The stronger argument is that only in the sharing do the forms exist. Freyd (1983, 1990, 1993) has developed the weaker argument, explaining that the "Preferred version of shareability assumes that observed structures are 'psychologically real', but without the structures necessarily implying a constraint of internal representability. Note that the shareability hypothesis does not assume that the constraints on knowledge structures are independent of the human mind, rather than the constraints emerge from the problem of sharing knowledge and these are not just constraints imposed by the individual mind" (Freyd, 1983, pages 192-193).

Within the weaker argument a further distinction can be drawn between (1) shareability constraints that emerge only when a group of people share knowledge, versus (2) the possibility that the sharing of knowledge shapes the developing mind during the early years, versus (3) the possibility that the brain has evolved to handle those structures that are most shareabilty. These possibilities are not mutually exclusive, in that all three processes could be occurring to different degrees. Freyd (1983) noted that yet another possible extension of shareability: it might be relevant to understanding the workings within the individual as well as to understanding workings between individuals within a group. This hypothesis works best if one assumes that the individual brain is a collection of separate subsystems.

Shareability: Possible relevance to consciousness

Freyd (1993) suggested that aspects of thought may not be particularly consciously accessible in part because they are not particularly shareable, implying that consciousness may have a relationship with communication and shareability. In particular, Freyd (1993) argued that the temporal continuity of dynamic mental representations may be lost to consciousness because of shareability constraints.

History of Terminology / References

Jennifer Freyd introduced the terms "shareability" in a 1983 article:

Additional ideas about the concept were explored in:

The application of shareabilty theory to memories for trauma (and betrayal trauma theory) was initially presented in:

Some further thoughts about this application are presented in:

Others have developed the shareabilty notion in interesting ways (enter "shareability theory" into a search engine like Google).

Some FAQs

How do I cite this page?

Freyd, J.J. (2005). What is Shareability? Retrieved [today's date] from http://pages.uoregon.edu/dynamic/jjf/defineshareability.html.

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