The referential process is a set of functional stages that describe the process of bringing nonverbal material — existing both outside of and within awareness — into a form that can be translated into language.
The process is bidirectional. Meaningful entities that are verbal in nature (such as words spoken by others or read) can be translated back to nonverbal form.
Activation of material that is outside or in the periphery of awareness.
Conversion of sensory and somatic feelings into verbal form.
Refinement of ideas and emotions and analysis of memories for meaning.
How do people understand and communicate their experiences? According to Multiple Code Theory, human experience is processed in both symbolic and subsymbolic formats. The Referential Process refers to a set of functions that connects these different formats. It is what allows us to put words to a feeling, or to be moved by a painting, and is fundamental to the process of talk therapy and the lasting changes it brings about.
There is a distinct linguistic style associated with each phase of the Referential Process. The Discourse Attributes Analysis Program (DAAP) is designed to capture the fluctuations in these styles in any written text or transcription of spoken language. Unlike other language-based measures, DAAP was not developed based on the ratings of individual words, but on whole segments of texts, yielding new insight into the connections between experience and language.
Applications of the Referential Process have appeared in journals including Psychoanalytic Psychology, Phenomenology and Cognitive Science, the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, and the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, with books from Routledge and Guilford Press. A recent international Referential Process Conference was held at the Pacella Research Center of the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute in July, 2023, the proceedings of which will be presented in a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.
This is a multi-site project with centers at the Pacella Research Center of the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute; Bergamo University, Bergamo and Milan; and La Sapienza, Rome. Participants currently include faculty, researchers, clinicians and students associated with these institutions, and with the City College of New York; the Derner Institute at Adelphi University; the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; St. John’s University; Stony Brook University; the University of Toronto; and Yale University.