Lifting old thoughts from dusty ruts. Polishing them carefully before putting them on a display again. This times with matching, beautiful colors to make them shine along with their value.
Most of the time, we use only one end or the other of a contrast at a time. These ends are called characteristics or, especially in reference to the characteristics of people, traits. But the other end is always there, lurking in the background. You can’t have one without the other — good without bad, up without down, fat without thin…
Please note that these contrast need not be verbal: My cat knows the difference between the expensive cat food and the cheap stuff, yet can’t tell you about it; an infant contrasts between mommy and non-mommy; wild animals contrast safe areas and dangerous ones, etc. Even adult humans sometimes “just know” without being about to say — unconscious contrasts, if you like: what is it about that person that you like or dislike?
Contrasts don’t just float around independently, either. We interrelate and organize them. For example, we can define a category: “Women are adult female human beings.” Or we can go a step further and organize things into taxonomies, those tree-like structures we come across in biology: A Siamese is a kind of cat, which is a kind of carnivore, which is a kind of mammal, which is a kind of vertebrate….
Or we can put contrasts into more temporal structures, like rules. These are often called schemas or scripts. You can find explicit examples in books about card games, etiquette, or grammar; but you know quite a few rule systems yourself, even if they have become so automatic as to be unconscious!
Not all organization of contrasts are so tightly structured. We can describe something: “Women are delicate.” As the example is intended to suggest, descriptions, as opposed to definitions, need not be true! Beliefs are similar to, but looser than, taxonomies. Whereas birds definitely (i.e. by definition) are vertebrates and have feathers, it is only my belief that they all fly — I could be wrong! Stereotypes are examples of beliefs; so are opinions. But some beliefs are so strongly held that we see them as definite.
There are also narratives — the stories we have in our minds. These are temporal, like rules, but are amazingly flexible. They can be a matter of remembered personal experiences, or memorized history lessons, or pure fiction. I have a suspicion that these contribute greatly to our sense of identity, and that animals don’t have them to the degree we do.
More basic social psychology on: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2gDvDC/webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/socpsy.html/