[Paleopsych] Jesse Friedman: House vs. Home: A Semiotic Analysis of Real Estate Staging
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Jesse Friedman: House vs. Home: A Semiotic Analysis of Real Estate Staging
Term Project Paper, due June 13, 2003
In an open house, a chair can be more than a convenient
object on which to sit and nibble on crudités. Its type and location
form part of a metapragmatics (imposed rule of interpretation) that
suggests the functionality of the room in which it is placed: a
potential buyer sitting on an armchair looking at the other side of
the room at an angle could imagine her favorite Monet replica instead
the abstract Rothko on the wall, or family photos instead of the small
floral arrangement on the charming, spotless mantelpiece. On the other
hand, its design and colors denote a certain fashionability, which
connotes a certain lifestyle or social class: the Monet admirer's
husband might imagine himself lounging (but not slouching!) in a sharp
outfit with a martini in his gracefully poised hand, hobnobbing with a
fashionable crowd flocking to his swanky cocktail party. If we
understand this chair as a facilitator of interpretation and
artifactualization (construction as an object of study) of an
architectural feature, as well as a signifier of social class and a
desired lifestyle, it no longer appears to be a single-function
object, but rather an important piece in the strategic preparation of
a house for sale. A semiotically informed analysis of promotional
literature by practitioners of home staging can explain how the
discipline manipulates signs and symbols to increase the sales price
of a house.
Theories. Staging, "invented" by Realtor Barb Schwarz of
Bellevue, Washington in the mid-1970's and registered as a trademark
in 1990 (StagedHomes), is, to use a goal-oriented definition popular
in the industry, "the process of preparing a house to be sold"
(Berrios), which "involves the same commonsense advice that real
estate agents have been giving home sellers for decades, but with some
fresh additions" (Wickell). In their drive to support a higher or
faster sale (indeed, many people learn of staging through articles
with titles such as "Home Staging Equals Quick Sale" (Fowler)), the
growing hundreds of professional stagers cover the basics such
as cleanliness and sometimes recommend substantial renovations.
However, their greatest and most frequent challenge is to improve the
desirability of the house on a limited budget and with the sellers
still in occupancy, within which selective arrangement of the objects
of daily life, especially of furniture, becomes the primary tool.
It is no accident that staging has only in the last few decades
emerged as such; it marks the latest stage in a process that has been
long in the making. Baudrillard's 1968 landmark semiotic exposition Le
système des objets (The System of Objects) discusses his era's
"liberation" of home furnishings "from ritual, from etiquette, from
the entire ideology that make the environment an opaque mirror of a
reified human structure" (25) of the preceding traditionalist,
symbolist régime, where every object has its own meaning and
associated morals, and the combination of objects is highly
prescribed. Just as over time people have become liberated within, but
not emancipated from, the societal structure, so too has the
"`functional' evolution" in modernist design, which "signifies only
the liberation of the function of the object, and not of the object
itself," (25) freed furniture from any naturalized symbolic
signification and instead located its meaning in its context among the
other furniture in the room -- "the self-referencing, hyperreal system
of appearances based on the play of signifiers alone" (Gottdiener 43).
By not being liberated itself, the object still has function, and it
is these functions that form part of the core of the stager's
The staged home can be understood to operate with Sausseurian codes
relating a signifier to a signified. In The Fashion System, Barthes
explains how the clothing fashion industry operates with stacked
signification, meaning that there are multiple systems of hierarchical
code systems, each comprising one-half of the next level up. On the
first level, a signifier, such as printed clothing, might be felt to
be equivalent to fashion, the signified, but on the level stacked
above it, in the idea that This year, prints are a sign of the races,
the signifier is the sentence-as-such, where the signified is the
proposition, the collection of ideas that constitutes the first level,
embodied in the meaning of the sentence (Barthes 34-35).
In the staged environment, the first system is of objects (the
structure and its contents) in ensemble denotationally signifying
their functionality to the observer or user -- and since functionality
is liberated, this signified could mean many things to different
people. In the second level, the ensemble that is the
object-functionality pair of the first level constitutes the
signifier, and the lifestyle they connote to the beholder is the
The difference between the two levels is that of profane
and sacred, housing and dwelling (Saegert, in Belk 24), house and
home. It is a distinction that did not exist in the days when property
inheritance was more common and design of the house proper was more
likely to be built by and directly reflect the ideologies, as
Baudrillard names it, of its owners. Only recently, with the vastly
increased commoditization of real estate over centuries past and house
designs that hold far less of a moral order, have the parts been in
place to separate the two.
The house has become increasingly similar to other products--being
bought and sold, used and discarded like a car or washing machine.
Home, on the other hand, involves a commitment not of money, but of
time and emotion. It is the place where we invest dreams, hopes, and
care. Although we can buy the props and freedom that make such an
investment possible and secure, the phenomenon of home itself cannot
be commoditized.... Yet the increasing commoditization of the house
engenders a confusion between house and home because it is the image
of home that is bought and sold in the marketplace. (Dovey, 53-54,
quoted in Belk 24)
This framework makes the first Barthesian system, of objects and their
function, the house, the commoditized object being resold. It is the
location of the exchange value, the product's worth in the
marketplace. The second system, where the ensemble of items with and
within the house signifies a lifestyle, comprises the home, and
represents the use value, the usefulness of the thing. Marxists have
long held that "capitalist commodity manufacturers produce objects for
their exchange value, whereas purchasers of those objects desire them
for their use value" (Gottdiener, 180). By exploiting dreams with
tantalizing suggestions, staging strives to drive up the perception of
use value of the home in the buyer's mind, making them feel more
desire for the house, and thus willing to pay more to own it and build
their life there. A chronic problem in real estate, that the
attachment the sellers feel toward their home feel leads them to
overvalue their house, can be thereby overcome by making the next
buyer feel a similar connection to their future home, a feat
accomplished by a host of transformative procedures aimed at
heightening the confusion between house and home.
Neutralization. Every home is sacred to those family members whose
fancies and personalities it reflects, but just as the selling family
has applied countless dollars, hours, and emotions in making the place
their own, so too will the house's next residents. Therefore, when put
up for sale, it is necessary that the presentation of the house "allow
potential buyers to focus on the home and envision themselves in it.
This is difficult to do when [the sellers'] pictures, trophies and
name are displayed throughout the house" (Mayhugh). The buyer is
looking to establish their own home, and not purchase someone else's
second-hand, and "private spaces" that can be highly personalized,
such as the hearth, "serve as inner sanctums in a society favoring
individualism" (Belk 10). Not only is it easier for the buyer to
picture their "community family altar" (Belk 10) if the preceding one
has already been removed, but the removal of all sorts of private
goods, from photos on the walls to prescriptions in the bathroom,
eliminate sources of even momentary discomfort (Mayhugh) in a society
that draws a highly rigid line between public and private.
In preparing a tabula rasa for the buyer's imagination, not only must
indices of the previous owners be removed, but often those of their
home in general as well. As ideologies often engender stereotypes and
negative preconceptions can often hold more swaying power than
positive associations, avoiding them altogether further liberates the
potential use value, and further depersonalizes; one Realtor strongly
admonishes, "Don't allow your home to cause even the mildest
controversy. Remove any signs, posters, emblems, symbols, icons,
artwork, etc. that might be considered controversial. Keep your
political views to yourself" (Bouton). Some recommend going even
further, especially to those putting in some touch-up work, by
modifying the house itself. This is most easily done by repainting,
with which "it is absolutely imperative to make your home as generic
as possible. When in doubt go neutral" (HomeStagingOnline). While a
buyer might happen to like those unobtrusive tones, their raison
d'être is in fact negatively oriented, in the quest to be the least
offensive possible. When neutralized, the house "can be its most
attractive, and appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers"
(Litchfield), and hopefully bring the economic advantage of multiple
competing bids on the property.
Invitation. Avoiding intrusion and conflict is not the only goal of
depersonalization, however; with objects judiciously arranged
throughout the house, the potential buyer is invited to picture
himself and his own objects in the house. Like all who hope to profit
from manipulating the mind (one Accredited Staging Professional's
promotional copy prominently advertises her "undergraduate and
graduate degrees in the Social Sciences, including Sociology and
Psychology" (StagedHomes), and industry literature frequently,
although rather unscientifically, proudly waves its hands at its
scientific basis), stagers must strike a careful balance lest their
constructed world be too unrealistic and exposed for the façade it is.
Certainly, most of the time objects must be removed, because
oftentimes, free space facilitates mental moving-in better than
suggestion through placeholders. Since "buyers want to see their
vehicle and work bench in your garage, their computer system and home
office in your den," it is best to provide "lots of room for
visualization" (Bouton) by removing the seller's items from the
showcased house. On the other hand, human beings rely heavily on the
power of suggestion (as we shall see in greater detail when discussing
lifestyle), and at least a little "personality" must be either allowed
to remain or be consciously added. Overly sparse rooms, rather than
leaving a great deal of space for the imagination to run wild, instead
strand the potential buyer without a framework for picturing his new
home. Accordingly, staging aims to make rooms "welcoming yet
non-personal, so that a buyer can visualize what their furnishings and
personal items would look like. It's impossible for most people to
visualize a room without context, i.e. empty" (M. Friedman). In an age
with both a prevailing "customer is king" attitude and a trend toward
pre-packagedness and ease of use, "most buyers want a move-in-ready
home" (Evans). By demonstrating both space for possessions and piquing
the mind's interest in their future arrangement, the sales process can
be made more likely to close earlier, since the process will already
feel "well on its way," and for a higher price, because the perception
of greater use value will be translated into a higher exchange value.
The initial depersonalization is, short of moving, often the most
emotionally difficult part of the staged-home sales process, as it
forces the seller to dissolve the home even before leaving. In
removing the artifacts that signify the home in preparation for the
open house, the singularizing process of home is terminated and
therefore its sacred status as constructed locus of identity
vanquished; indeed, one way "the sacred is desacralized is to turn it
into a saleable commodity, and thus desingularize it" (Belk 23).
Difficult as it may be for a seller to understand that her
painstakingly personalized home may not be charming to everyone, and
tawdry as the commercializing of the house might appear to her, who
has developed a bond toward the home that the house connotes, an
appeal to her capitalist greed -- "a different appearance for the home
might better project an image consistent with its listing price"
(HomeStagingOnline) -- allows her to accept its destruction.
Deception. Once distinguishing artifacts of the previous home are
removed, the focus turns to improving the house proper, or at least
enhancing the perception thereof. Stagers are only selling an image,
taking advantage of the fact that "buyers only know what they
see...not the way it's going to be" (StagedHomes) in dressing the
house up in its Sunday best. The primary item on this agenda is
obscuring undesirable features of the house, which often involves
temporarily cleaning up the unsightly indices of chronic problems such
as leaf-filled gutters, rusting metalwork, difficult-to-clean windows,
musty odors, and clog-prone drains, and saving money on actually
making the necessary repairs. This masking takes advantage of the
cognitive process of abduction, where "result and the rule infer the
given case probabilistically" (Mick 199), which leads to a possibly
faulty jump to conclusions about the quality of the physical
structure. The clean-up game must be played with finesse, as,
for instance, "too much use of smells, sends a cover-up message"
(Bouton), and potential buyers may feel the fantasy-ruining need to
peek behind the poker face of perfection. In addition to hiding
problems that may reduce the house's exchange value, these fixes have
the added benefit of simplifying the all-important process of
self-visualization, as potential buyers will "be able to concentrate
on picturing themselves in the home when they're not distracted by
clutter, dirt, or home maintenance problems" (Morton). Reality is
often a sobering diversion from daydreaming, and the fewer the drips
and cracks in the physical house, the easier it is to begin conceiving
of a home.
The deceptive side of staging also aims to exaggerate underdeveloped
features of the house. Not surprisingly for our age of proportion
distortion, this section of the discipline focuses primarily on making
things appear larger and more spacious, which it does in a variety of
ways. Qualia of the room itself, such as the colors, can be modified:
"Often by neutralizing wallpaper and dark paint colors, a home will
actually appear larger, brighter and more appealing to a potential
buyer" (HomeStagingOnline). In addition to finding wider general
appeal as discussed above, neutral tones have the added benefit of
making rooms look bigger, possibly because neutral walls, the
delimiting factor of a room, do not assert their presence as much.
Environmental factors that affect interpretation of these qualia, such
as lighting, are manipulable for many situations, as "bright lights
make a small space appear larger. Softer light creates a warm,
intimate atmosphere" (Bouton, italics in original). The house can also
be made to seem larger by arranging the patio or lawn to seem inviting
and functional, to make "the outdoors a visual extension of the inside
[to add] unconscious value" (Bouton). By incorporating the exterior
into the functional scheme of the interior, the latter appears to be
larger and more valuable, and thus worth more.
In addition to these techniques of transforming, enhancing, or
expanding to make the space look artificially larger, possibly the
most important way in which space is exaggerated is, rather than by
filling it to demonstrate its storage capacity, instead by thinning
out items within it. Closets and other storage spaces, which in our
materialist society are usually crammed full, are to be sparsely
populated if not empty, as "prospective buyers will be opening doors
and drawers and they will want to see a lot of space" (Fowler). More
visibly and more significantly, furniture must be arranged sparingly
not only to allow space for potential buyers to move their own in
mentally, but also to increase the perception of spaciousness. "As
owners, many times we have too much furniture in a room. This is
wonderful for our own personal enjoyment, but when it comes to
selling, we need to thin out as much as possible to make rooms appear
larger" (StagedHomes). The removal of the previous home's artifacts is
here further occasioned by their undesirable diminution of the
perception of size, and thus the exchange value, of the house.
Emotion. With the exchange value of the house thus
exaggerated, staging's focus turns to building use value, which is
accomplished in two important ways, the first of which focuses on
creating emotional attachment.
While the process of economic exchange is nominally
founded upon rational choice, the more relevant a product is perceived
to be to the consumer's lifestyle, the more irrational the consumer's
decision process becomes. The process of consumption gains greater
personal importance, as "the consumer-marketer seeks out an emotional
impetus behind the material craving, coding it for himself as an
emotional need--status, approval, novelty, vitality, embarrassment
avoidance, and so on--rather than a material one" (Applbaum 326). A
home incorporates all these mentioned factors, and accordingly the
decision to purchase a house depends on its ability to satisfy the
many emotional needs of the buyer, and do so better on the whole than
the other houses in competition. It is this emotionalizing of needs
that forms the basis of consumerism, as it what drives consumers to
purchase items of greater expense than necessary for their simple
health and comfort.
In this society that lives its days utilizing primarily mass-produced
goods, novelty is a particularly distinguishing, and thus important,
factor. As most products are impersonally designed for a mass of
consumers, those that "speak to the buyer" demand special attention.
This conception is known as "hierophany (`the act of manifestation of
the sacred' (Eliade, 7))...the notion that the sacred does not
manifest itself to everyone" (Belk 6). The mystical combination of a
perception of uniqueness and a sense of a special connection to the
house and the home it will nurture make the buyer not only more likely
to bid on the property, but to possibly bid higher than necessary to
ensure the long-term connection with this personally manifested sacred
object. Confirming the market's exploitation of irrationality, a
Realtor asserts, "In today's quirky MarketPlace, creating an EMOTIONAL
bond between the buyer and the home is the key to selling success"
(Bouton, as capitalized). "MarketPlaces" have always been quirky; the
manipulation of emotions, encouraging potential buyers to eschew
economic rationalism, only serves to perpetuate this quirkiness.
For an industry selling commodities that are owned for
years on end and often have a functional lifespan upwards of a
century, an astonishingly high degree of importance is placed on the
impression gleaned by the potential buyer in the first few seconds,
the instant where the buyer makes the first and usually lasting
judgment about the house's potential: "The first glimpse people get of
your home creates a lasting impression. Buyers can determine in a few
seconds whether the home appeals to them or not" (Litchfield). The
school of "curb appeal," which dictates that the front exterior and
yard of the house must be in tip-top shape to encourage drive-by
browsers to give the house a second look, is a relatively early
development in modern real estate, but of extreme importance to the
development of staging. Building upon this line of thought, stagers
will place disproportionate attention to the items visible upon
opening the front door and the "feel" they create. Just as in a
stereotyped social scene, where the nice but reserved are chronically
single while the gregarious and risk-taking find mates aplenty, so it
sometimes is with the residential real estate market. Because "people
buy homes based on emotions...you want to be certain your home will
arouse those emotions the second a prospective buyer walks in the
front door" (Evans, emphasis added). While we have seen that
decoration must be inoffensive and cast a wide net to generate broad
interest, it must also be characterized and engaging to create the
hierophanical moment. a fairly contradictory set of rules that must be
Further complicating and frustrating the quest for the
emotional grab are the flighty preconceptions that potential buyers
bring with them. While uniqueness and personality tend to sell a house
well, sometimes "perceiving a place as real is more a matter of having
it fit one's prior images or imaginative reconstructions than it is a
matter of being factually, historically, or locally accurate" (Belk
16). While professional or residential pride might lead those
preparing the house for sale to create a well-balanced and consistent
theme, achieving a perfect craftsman color-set with a beautiful
cypress grove in the expansive back yard means nothing if the
potential buyer doesn't like olive trim and was hoping for oaks. The
stakes involved in hitting the visitor's individualized conceptions of
desirability are quite high all around:
Good staging is effective because when potential buyers walk into a
house, they carry with them all their hopes for their new life in the
new place...how they feel in the home ultimately gets reflected in the
sales price and the number of offers...prestige, love, dreams, all the
common denominators we all have as human beings, are at work in the
home purchase...the staging maximizes, intensifies all of those
Staging is an imperfect art, but it can and often does use the laws of
probability to its advantage. A talented stager will, by studying the
demographics of the expected potential buyers, predict which emotional
triggers to accentuate and which to avoid, in the perpetual quest to
increase perceived use value. However, generalizations break down on
the individual level, and knowing what buyers are looking for is often
a matter of blind luck.
Lifestyle. If you do not know what sort of expectation
someone is looking to fulfill, it often can't hurt to give them a
suggestion. It is the realm of suggesting the lifestyle of the future
home within the house for sale, squarely in the second Barthesian
level of signification, where staging is arguably at its most
creative. As advertising is both "a model of and a model for reality"
(Sherry, p. 9, quoted in Mick 205), a staged house is an ideal medium
for creating an environment that both (supposedly) reflects the way
people live, to make the scene feel realistic, and suggests that same
life to those who have not yet achieved it. Whether by a young couple
embarking on corporate career tracks and looking for a fun yet modest
first house, or a family with a third child on the way hoping for a
large and practical later house, or a single young professional moving
across the country for whatever reason, moving house often reflects a
significant shift in people's lives. The move itself can also occasion
such a renewal, as the process of starting home anew can be "taken as
an opportunity to reconfigure both the repair and rewriting of
narratives of our own personal biography and also the way
relationships to others have formed part of this biography" (Marcoux,
summarized in Miller 122). Although they are sometimes hung up on
preconceptions of what their new home should entail, new home buyers
are among the most susceptible to suggestion, and likely to be filled
with excitement in anticipating the construction of a new identity.
When walking among the rooms and around the objects of the staged
home, potential buyers are given a tantalizing taste of the home they
could build for themselves in the house. As "people who shop for a
home these days, also shop for a lifestyle," a successful staging will
"make your home look successful" (Bouton). The word "shop" reflects
the extent to which the house has been commodified, and like any
commodity, its use values connote the owner's prestige. Those who are
hoping to appear successful, which can be supposed to be nearly
everyone, will be more attracted to a staged home that builds such an
image. The marketing industry has long exploited people's gaze
upwards; "through their lifestyle concept, marketers aim to appeal to
consumers' aspirations to belong to more than their actual status
groups" (Applbaum, 336). The staged home that reflects the trappings
of the life a step up from the potential buyer's current status will
be all the more coveted, as lifestyle and house begin to intertwine in
the mind. Building such an environment within the house requires not
only high-quality furniture and nice colors, but also suggestions of
"The décor will show the buyer where they can sit by the fire and sip
a glass of wine; where they can host dinner parties; and where they
can end their stressful day in the master bedroom." (Evans)
"Even though the buyer won't live in your home as it's staged, they'll
be attracted to it because it presents a lifestyle to which they
aspire....For instance, you might turn a large walk-in closet into a
computer room." (Bouton)
Rather than a static work of art, staging builds a tableau vivant, a
painting of a lifestyle come alive in the house for sale. From the
mildly fanciful, such as the above portrayal of a lifestyle so
uncluttered that a closet could become an office, to the outlandish,
which has seen professional opera singers serenade from staircases,
staging is, in addition to its other modalities, a performance art, in
which the major actors are the potential buyers enjoying the
atmosphere and imagining themselves using the prepared home.
Furniture and other peripheral items will denote what can be done in a
home, and therefore connote a style of life, but if attentively
arranged to "romance the structure and character of your home"
(StagedHomes), home furnishings will convince the buyer that it is
specific qualities in the house itself that will facilitate such
activities, and thus, such a lifestyle. Every house has its particular
features, and the stager who understands and takes advantage of them
can give the house a feeling of natural personality rather than the
dreaded "sterile model-home look" (élan) that ignores the house's
specific strong points and instead lazily shoots for average. To bring
out the use value of the house, an interior decorator recommends,
"Just as you would use props when setting the stage for a play, do the
same in your home, especially for an open house. Make the visitors
say, `I would love to sit and read here' or `Wow, what a great yard.
We can finally have the gang over for a barbecue" (Mayhugh). The
theatrical metaphor is quite fitting: actors make their money by how
they perform before the audience and not after the show, as does the
seller showcasing a staged home.
Because "syntax tells us what kind of object anything is"
(Wittgenstein, in Kehret-Ward 223), the manner in which the objects of
the staged home mediate the potential buyer's interpretation of the
house is by exhibiting its specific use values. In the same way
cracker boxes show their product with cheese, or even how beer
commercials show identifiable men attracting bikini-clad women, "buyer
needs can only be addressed by thinking in terms of the buyer's total
consumption system...`the way a purchaser of a product performs the
total task of whatever he or she is trying to accomplish when using
the product' (Boyd & Levy 1962)" (Kehret-Ward 219). The toying with
lifestyle in home staging, by demonstrating to the potential buyer of
the house the identity that could be created for those who live within
it, is a discipline that centers on addressing the consumption system.
It does not matter that the buyer will not inherit the furniture with
the house, nor is even likely to populate the new home with something
similar, just as a case of beer does not come with women, nor do most
people drinking beer at any one instance happen to attract the sort
featured in the advertisement; of importance is the buyer's
aspirations, and how they are related to the item for sale.
If done very well, staging will, by transform the lifestyle
signification from one of contiguity to similarity, have the buyer buy
the presented lifestyle:
Contiguity...involves bringing together in the ad a select set of
objects, persons, and activities with the product. [Similarity] takes
over as the audience is invited to acknowledge resemblances and, in
effect, transfer properties between the co-present entities. (Mick
The buyer is no longer thinking that he is purchasing a physical
structure on a plot of land; he is not even believing that he is
buying a house that has the potential to be a nice home that reflects
some wants he had going into the real estate market and maybe a few he
didn't know he had suggested by the staging. He is, because the
transitivity of similarity, putting in a bid to buy the home he saw
during the open house. Staging has worked magic: it has sold something
that does not exist.
Conclusion. Home staging is a highly interdisciplinary
art, involving such disperse fields as psychology, interior design and
economics. Its tenets are full of contradictions, advising neutrality
yet personality, suggestion but not overbearance. It works with the
most prototypical of physical objects, furniture, to enable subliminal
sentiments. It even gets down on its hands and knees to clean grout
and unclog drains. But most importantly, it exploits human psychology
to deceptive ends, making the potential buyer believe that the
structure for sale will grant him an improved lifestyle. The chair in
the staged open house isn't just a chair; it is a cast member of a
carefully crafted act, whose sole goal is, by building a highly
desirable home, to increase the final sale value of the house. Alchemy
could not create gold from ordinary objects, but staging indeed can.
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 While Schwarz operates an "Accredited Staging® Professional"
program, no trade organization (such as the National Association of
Realtors for agents) exists, nor do any statistics on the number of
professional stagers; thus, "hundreds" is an intentionally vague
estimate. Regardless, all indications are that the industry is growing
 "The bourgeois and industrial revolutions liberate the
individual little by little from religious, moral and familial
implication. He then agrees to the liberty of right as a man, but to
the liberty of action as a worker, which is to say to the liberty to
sell himself as such." (25) This Marx-informed view sees modernist
freedom as license to make choices within the social structure but not
to escape it.
 Barthes identifies further systems in which fashion is
reproduced and in which rhetorical description of resides. As this
analysis only concerns itself with the physical nature of staging, and
does its best to avoid categorizing its description, we need not
concern ourselves for the time being with these higher stages of the
 One Realtor, discussing a property he had bought to resell,
provides an example where, unproven causality aside, staging by adding
objects greatly affected the sales process: "I bought a house, and the
market went south, and even though I recarpeted and repainted, it
didn't sell until it was staged.... It sold the first day after it had
been staged for full price." (Evans)
 An abductive process might proceed like so:
Result: The drain is flows smoothly.
Rule: Drains that do not clog flow smoothly.
Case:Therefore, this drain does not clog.
Some, like Eco, assert the entire sign-interpretation process relies
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