The Cognitive Bases of Interpersonal Communication

By Dean E. Hewes | Go to book overview
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often boringly typical, dialogues despite such differences. Such ways could depend both on reportable (socially structurated) knowledge about how to do interaction, and on coordination routines found only in the dialogues.

My own conclusion is that much of Kellerman's chapter could be reconceptualized as focusing on social patterns of initial interaction about which individuals are knowledgeable, due to experienced routines, norms, and bases for selfinterpreting action. In some ways, the findings she reviewed may depend on genuine cognitive constraints, but the description of everything in memorytheory terms makes it more difficult to determine what is cognitive and what demands another form of explanation.

As this last section illustrates, I do not think the interpretive and critical positions eliminate the possibility of cognitive research. Some of its findings they would explain by referring to social forces, including socially produced conformity to folk psychology; others they would call artifactual or ill conceived. I believe that room for genuine cognitive regularities remains, although it may be dwarfed by socially produced regularities. Even if cognitivist readers of this chapter disagree with this general conclusion, I hope some of the particular arguments and examples have force. A rigidly cognitive orientation has tended to blind us to salient aspects of phenomena and to potentially important explanatory factors. Building good theory about what folk psychologically called cognition requires that we shake off the blinders that are a large chunk of cognitivecommunication theory.


The author wishes to thank Dean Hewes, Scott Poole, and Kathryn Olson for comments on earlier versions of this chapter. A much earlier version was presented as background material for a panel presented at the International Communication Association Convention, Dublin, Ireland, June 1990.


Berger C., Karol S., & Jordan J. ( 1989). "When a lot of knowledge is a dangerous thing: The debilitating effects of plan complexity on verbal fluency". Human Communication Research, 16, 91-119.

Bettelheim B. ( 1960). The informed heart. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Bruner J. ( 1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner J. ( 1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Chomsky N. ( 1959). Review of B. F. Skinner. Verbal behavior. Language, 35, 26-57.

Coward R., & Ellis J. ( 1977). Language and materialism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


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