The Cognitive Bases of Interpersonal Communication

By Dean E. Hewes | Go to book overview

Introduction

Dean E. Hewes University of Minnesota

How we see our world determines, in part, what we will think, how we will feel, and how we will act. How we see our world is not necessarily a straightforward reflection of how the world "is." Our mental descriptions of previous experiences and current events, and the very mental processes by which those descriptions are formed and retained, influence our perceptions and interpretations. We may see ourselves as "healthy," or "intelligent," or "independent" and, by that, become so. On the other hand, who and what we are is, in part, a function of how others see the world and what the world really is. To be completely without illusions would be as tragic and unnatural as to be completely governed by them.

Our interpretations of the world in which we live, and the people and institutions that comprise it, are acquired through complex interactions among what we believe to be true, what the world is, and/or what others think it is. Understanding those complex interactions is one of the most important goals of the social sciences. Of the many disciplines that have contributed to that understanding, two take center stage in this volume, one well known (psychology), and one less so (communication).

The impact of cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence (the cognitive sciences)1 on the social sciences is no secret. To say that it has been monumental is no exaggeration. But that impact has not been uniform across disciplines. In some cases, it has been to transform the foci of specific disciplines. In other

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1
I do not mean to suggest that the program of the late 1970s and early 1980s to create a field called "cognitive science" was successful. In fact, artificial intelligence and cognitive psychology have never been satisfied lovers, although the infatuation is as sporadic as it is natural.

-1-

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