10 Cognitive Psychology: Module 20




Scarince, Collin

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Module 20: Using Language Conversations are dynamic interactions between two or more people (Garrod & Pickering, 2004; Pickering & Garrod, 2004). The important thing to mention is that conversation is more than the act of speaking. Each person brings their own knowledge, and conversations are much easier to process if participants bring in shared knowledge. In this way, participants are responsible of how they bring in new knowledge. Grice (1975) proposed a basic principle of conversation and four "conversational maxims." His cooperative principle states that the speaker and listener agree that the person speaking should strive to make statements that further the agreed goals of conversation. The four maxims state the way of how to achieve this principle.

  1. Quantity: The speaker should try to be informative, no over-/underinformation.
  2. Quality: Do not say things which you believe to be false or lack evidence of.
  3. Manner: Avoiding being obscure or ambiguous.
  4. Relevance: Stay on topic of the exchange. An example of a rule of conversation incorporating three of those maxims is the given-new-contract. It states that the speaker should construct sentences so that they include given and new information. Consequences of not following this rule were demonstrated by Haviland and Clark (1974) by presenting pairs of sentences (either following or ignoring the given-new-contract) and measuring the time participants needed until they fully understood the sentence. They found that participants needed longer in pairs of the type: "We checked the picnic supplies. The beer was warm." Rather than: "We got some beer out of the trunk. The beer was warm." The reason that it took longer to comprehend the second sentence of the first pair is that inferencing has to be done (beer has not been mentioned as being part of the picnic supplies).



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