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LINGUIST List 17.2706

Thu Sep 21 2006

FYI: CfP: Volume on Language and Social Cognition

Editor for this issue: Hunter Lockwood <hunterlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Hanna Pishwa, CfP: Volume on Language and Social Cognition

Message 1: CfP: Volume on Language and Social Cognition
Date: 19-Sep-2006
From: Hanna Pishwa <hannapishwa.de>
Subject: CfP: Volume on Language and Social Cognition

Language and social cognition

Ed. Hanna Pishwa

The planned project is designed to complement the volume “Language and
memory: aspects of knowledge representation” (published in June this year
by Mouton de Gruyter) with a focus on the relation of general knowledge and
language (use). The goal of the present book is to proceed beyond mere
cognitive aspects by investigating the social-cognitive dimensions of
language. Therefore, it is intended to complete the achievements of
cognitive linguistics by focusing on social facets of language.
Surprisingly, this has been neglected in linguistic approaches with the
exception of sociolinguistics, which, however, is located at a macro level
in that it views social groups instead of individuals in situations. The
reason for the consideration of social-cognitive aspects in linguistics is
compelling as social force is ubiquitous and omnipotent in our everyday
life. Practically everything, even cognition and emotions, in people’s
lives is socially conditioned so that their “responses [are]…triggered by
the social forces that push and pull us” (Moskowitz 2005: 107); some social
psychologists even argue for a collective memory (e.g., Shotter 1990). As
interaction is steered by social cognition, we can take for granted that
its medium, language, reflects social aspects as well. Therefore, it is an
urgent task to find out how linguistic structure and language use reflect
social-cognitive aspects in addition to purely cognitive properties.

Social cognition is concerned with the perception, processing and
representation of social information with the objective of explaining how
humans understand themselves and others (see single issues below). Thus, it
investigates “cognitive structure and process—attention, memory, inference,
and concept formation—but applied to perceptions of people.” (Fiske 2004:
122). Clearly, social cognition has inherited its object of investigation
from social psychology, while the methods are derived from cognitive
psychology. Consequently, cognitive psychology and social cognition differ
concerning the stimuli, which are far more complex in social contexts than
in cognitive psychology. This becomes evident when we compare the
categorization of cups with that of persons: whereas cups are categorized
only according to their form and function, persons are classified
additionally in terms of their traits and roles. The similarity of social
stimuli and cognizers (Bless et al. 2004: 11ff.) adds complexity to
interaction, e.g., the same stimuli may be perceived differently due to the
perceiver’s dependence on moods and goals. People construe social reality
according to their image of themselves, which in turn is influenced by
their construction of social reality.

Linguistic analyses involving social-cognitive/-psychological topics have
mainly been conducted by social psychologists (Heider 1958; Fiedler & Semin
1992; Forgas 1985; Malle 2002; Bless et al. 2004: 128-132; Fussell & Kreuz
1997; Holtgraves 2003, 2006; Kreuz & Ashley 2006; Robinson & Giles 2001;
Berger & Bradac 1982). An example of the employment of social-cognitive
tools in linguistics is the investigation of the use of “interpersonal
verbs”. They are interpersonal in that the processes and behaviors referred
to always imply two human participants. They are classified according to
their degree of abstractness: the least abstract descriptive action verbs
(kiss, kick, telephone), more abstract interpretative action verbs (help,
hurt, explain), the most abstract, state verbs (admire, hate, like), and
adjectives (honest, aggressive, nice), which were judged more abstract than
verbs. The numerous analyses of the use of interpersonal verbs show how
language can be employed to explain tricky phenomena in interaction. Using
these verbs as instruments in a linguistic experiment, Maass et al. (1989)
discovered a “linguistic inter-group bias”: the subjects described
desirable in-group behavior in more abstract terms than undesirable
in-group behavior. In contrast, they used more abstract terms to describe
undesirable in comparison to desirable behaviors for the out-group. The
degree of abstractness is meaningful in so far as high abstractness evokes
inferencing concerning the addressee’s properties, while a low degree of
abstractness relates to concrete circumstances without activating
inferencing. This relies on a phenomenon called “linguistic expectancy
bias”, according to which unexpected social phenomena tend to be verbalized
by means of concrete words, while abstract words are considered to be
enough for the description of the expected. This finding is in line with
the principle of iconicity. Semin and his colleagues have conducted
numerous interesting experiments using these lexical items labeling the
method “Linguistic Category Model” (Semin 1998). The analyses have shown
that the use of these lexical items indicates cause, salience, disposition
etc., issues characteristic of attribution theory (see below). These
“tools” (as they are called by Semin) can be employed to discover hidden
social messages in communication concerning implicit causality or
motivation, for example, in legal contexts because they reveal “how
interpersonal language marks both the features of social interaction and
the properties of persons.” (Semin 1998: 297).

The above example shows that the concern of social cognition is to be
sought at the micro level, i.e. in the processing and verbalization of
social knowledge by individual interactants, rather than at the macro level
as in sociolinguistics. The aim of the volume is to discover more
linguistic “tools” applicable to social contents. The range of tools
should, if possible, be expanded from words to grammatical structures and
discourse markers. Recent research has shown that their indexical functions
tend to cover multiple contents. The volume is planned as a textbook
written in a comprehensible way for both non-experts and experts. The
contributions may be theoretical and/or empirical based on either
quantitative or qualitative methods or both as not only linguists are
expected to participate but also social psychologists.

Some relevant topics are presented in the sequence of their processing,
which starts with attention and is followed by categorization and encoding
in memory. The topics are followed by questions, which are merely meant to
serve as suggestions.

Abstract due: End of November
Paper due: May 2007

Social-cognitive issues and language

Section 1. Perception/attention to social stimuli—does it differ from that
to objects? (Fiske and Taylor 1991, Ch. 7)

Salient properties such as novelty and figure, behavior unusual for the
person/social category, goal-relevance (being a boss, a date), person
dominating the visual field etc. attract attention. Negative stimuli are
more salient than positive ones because of the overall positive attitude
among humans. Interactional consequence of salience: a salient person is
seen as influential: she is a causal agent (see also “Attribution theory”).

=> Does the verbalization of salient human properties differ from that of
=> Do verbal devices for the different kinds of salience or social
categories differ?
=> Language and power

Section 2. Social categories, schemas, frames, and scripts and their

Social categories differ from those of nonhuman objects in that the
perceived objects are perceivers, i.e., highly complex stimuli (Augoustinos
and Walker 1995, Ch. 3; Fiske and Taylor 1991, Chs. 4-6; Moskowitz 2005,
Chs. 3-4; Fehr 2005).

i. Schemas: person (traits, person-in-situation, goals), self-, role,
gender, event, content-free (containing e.g. causality)
=> Are social categories expressed differently from categories for things
because of their complexity—more subtle and vague than non-social
categories? Do they show clear hierarchies similar to other categories?
=> Are verbs used in a variable way in dependence on social categories,
e.g. in the context of self vs. others? Are particular linguistic patterns
used to symbolize certain schemas?

ii. Person schema: “the big three”: appearance, behavior, and traits
(Bless et al. 2004: 311).
=> In what respects do person descriptions differ from each other and from
non-person descriptions?
=> (How) do the descriptions of the “big three” differ?

iii. The strong self schema comprising motives, goals, expectancies (Barone
et al. 1997, Chs. 8-10; Fiske & Taylor 1991, Ch. 6)
=> Are the self and his/her plans, actions and their outcomes verbalized
differently from those of others (see also “Attribution theory” below)?

iv. Discrepancies in expectations concerning social categories and schemas
(Moskowitz 2005, Chs. 11-12)
=> Verbalization of new, surprising vs. expectancy-congruent social

v. Priming: evaluative, mood, semantic, analogy etc. (Bless et al. 2004: 60-67)
=> Is the cue or the primed information marked in a particular way?
=> In what ways is it related to the subsequent information?

vi. Stereotypes: “categories linking attributes to social groups” (Bless et
al. 2004:53; Semin 2000; Van Dijk, various writings)

vii. Relational schemas (Baldwin & Dandeneau 2005)

Section 3. Processing of social information

i. Attribution theory: Search for internal or external explanations
for actors’ behavior (Fiske & Taylor 1991, Ch. 2-3; Forgas 1995, Ch. 7;
Moskowitz 2005, Ch. 6-7)

In his descriptions of the perception of other people, Heider (1958), the
father of Attribution theory, observed that “our cognitions, expectations,
and actions are based on a mastery of the causal network of the
environment”. Other people’s actions are evaluated in terms of goals,
intentions, and abilities, i.e. dispositional properties, or in terms of
the external situation. These two alternatives have yielded various
“biases” (see below). A further development of this is “Folk theory”
conceived by Malle, who argues that people’s explanations are not based on
situation vs. disposition but on their perception of the actor’s
intentionality. According to this model, intentional behavior is explained
to be rational, while non-intentional reason is explained in terms of causes.

a) Causality and causal schemas (Malle 2002)
=> How (directly) is causality realized verbally in different
constellations in particular for different persons?

b) Ability vs. effort, external barriers: the use of can – try – may
(Heider 1958)

c) Biased attribution: (1) Fundamental attribution error: others’ behavior
is explained as dispositional; (2) Actor-observer paradox: explanations of
one’s own behavior are attributed to situation
=> Linguistic structures reflecting these – in addition to interpersonal verbs
=>In how far do languages reflect cultural differences concerning
individualism and collectivism?

d) The positive sense of the self and self-serving bias: the self is seen
more positively than others; people are more critical of negative
information on themselves and tend to accept information that favors them.
=> (How) is this expressed linguistically?

e) The future is seen more optimistically than realistic

ii. Processes

a) Dual processing steered by motivation: effortless top-down and effortful
bottom-up processing of stimuli
=> Can the kind of processing be recognized in communication?

b) Employment of heuristics; “cognitive miser”
=> Can superficial processing be recognized in vague expressions, phrases
containing expressions for evidentiality and epistemicity — or are they
missing entirely?

c) Social cognitive processing as construal: “Reality is actively built by
the triggering of cognitive, motivational, and affective inclinations that
direct our perception, attention, encoding, recall, judgment, and behavior.
… Interpersonal perception is a dance of mutual construal and prediction.”
(Moskowitz 2005: 546)
=> (How) Is this reflected in communication?

d) Social closeness and distance

e) Intentions and goals (Fitzsimons et al. 2005; Barone et al. 1997, Ch.
11; Gibbs 2001; Malle et al. 2001)

Section 4. Attitudes, evaluations, and emotions

These are essential elements of interpersonal interaction (Augoustinos
1995, Ch. 2; Bless et al. 2004, Ch. 7; Fiedler 2001; Fiske & Taylor 1991,
Ch. 10)
=> How are these verbalized?

a. Attitudes involve emotions and cognition (Ostrom, Skowronski, & Nowak 1994)

b. Since cognizers do not remember the source of their attitudes, they
cannot make any statements about it.
=>Is this reflected in interaction: do people state the source of their

c. Attitudes promote interpersonal attunement => Can this be discovered in
communication, e.g. in the form of rapport (empathy)?

d. Salience of social categories, properties, and behaviors
 Is there any difference between verbalization on-line and on recall?

e. Interaction (Baldwin 2005; Moskowitz 2005, Ch. 13; Barone et al. 1997)

f. Emotions (Andersen & Guerrero 1997, Forgas 2000, 2001)

Section 5. Social and collective memory

Is it possible to discover a “social or collective memory” in language as
well (Middleton & Edwards 1990, Halbwachs 1980)?


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Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science

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