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Social cognition: A metaphoric analysis of knowledge processes in computer-mediated learning

, University of Toronto , Canada

University of Toronto . Awarded


This research explores social cognition: how common and expert knowledge are negotiated, developed and retained by members of a social group. Social knowledge of two focal concepts, learning and computer mediated communication (CMC) is represented in concept networks. Each network represents concept-specific information, active and common in the communication of group members, in each data sample. Social knowledge processes are viewed as patterns, observed by comparing concept networks over time and by discourse context. Metaphor, defined as a cognitive agent, is introduced as an analytic device: an application of contemporary metaphor theory (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980; Lakoff, 1997).

The study examines the communication of fifteen students and their instructor, interacting in computer mediated conferences. Discourse data consisted of computer transcripts and recorded interviews with participants, instructor, and with six experts experienced in teaching by CMC. Metaphoric expression was used to flag observations, and to guide interpretation. Codes representing concept-specific meaning, informed by metaphoric comparison, were linked in themes and collected in networks using a text interpretation program, ATLAS/ti.

Study findings concerning the social denomination, or social knowledge, of concepts are organized by the four knowledge processes of interest: knowledge construction, retention, instructional development, and the growth of expert knowledge. Two categories of concept knowledge, hierarchical and associative, are defined in this study. Stored, social knowledge of concepts is observed to be constituted by a balance of hierarchical and associative meaning. In contrast, the pattern of social concept knowledge under construction is seen to be highly associative. Constructed knowledge active and common in student discourse develops hierarchical properties and value emphases similar to instructor knowledge. A strong pattern of similarity can be observed in the associative concept knowledge active in the expert group, and the persistent knowledge constructed by student participants.

This use of metaphoric comparison in cognitive analysis is seen to enhance the quality of information available. This approach is specifically recommended for investigations of social contexts undergoing change, research contexts requiring non-intrusive observation, and questions concerning value development. Observations concerning social knowledge processes raise questions for further studies of metacognition, and educational practice.


Cole, S.L. Social cognition: A metaphoric analysis of knowledge processes in computer-mediated learning. Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto. Retrieved April 21, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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