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Sorsana, C., Trognon, A. (2011). Contextual Determination of Human thinking: About Some Epistemological Obstacles in Psychology Studies. Human Development, 54, 204-233


This theoretical paper discusses some epistemological obstacles -and some of their theoretical and methodological consequences- that one encounters when analyzing the contextual determination of thinking in psychology. First, we comment upon the various representations of the «cognitive» individual that have been formed over the years from the epistemic subject to the psychological subject, and finally, to the psychosocial agent. Second, we recall the main criticisms of «methodological solipsism» found in cognitive psychology research. Third, we discuss a heuristic method for analyzing the contextual determination of thinking in psychological studies.


Human thinking, cognition, interaction, context, pragmatics

The question we've approach in this article

something like «how far can we experimentally isolate the supposed components of a psychological event without destroying its substance?»


«What methodology(ies) should we use to describe reasoning psychologically? How is it possible to articulate the experimental and formal evidence of the impact of a variable on reasoning? In spite of significant progress in understanding these two topics within the last two decades, epistemological hurdles still remain. We would like to discuss these next.»(st11, 205)

1. From the Epistemic Subject to the Psychological Subject. Toward a Psychosocial Agent

1.1. Recalling the Epistemic Subject
1.2. From the Epistemic subject to the Psychological Subject
1.3. Toward a Psychosocial Actor

1.3.a. Study of the Systems of Interaction and Measurement of the Cognitive Effects
1.3.b. Study of the Solving Procedures and First Links between Cognitive Effects and Acquisition Process
1.3.c. Study of the Discursive Activities and In-Depth Analysis of the Links between Cognitive Effects and Acquisition Processes.

2. contextual Determination of Human Thinking:What Method(s) of Analysis?

2.1. From Methodological Solipcism of Cognitive Psychology to the Study of Pramatic Structures of Knowledge
2.2. What Methods of Analysis?

3. Formal Analysis of Sociocognitive Interactions: An illustration

3.1. Characteristics of Interlocutory Logic
3.2. Interlocutory Logic of a Sequence of Coresolution of the Hanoi Tower Problem

4. Elements of Conclusion

«Human activities are never carried out in a social vacuum. So why do we persist in studying the cognitive development and functioning of a virtual «monad"?» (st11, 227-8). «A psychological analysis of the contextual determination of human thinking can find a heuristic way of combining methods (Deleau, 2004; Fraisse, 1982; Richelle, 1993; Saxe, 2002; Shotter, 1990; Sorsana & Troadec, 2007; Wassmann & Dasen, 2006; Wertsch & Sanmarco, 1988)»(st11, 227-8). «Trying to «clinically» establish the impact of interaction structures and their products on a cognitive individual's performance is a promising avenue of investigation, and a difficult task that consists of disentangling the processes that lead to the expression of knowledge that is «distributed» between interlocutors and «situated" in a dynamic interpersonal and socio-cultural context».(st11, 227-8).

Further lectures

Articles : tsbl08, t12, tbm11, tbl11, ts11
Chapitres : tb10, tb11, tb12, tb13, tb14, tbbsf11, tbss11,

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