Varieties of common ground : common knowledge, common ignorance, and co-presence
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Common ground is seen as the basis for human communication and cooperation. Within common ground research, the main focus has always been on the knowledge that partners know together, i.e., "common knowledge". However, this neglects the factor of ignorance, which must be considered to be an integral component of common ground. To fill in this gap, different aspects of common ground (common knowledge, common ignorance, common privileged knowledge/ignorance) were investigated with a new coordination game in children between 4 and 8 years old. Results showed that common ignorance and common privileged ignorance were more difficult than common knowledge and common privileged knowledge: It was only by age 6 that children could use common ignorance at an equivalent level with common knowledge, and they had difficulty with “common privileged other knowledge” (i.e. self ignorance) even until age 8. Children’s understanding of ignorance was further probed with a preliminary investigation of strategic ignorance in children. As young as 4 years of age, children reported that they could actively choose not to know something, and from 5 years of age, adult-like reasons were given for things they preferred not to know. Common ground goes beyond common knowledge and ignorance states, and can also involve a feeling of co-presence. Whether physical co-presence in video calls could be simulated by partners using the same virtual background was investigated in an online study of adults. Results showed that using the same, as opposed to a different, background in video calls could enhance partners’ feelings of connectedness to some extent: They used a higher proportion of “we” pronouns, though they did not show a difference on other measurements such as perspective taking or mimicry. Taken together, this thesis contributes new knowledge about neglected aspects of common ground: the importance of common ignorance and its interplay with common knowledge in development, and the importance of markers of co-presence in the shared experience of online social interactions.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2025-11-01
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Restricted until 1st November 2025
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