Digging for the Roots of Understanding (DRUST)

April 2011
March 2014

The Collaborative Research Project DRUST brings together eminent European research groups that cover the full breadth of Cognitive Science (including cognitive anthropology, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychiatry, artificial intelligence, linguistics, philosophy, and psychology) in an interdisciplinary examination of how different types of common ground support interpersonal and intercultural understanding. Communication plays a key role for such an understanding but only to the extent that dialog partners have sufficient common ground. Misunderstandings occur because most dimensions on which common ground can exist are not universally shared and not a priori present.

New research in the Humanities and the Cognitive Sciences has shown that partners in dialogue and partners in action often differ in their perception of the situation, prior background, inference capacity, and linguistic conventions. Although common ground is available when individuals interact with members of their own culture in well-defined contexts, considerable gaps in common ground occur in today’s multicultural societies where individuals with different cultural backgrounds interact in heterogenous contexts. Profound misunderstandings easily go unnoticed. A better comprehension of the neural, psychological, and cultural processes that establish common ground is thus crucial for identifying the roots of interpersonal understanding and intercultural understanding and can help to reduce misunderstandings and the serious consequences such misunderstandings can cause.

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