Research

Research disciplines

  • Pragmatics
  • Argumentation Theory
  • Cognitive Science
  • Discourse Analysis

Research domains

  • Uncooperative communication, manipulation and deception
  • The cognitive psychology – linguistics interface
  • Humour
  • Information-processing and cognitive modules
  • Relevance Theory
  • Arguments and fallacies
  • The notion of commitment in linguistics and pragmatics

Research affiliations

Current research

My current areas of research lie at the interface between (cognitive) pragmatics, linguistics, cognitive psychology, argumentation theory and discourse analysis. I am interested in the relationship between language and beliefs more generally, which is the reason why I have conducted research on deception. Right now I am pursuing this line of research by looking at fallacious arguments, trying to investigate their cognitive underpinnings, in an attempt to bridge the gap between cognitive psychological approaches, which are not traditionally concerned with linguistic realisations of reasoning, and argumentation theory, which does not typically follow a cognitive path of investigation.

In order to further ground the analysis of such phenomena, I have also recently started to look into particular aspects of information-processing within a massive modularity framework to assess different linguistic and cognitive constraints that might be at play behind their success.

PhD Thesis

Pragmatics of uncooperative and manipulative communication (defended 13 December 2010), under the supervision of prof. Louis de Saussure (University of Neuchâtel). Examined by prof. Didier Maillat (University of Fribourg), prof. Frans van Eemeren (University of Amsterdam), prof. Paul Chilton (University of Lancaster), prof. Fabrice Clément (University of Neuchâtel).

The topic of the thesis is uncooperative and manipulative communication, which I approached from a cognitive-pragmatic perspective; underlying my research was the central assumption that manipulation is one form of exploiting cognitive biases, errors in reasoning and naturally fallible mechanisms of information processing.

Abstract:

This dissertation tackles the issue of uncooperative and manipulative communication from a cognitive pragmatic perspective and develops and documents the fundamental hypothesis that its success depends on whether the manipulator manages to keep the manipulative intention concealed. Specifically, manipulative communication is conceived here as a twofold process meant to i) mislead the addressee into processing limited sets of contextual information and ii) prevent her/him from processing contextual information that would be detrimental to the success of the manipulative attempt.

The dissertation draws on several fields of research in the Humanities and attempts to interface findings from cognitive psychology (mainly research on cognitive biases) and argumentation theory (research on fallacies) into a consistent cognitive pragmatic account of information-processing. To this end, the so-called Contextual Selection Constraint model (CSC) is presented; this model specifies from a theoretical perspective how certain linguistic and argumentative strategies can be used to constrain the comprehension procedure so that targeted assumptions end up partaking in the derivation of meaning and other unwanted assumptions turn out to be disregarded – or unprocessed altogether. These possibilities are conceived as natural potential consequences of our cognitive system’s inherent fallibility.

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