Socio-cognitive Analysis of Socratic Dialogue: A Blend of Theories

Ph D Laura Billings, University of North Carolina, USA

Ph D Ann S Pihlgren, Stockholm University, Sweden




Our work involves close analysis of Socratic dialogue and Paideia Seminar (Billings and Fitzgerald, 2002; Pihlgren, 2008), grounded in socio-cognitive theory.  Similar to Socratic dialogue, The Paideia Seminar is defined as “a collaborative, intellectual dialogue about ideas and values, based on a text, facilitated by open-ended questions, resulting in enhanced conceptual understanding (Roberts and Billings, 2008).”  By examining both quantitative and qualitative aspects of thinking in dialogue, we have found important socio-cognitive patterns. In developing systems for analysis we have identified the following important features:

    • Ratio of teacher to student talk
    • Content of talk
    • Use of gestures and various means of non-verbal communication
    • Levels of cognition

In addition, we have found a curious interpersonal cognitive processing which frequently occurs in Seminar dialogue, prompting new individual and collective thinking. This, we believe, poses an important challenge to existing theory on thinking.

See complete paper: Socicognitive Analysis of Socratic Dialogue