Scientific article

Epistemic and relational conflicts in sharing identical vs. complementary information during cooperative learning

Published inSwiss journal of psychology, vol. 61, no. 3, p. 139-151
Publication date2002

When interacting on a learning task, which is typical of several academic situations, individuals may experience two different motives: Understanding the problem, or showing their competences. When a conflict (confrontation of divergent propositions) emerges from this interaction, it can be solved either in an epistemic way (focused on the task) or in a relational way (focused on the social comparison of competences). The latter is believed to be detrimental for learning. Moreover, research on cooperative learning shows that when they share identical information, partners are led to compare to each other, and are less encouraged to cooperate than when they share complementary information. An epistemic vs. relational conflict vs. no conflict was provoked in dyads composed by a participant and a confederate, working either on identical or on complementary information (N=122). Results showed that, if relational and epistemic conflicts both entailed more perceived interactions and divergence than the control group, only relational conflict entailed more perceived comparison activities and a less positive relationship than the control group. Epistemic conflict resulted in a more positive perceived relationship than the control group. As far as performance is concerned, relational conflict led to a worse learning than epistemic conflict, and – after a delay – than the control group. An interaction between the two variables on delayed performance showed that epistemic and relational conflicts were different only when working with complementary information. This study shows the importance of the quality of relationship when sharing information during cooperative learning, a crucial factor to be taken into account when planning educational settings at the university.

  • Conflict
  • interdependence
  • cooperative learning
  • university learning
Citation (ISO format)
DARNON, Céline, BUCHS, Céline, BUTERA, Fabrizio. Epistemic and relational conflicts in sharing identical vs. complementary information during cooperative learning. In: Swiss journal of psychology, 2002, vol. 61, n° 3, p. 139–151. doi: 10.1024//1421-0185.61.3.139
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1421-0185

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