Interpersonal Communication and Critical Thinking: Exploring Power and Solidarity in a Computer-Mediated Conversation

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

John R. Murray


This thesis is an examination of a computer-mediated conversation among a group of education researchers. It examines how, even in the context of written, non face-to-face communication around a central concept in education theory, language continues to serve an interpersonal function: researchers will structure their communication in terms of power (the need to preserve distance from others, to feel independent and protect privacy) and solidarity (the need to have a sense of community with others, to feel accepted and involved). It is the claim in this thesis that the literature on critical thinking focuses on refining one’s speech so that meaningful information can be clearly transmitted. The critical thinker, in this view, needs to be aware of, and purge his/her communication of bias words, euphemisms, innuendo, marked words, hedging, equivocation, emotional language, vagueness, ambiguity, and the like, in order to be able to focus on increasing ideational clarity for oneself and others. However, this thesis points out that what the literature on critical thinking focuses on purging from communication is, in fact, an essential part of the interpersonal function of language, and that the failure to understand this leaves a gap in the development of critical thinking as a viable educational objective.


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