Group communication analysis: A computational linguistics approach for detecting sociocognitive roles in multiparty interactions

  • Nia M. M. DowellEmail author
  • Tristan M. Nixon
  • Arthur C. Graesser


Roles are one of the most important concepts in understanding human sociocognitive behavior. During group interactions, members take on different roles within the discussion. Roles have distinct patterns of behavioral engagement (i.e., active or passive, leading or following), contribution characteristics (i.e., providing new information or echoing given material), and social orientation (i.e., individual or group). Different combinations of roles can produce characteristically different group outcomes, and thus can be either less or more productive with regard to collective goals. In online collaborative-learning environments, this can lead to better or worse learning outcomes for the individual participants. In this study, we propose and validate a novel approach for detecting emergent roles from participants’ contributions and patterns of interaction. Specifically, we developed a group communication analysis (GCA) by combining automated computational linguistic techniques with analyses of the sequential interactions of online group communication. GCA was applied to three large collaborative interaction datasets (participant N = 2,429, group N = 3,598). Cluster analyses and linear mixed-effects modeling were used to assess the validity of the GCA approach and the influence of learner roles on student and group performance. The results indicated that participants’ patterns of linguistic coordination and cohesion are representative of the roles that individuals play in collaborative discussions. More broadly, GCA provides a framework for researchers to explore the micro intra- and interpersonal patterns associated with participants’ roles and the sociocognitive processes related to successful collaboration.


Group communication analysis Social roles Group interaction Computational linguistics 

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nia M. M. Dowell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tristan M. Nixon
    • 2
  • Arthur C. Graesser
    • 3
  1. 1.School of InformationUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Ann ArborUSA
  3. 3.University of MemphisMemphisUSA

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