The Role of Cognitive Conflicts in Informational Environments: Conflicting Evidence from the Learning Sciences and Social Psychology?


When people navigate through their informational environments, they often come across information that is discrepant from their knowledge or their attitudes, and consequently experience cognitive conflict. This chapter reviews findings and theories about cognitive conflicts from the learning sciences and from social psychology. While cognitive conflicts in the learning sciences (especially in the Piagetian and Vygotskyan tradition) are positively connoted as fundamental for learning, results in social psychology frequently suggest that people shy away from cognitive conflicts (e.g., by selectively preferring congenial information). Drawing from research about social media, this chapter provides evidence that people do not exhibit conflict avoidance, but actually seek out cognitive conflicts when contributing to wikis or responding to discussion posts. Apparently, providing an opportunity to change one’s environment is a strong driver to engage in cognitive conflict. The chapter concludes by suggesting how the conflicting evidence from the learning sciences and from social psychology might be reconciled.


Cognitive conflicts Learning Selective exposure Persuasion Attitude accessibility Social media 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien (IWM)TübingenGermany

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