Learning, thinking, and emoting with discourse technologies


This is an unusual moment in the history of psychology because of landmark advances in digital information technologies, computational linguistics, and other fields that use the computer to analyze language, discourse, and behavior. The technologies developed from this interdisciplinary fusion are helping students learn and think in ways that are sensitive to their cognitive and emotional states. Recent projects have developed computer technologies that help us understand the nature of conversational discourse and text comprehension in addition to improving learning. AutoTutor and other systems with conversational agents (i.e., talking heads) help students learn by holding conversations in natural language. One version of AutoTutor is sensitive to the emotions of students in addition to their cognitive states. Coh-Metrix analyzes texts on multiple levels of language and discourse, such as text genre, cohesion, syntax, and word characteristics. Coh-Metrix can assist students, teachers, principals, and policymakers when they make decisions on the right text to assign to the right student at the right time. Computers are not perfect conversation partners and comprehenders of text, but the current systems are undeniably useful. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication Title

The American psychologist