Exploring the interface between knowledge and communication using a referential communication experiment

Date of Completion

January 1996


Psychology, Social|Speech Communication|Education, Educational Psychology|Psychology, Experimental




This study introduces a model designed to depict the process of knowledge transfer between two people across time. Three experiments were conducted to monitor the process of knowledge transfer through referential communication. In each experiment, pairs of unacquainted undergraduate students communicated with each other across a visual barrier. The experimental stimuli used for this experiment were flags. One member of a pair (the director) was required to convey to the other member of the pair (the matcher), which national flag was represented in each cell of a 5 x 5 matrix of flags. The matcher's task was to identify the correct flag from his/her own matrix and record the response. A survey to assess flag knowledge was administered to each participant at the start of the experiment and after every two trials of such a referential communication task.^ Experiment 1 examined behavior among participants who were relatively unknowledgeable about flags. Although the results revealed an increase in shared knowledge across surveys, no evidence of knowledge transfer was revealed.^ Experiment 2 examined behavior among pairs involving a knowledgeable participant and an unknowledgeable participant. Evidence of knowledge transfer from the more knowledgeable to the less knowledgeable participant was found. In addition, the amount of information provided by directors decreased as participants came to share more knowledge.^ Experiment 3 involved equally knowledgeable participants who had knowledge about different flags. In this experiment, unidirectional knowledge transfer occurred from director to matcher.^ Implications of these and other findings on the proposed model of knowledge transfer are discussed. In addition, future directions for work in this field are outlined, along with possible applications of the knowledge model across the lifespan. ^