Relevance in Mind: Frontiers in Psychology - Research Topic

Tim Wharton (Editor), Kate Scott (Editor), didier maillat (Editor), Caroline Jagoe (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBook - editedpeer-review


In 1992, shortly after the publication of the first edition of Relevance: communication and cognition, David Trotter wrote: “Relevance theory is not only the most elegant version of pragmatics currently available, but the most uncompromising in its view that inference cannot be assimilated to a code model of communication. It asks questions which literary criticism has never been able to ask, let alone answer”. Thirty years on, new questions continue to be asked (and answered) in linguistic pragmatics, cognitive science, literary theory (as foreseen by Trotter), experimental psychology, affective science, communication studies etc. The theory also appears in quite unexpected places: recent applications of relevance theory include the analysis of internet-mediated discourse, clinical practice and even museum curation. First and foremost, however, relevance theory is an inferential model of communication and cognition which is theoretically and empirically testable. The approach still has a huge amount of potential in psychology and beyond, potential this Research Topic seeks to tap into.

Work within the relevance-theoretic framework has tended to be published in journals devoted to linguistics, pragmatics and philosophy. But the possibilities for relevance theory extends well beyond these relatively narrow confines. The discipline of pragmatics occupies a unique position, situated as it is at the confluence of a number of different, yet related, subject areas; as such those working in relevance-theoretic pragmatics are uniquely positioned to look outwards to other disciplines. After all, the processes of utterance interpretation and communication, which pragmatics aims to describe and explain, are at the heart of nearly all human endeavours.

This Frontiers Research Topic has two main goals: firstly, to push the envelope of the theory with particular attention to its implications for psychology and cognitive science (and, in so doing, explore further its power and potential from both cross-disciplinary and pragmatic perspectives); secondly, to disseminate the theory more widely, and encourage others to engage with the theory and better understand its capacity to broaden and deepen our understanding of all aspects of communication and cognition.

The scope of this Research Topic is broadly defined by the following themes (note, we are particularly interested in work which tests experimentally theoretical predictions):

1. Work involving the application of relevance theory in psychology and cognitive science
2. Cross-disciplinary work involving the application of relevance-theoretic insights to other domains (or insights from other domains to relevance theory)
3. Work in pragmatics which questions and revises existing relevance theoretic analyses
4. Work in pragmatics which seeks to extend the boundaries of relevance theory from within
Original languageEnglish
Publisher Frontiers Media SA
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2023

Publication series

NameFrontiers in Psychology
PublisherFrontiers Media SA

Bibliographical note

Frontiers' Research Topics are peer-reviewed article collections around cutting-edge research themes. Defined, managed, and led by renowned researchers, they unite the world's leading experts around the hottest topics – stimulating collaboration and accelerating science.


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