Mutual knowledge: what it is, its characteristics and functions

Mutual knowledge can be understood as the set of information that two or more people know, whether or not they know the other person knows it. This idea, which seems simple at first glance, has certain nuances depending on the field to which it relates.

This knowledge can refer to norms, beliefs, cultures, work or any other aspect with a social dimension, and can become very important in a society, weaving the fabric of coexistence.

Then we will talk about what can be understood as mutual knowledge and several definitions that have been proposed for the same term.

    What is mutual knowledge?

    First of all, we would understand mutual knowledge like precisely this, the body of knowledge shared by two or more people. We can broaden the term, describing it as a series of elements, knowledge and skills that are shared by several people in a given field, whether professional, academic, cultural, ethical … There are several conceptualizations of this term and it can be understood in many ways depending on the area we are referring to.

    Mutual knowledge develops through shared experiences, events in the lives of people that make them share knowledge and also perspectives, or at least resemble each other. Mutual knowledge is often what makes two individuals understand and also tolerate each other, highlighting what they have in common but also accepting their differences.

    A more academic definition of what is meant by mutual knowledge is the proposition of Daniel J. and Diane M. Hintz. These authors approach the subject from a specifically linguistic perspective, specifying that the main sources of mutual knowledge are language and culture, establishing that it is jointly constructed through shared perceptual experience and linguistic interaction.

    There are, however, voices that differ from this definition. Some authors promote the idea that mutual knowledge does not necessarily mean sharing the same mother tongue or the same cultural traits.. We can see this as an example of an international medical conference, in which there are two speakers, one American and one Japanese. Although they all speak a different language and come from a different country with very different customs, they have a common knowledge of medicine. They both share skills that allow them to communicate, understand and respect each other.

      Conceptual variations of mutual knowledge

      Although we have already suggested it, the definition of mutual knowledge varies greatly depending on the perspective that each author or branch of knowledge gives it. Disciplines such as logic and epistemology conceive of mutual knowledge as any fact or fact known to several people, although this does not necessarily imply that one person knows that others also know this information.

      As we presented previously, from a linguistic point of view, mutual knowledge is understood as knowledge that is built through linguistic interactions and shared perceptions. The sources of information for this shared knowledge are the beliefs, assumptions and conversations that occur among members of a given community.

      By mixing up the ideas that we have seen so far a bit, we can conclude that mutual knowledge is everything that a group of people can have in common, be it language, culture, religion, profession and other aspects. In any case, it is better to understand it, and what can be underlined about mutual knowledge is that it makes it possible to establish links and promote development both at work and in the community. community.

      Social ethics

      Ethics defines mutual knowledge as the set of rules or customs that are responsible for directing human behavior within a community. In this sense, it refers to the social parameters that are followed and shared by the people who are part of a society.

      Based on this conceptualization, we can say that it is a matter of mutual knowledge to respect the traffic rules, to respect the elderly, not to wear a hat indoors, to wear a mask when request or have their cell phone turned off during a conference. From this perspective, this knowledge is linked to values, coexistence and respect.

        Work ethic

        Mutual knowledge in the workplace is a very important element for the development of any organization, company or business. Here we can talk about a special case. Paul Harris (1868-1947), who was the founder of Rotary International, is probably one of the most notorious and classic cases of interest in the development of mutual knowledge in the field of organizations. Harris has taken a number of ethical steps to promote the work community and prevent any interpersonal conflict that could arise and hinder productivity.

        Harris’ measures included imposing penalties or fines if any of the workers counted false jokes or engaged in religious or political discussions. This made it a matter of mutual knowledge for the workers tolerate and treat your colleagues with respect, not to talk about controversial or sensitive topics and to focus only on carrying out work activities effectively and, when conversing, to do so on superficial or emotionally non-disturbing topics.

        However, one should not think that mutual knowledge within the professional environment focuses only on ethical standards or parameters. This shared knowledge is also linked to strengthening the commonalities of workers, with the aim of strengthening working relationships.

        We know that people, by recognizing the elements they have in common with others in work and non-work environments, they become more willing to collaborate in group activities to achieve group well-being. In addition, collective tasks are performed more fluidly and with less risk of tensions or conflicts during them.

          Its importance for human coexistence

          Having a group of people sharing the same information about social laws and codes of conduct encourages coexistence. This is why we can say that mutual knowledge is one of the most solid foundations of societies, closely linked to ethics.

          Needless to say, this is not limited to the rules, but also complies with the all customs and beliefs shared by the community. This knowledge includes information such as notions of heritage and territory, concepts that shape and strengthen the identity of communities.

          By this we mean that the mutual knowledge that promotes coexistence within a community is made up of the historical and cultural heritage of the country or nation. It is more common for members of a particular culture to share their homeland’s dates and holidays, as well as to have a common language or special accent, with their own proverb, vocabulary, and terminology. Also part of mutual knowledge are all the typical foods of the region, gestures, clothes, historic buildings fulfilling a cultural function, museums …

          Bibliographical references

          • Cramton, Catherine. (2001). The problem of mutual knowledge and its consequences for dispersed collaboration. Science of organizations. 12. 346-371. 10.1287 / orsc.12.3.346.10098.
          • Hintz, D; Hintz, M. (sf) The evidentiary category of mutual knowledge in Quechua. Retrieved December 8, 2021 from the Academy.
          • Keysar, B., Barr, DJ, Balin, JA and Paek, TS (1998). Definitive reference and mutual knowledge: common process models in understanding. Journal of Memory and Language, 39 (1), 1–20.
          • Valenzuela, I. (sf) According to scientists, mutual knowledge makes us more cooperative.

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