Objectives and implementation

In addition to our own experiences, we only know what we are told of the world. We do not believe everything we are told, though; instead, we assess the cognitive authority of experts and other sources of information (Wilson 1983). Experts and other sources of information that we deem reliable are potential cognitive authorities whom we assess based on the author of the text, the institution behind it, the features of the text and intuitive credibility (Rieh 2010). Cognitive authority is not based on a person’s position but on their expertise, reputation and credibility; different kinds of authorities can be identified in different communities and situations (Wilson 1983).


Guided by these lines of thought, in the CogAHealth project, we are studying how authorities are constructed in the everyday life of young people (aged 13 to 16) at school settings and during their leisure time also in online environments. We have formulated the following research questions:

  1. How are questions involving cognitive authority studied in research literature?

  2. What or whom do the young consider their cognitive authorities in the context of health?

  • On what do the young base their assessment of cognitive authorities?
  • What kind of role do trusted people (such as teachers or parents) have in the construction  of the cognitive authorities?
  • How do the young construct their cognitive authority when they create health information?


In the CogAHealth project four empirical sub-projects will be conducted. The people in charge of these sub-projects are postdoctoral researchers Noora Hirvonen and Laura Palmgren-Neuvonen, and doctoral students Anna-Maija Multas (former Huhta) and Tuula Nygård. Moreover, a systematic review of the literature will be compiled. The CogAHealth project’s principal investigator is professor Maija-Leena Huotari.

Data have been collected in schools in spring semester 2017 by means of observation and interviews. Data collection methods based on participation has also been used: the children and young people collected and produced data themselves, such as videos and text. Furthermore, data has been collected from social media by reading health-related blogs and by interviewing the young people who are behind the blogs.

The table below describes the entire academy project and its sub-projects.






1: Theoretical and conceptual understanding


Concept of cognitive authority in health science contexts

Systematic review

Research literature (articles, reports and other documents)

Findings from WP2

2: Empirical research among the young



Formal environment

Learner Perspective

Nexus analysis

Interview transcriptions

Videos (observation)



Data collected and produced by the research subjects (videos, other texts)



Formal environment

Trustee Perspective



Leisure environment

Youngster in free time



Leisure environment

Youngster on the net

Discourse analysis

Content analysis

Multimodal data from social media environments

Transcriptions of themed interviews


Last updated: 24.4.2020