Cultural knowledge objects (e.g., theories, product designs or marketing plans) that are systematically created, produced, further developed, and added value to, in trialogical activities. Conceptual artefacts can be infinitely re-interpreted. Resistance, tensions and breakdowns encountered in activity may be transformed (made into) to conceptual artefacts by taking them as trialogical objects of inquiry. Conceptual artefacts presuppose externalization and objectification as written, visualized or otherwise represented object. After being created, conceptual artefacts may play a part in oral discourse or be entertained in the human mind (i.e., not literally “in” the mind, but in front of the ‘mind’s eye’).

This term was proposed by Carl Bereiter within the idea of knowledge building (see e.g., Bereiter 2002) on the basis of Karl Popper’s theory of reality with three “worlds” (see also Popper 1979) although the term ‘conceptual artefact’ itself is not used by Popper. :

  • World 1: the world of physical objects and events;
  • World 2: the world of mental objects and events, and
  • World 3: the world of the “objective knowledge”, ideas, cultural artefacts.
Conceptual artefacts are not mental states--nor components or products of them--inside the human head, but cultural and social artefacts which have thing-like characteristics but where immaterial properties are central and emphasized (for example, the idea of the theory of natural selection is a conceptual artefact which is not the same as its various material manifestations).

See also artefact, knowledge artefact


Bereiter, C. (2002). Education and mind in the knowledge age. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Popper, K (1979). Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Revised edition.

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