Monday, February 4, 2008

Name Recognition Research

I'm just getting into this, the research on name recogntion. Why? I'm kinda curious as to whether it matters how you ask the following:
  • Prompt with a name, such as Dick Cheney, and ask them what office that person holds.
  • Prompt with the office, such as vice president, and ask them to name the person.
I suspect the second is the more difficult. A name carries with it all the cognitive and affective baggage one would expect, including the office or position that person holds. The office? If I ask who is the VP you gotta first access what the position is, maybe get some history messed up in there, the constitutional requirements, and all that crud. It's a busy task and people are cognitive misers, which is PhDweebSpeak for we take mental shortcuts. Take a shortcut and you're more likely to be wrong, or just not answer.

Okay, but why am I writing about this?

I suspect people who rely on television or entertainment media, like Colbert or Stewart, will do okay at the name-and-then-office question option, but they'll do less well at the office-then-name question -- at least compared to people who read the news online or via ink on smushed paper. I am going to test just this in some analyses this week, perhaps for a journal submission or conference paper.

Unfortunately the data always get in the way of a good theory. I'll know in a day or two when I run some quick-and-dirty tests to see if the notion is worth pursuing.

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