Friday, November 7, 2008

Objective and Subjective Knowledge

There's what you know, and what you think you know. And the two are sometimes related.

A recent meta-analysis of 103 consumer research studies found that what they call objective knowledge (or actual knowledge) is strongly correlated with what they call subjective knowledge (or perceived knowledge).

The paper, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, isn't really political. It looks at mostly at commercial products -- though I can make a good argument that politicians are essentially commercial products. Still, I believe there's a lot to be learned in examining non-political research and swiping the theory, moving it over to politics and media.

So what's the takeaway here? The correlation between what people know and what they think they know is higher on products than non-products (such as health or services). People's estimate of their knowledge more matches actual knowledge on "fun" products.

Yeah, yeah ... but what's the takeaway? They ask whether subjective or perceived knowledge can be a surrogate for actual knowledge. You sometimes find perceived knowledge in political studies as a surrogate for those nasty, hard actual knowledge questions. So, can it work? They say maybe, if you're studying "durable and hedonic products, as well as public, luxury, and search goods." I'm not sure how that translates into political candidates or issues. I'm thinking not. Best stick with actual knowledge.

There is an interesting part of this study that I don't quite grasp, something to do with whether you're judging subjective knowledge about yourself or people in general (or at least I think that's what they're trying to say). Incorporating the "self" seems to weaken the relationship. I've got to give this one more thought. Read the link above and if you can figure out a political angle to that, lemme know.

As an aside, I've always preferred perceived knowledge, or PK, as a concept than subjective knowledge. The latter fails to capture the perception involved in estimating one's own opinion, plus PK is a great acronym that takes me back to my early gaming days.

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