Monday, August 10, 2009


Stick meta in front of a word and we move a step back. It becomes thinking about that word, whatever it is. Too PhDweebish for ya? Here's an easy example. Put meta in front of cognition and metacognition is thinking about thinking. Metamemory, according to a study I read this morning, is belief in one's own memory efficiency -- kinda thinking about your memory.

Yeah, I'm getting older, so I wonder how long the old brainpan is gonna work.

This also gets into feeling of knowing. We've all suffered this one. Some call it the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. Or maybe their different. Feeling of knowing is just what it sounds like: you know something, but you can't quite remember. It's like an annoying itch you can't quite reach. Tip-of-the-tongue is similar, a word or phrase or name that's right there, on the tip of your tongue, but you just can't quite grab it. There are probably conceptual and theoretical differences between the two, but it's too early, and I'm not caffeinated enough, to tease them out here.

Why am I going on about this? In part to demonstrate that there's a wide world of research out there on memory and the different ways it goes wrong, which can definitely play a role in how those of us who study political knowledge deal with survey respondents or experimental subjects. We know that TV news, for example, does a bit better with recognition of political information but not so well with recall of facts. There's a nagging feeling of knowing, a tip-of-the-tongue example for you right there. TV news alone probably leads to greater feelings that you know something, because of haphazard exposure to TV news while doing something else, thus leads to better recognition of information as opposed to easy recall. What might be interesting to study is any frustration that emerges from that nagging feeling that you know something but can't quite yank it out of trace memory because you watched it on the boob tube rather than read it online or on paper (thus, deeper processing).

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