Thursday, July 15, 2010

Knowledge Structures vs. Actual Knowledge

There is a fascinating study that argues, in part, that important theoretical differences and consequences exist between knowledge structures and actual knowledge.  Best of all, the authors cite my work on recall versus recognition.

What's a knowledge structure?  The authors argue that it is distinct from actual knowledge, yet related (much like I argued for recall and recognition).  Basically, you ask someone to list as many things as they can about a topic (say, Barack Obama).  The number of relevant responses are part of the knowledge structure.  Factual, or actual, knowledge is a more standard item, a set of questions settled on a priori and then asked of respondents.  The differences here are not new.  V.O. Key and Doris Graber long ago explored the important theoretical and methodological differences between what people know versus what social scientists ask them about what they know.  "The voters are not fools," Key famously said. 

The study also probes something called reflective integration as well as news consumption to explore all the relationships.  Tomorrow, I get at the results and their consequences -- methodologically, theoretically, and even for the real world question of what people know and how they use that information.

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