Thursday, March 21, 2013

Recall vs. Recognition Knowledge

And so in a moment of PhDweebishness I turn to the a favorite question of mine -- is there a difference between recall and recognition when it comes to measuring political knowledge.

By recognition, I mean a multiple-choice test in which you're asked a question and given choices to pick from.  So if I asked you to name the Vice President of the U.S. you'd get four names, including Joe Biden.  By recall, I might ask you "Who is the Vice President of the U.S.?"  That second one is tougher.  You have to pull the answer out of your head, retrieve the information with no help, no cues.

Yes, I've written a lot on this topic (here, for example, and here). 

I'm polishing a study that looks (yet again) at this topic, basically the same as my first linked post in the sentence above.  Yes, TV news use predicts only recognition knowledge (beta = .27, p<.001), not recall knowledge (beta = .06, ns).  This controls for a bunch of other factors, the usual suspects of age and income and education and political interest and a bunch of others.  The point is simple, that watching TV news helps you to recognize through cued recall a correct answer, but it doesn't help if you have to retrieve the information without some cue.  So what does predict recall?  Among media, again controlling for all the various factors, only getting your news from Internet news sites (beta = .12, p<.01) but not reading paper newspapers (beta = -.07, ns).  Newspaper exposure has always been a modest predictor of political knowledge, but that seems to be changing.  The Internet is the new Newspaper, at least when it comes to predicting political knowledge.

And here's the interesting part -- TV really works best on recognition for less educated folks.  For those with greater education it also predicts recognition knowledge, but just not as strongly.  This fits nicely into the knowledge gap literature.

For those who care, a few other interesting findings from the multivariate models
  • Age predicts recall, but not recognition knowledge.
  • Income, education, and political interest predict both.
  • Being registered to vote predicts recognition, not recall.
With luck, all of this and more will eventually come to an academic journal near you.

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