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Knowledge as the Representation of Information
If cognitive theories are going to explain learning, then they need to be able to
describe the nature of knowledge and how it is stored and represented in memory. This is
a complex task because human memory is so complex; however, cognitive theorists have Manuscript 9/28/03 5 focused on three capabilities of human memory in developing their ideas about the nature
of human knowledge:
• Knowledge can represent different types of information. • Knowledge can represent information in different ways. • Knowledge can represent isolated pieces of information or the perceived
relationships among many pieces of information. Cognitive psychologists use these three basic capabilities to explain the variety of ways
humans learn, remember and apply their knowledge. In the rest of this section, these three
capabilities will serve as organizer for our discussion of knowledge.
Types of Information
People are able to remember a great variety of things, specific events they’ve
experienced as well as facts and ideas that they’ve read or heard about. In addition people
are able to remember how to skillfully perform many tasks. Consider the kind of kind of
information that is implied by the following examples:
⇒ Reminiscing with her friends, Alex says, “I can picture in my mind the dress I
wore to my first dance.”
⇒ When the science teacher asks what the students know about the Periodic
Table of Elements, Samuel answers, “The atomic number tells us the number
of protons and electrons in an atom of an element.”
⇒ George is going fishing with some friends after school, he rides his bicycle to
the store to meet his friends before they all go to the lake.
⇒ Carol and her friends are painting their clubhouse. She uses the formulae for
the area of a rectangle to calculate how much paint they will need to buy. Manuscript 9/28/03 6 The statements of Alex and Samuel exemplifies our ability to store and remember
important events and facts. Such memories are an important part of who we are and affect
our ability to effectively deal with the world around us. Memories of facts and ideas we
have encountered, or experiences in our lives allows us to recognize, categories and
reason about events, objects and ideas. The actions of George and Carol are examples of
our ability to remember how to do things, such as riding a bicycle or doing a
mathematical calculation, guides our actions as we try to reach various goals.
Types of Representations
The human mind capable of representing information in different ways, and the
way information is represented determines its influence on behavior (Anderson, 1983).
This means we may infer the nature of someone’s knowledge by observing their
behavior. Many people have made the observation that sometimes people are able to
explain or describe an action, but are unable to do it themselves; and other times people
are able to perform some act, but are unable to explain how they did it. This onservation
has lead cognitive psychologists to propose two separate way in which...
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- Spring '08
- Cognitive Psychology, declarative knowledge, Declarative and Procedural Knowledge