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Unformatted text preview: e amount of information
or knowledge they possess. Thinking about knowledge this way implies that there is
some basic unit of measure that may be used measure how much knowledge someone
has. Information processing theories propose that declarative knowledge may be thought
of as being composed of basic cognitive units (Anderson, 1983) sometimes called chunks
(Miller,1956, Anderson, 1996). A chunk may be thought of as a packet of declarative
knowledge representing some information we have learned. For example, we may have a
chunk that contains our understanding that humans are mortal, another chunk may
contain our knowledge of the sequence of events at the beginning of World War II.
Declarative knowledge can represent information in a variety of ways. As an
analogy, think of the ways information is represented in this textbook. Some of the
information is in the form of text, while other information is presented in a graphic form,
such as diagrams, photographs, or charts; and sometimes the information is presented
both textually and graphically. Human memory has a similar capability, we seem to be
able to remember some things using a language-based code, such as a verbal description
of some event or the definition for a term. Alternatively we may store information and Manuscript 9/28/03 9 recall it in the form of mental image, as when we recall the look on a friend’s face when
he was surprised on his birthday. Anderson (1983, 1993) proposes three different types of
chunks, each storing a different type of information: (a) temporal strings, (b) images, and
(c) proposition. Figure 3.1 (Figure 3.1 appears at the end of the chapter) provides an
example of each types of chunk.
A temporal string is a chunk that preserves our perception of the timing, or order
in which things a occur (Anderson, 1983). In Figure 3.1 the notes on the scale might be
represented in memory as a specific sequence of sounds and pauses that create a melody.
In addition to the rhythm of a melody, temporal strings may represent the sequence of
letters or sounds of a word, the words of a poem, or the sequence of items appearing on a
shopping list. Whenever order is an important characteristic of an experience, we are
likely to store that the information as a temporal string. If information is stored as a
temporal string, the information will be most easily recalled starting from the beginning.
If we need to retrieve the information in an order different from the way it was stored,
retrieval is likely to be difficult. For instance when doing a crossword puzzle, retrieval of
a word is easier if you have the begging letters as a clue than it is if you have the same
number of letters in from the middle of the word.
An image is a chunk that represents information about the way objects are
arranged in space (Anderson, 1983 and 1993). Images are closely related to our visual
perception, and we tend to store information as an image when we perceive that the
important aspect of an experience is the spatial relationships. For instance, if you ask
someone for directions to the nearest public telephone, you will often find that...
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- Spring '08