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Cogn Psychol. 2002 Jun;44(4):339-87.

Effects of domain knowledge, working memory capacity, and age on cognitive performance: an investigation of the knowledge-is-power hypothesis.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824, USA.


Domain knowledge facilitates performance in many cognitive tasks. However, very little is known about the interplay between domain knowledge and factors that are believed to reflect general, and relatively stable, characteristics of the individual. The primary goal of this study was to investigate the interplay between domain knowledge and one such factor: working memory capacity. Adults from wide ranges of working memory capacity, age, and knowledge about the game of baseball listened to, and then answered questions about, simulated radio broadcasts of baseball games. There was a strong facilitative effect of preexisting knowledge of baseball on memory performance, particularly for information judged to be directly relevant to the baseball games. However, there was a positive effect of working memory capacity on memory performance as well, and there was no indication that domain knowledge attenuated this effect. That is, working memory capacity contributed to memory performance even at high levels of domain knowledge. Similarly, there was no evidence that domain knowledge attenuated age-related differences (favoring young adults) in memory performance. We discuss implications of the results for understanding proficiency in cognitive domains from an individual-differences perspective.

Copyright 2001 Elsevier Science (USA).

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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