Implicit Memory and Metacognition

By Lynne M. Reder | Go to book overview

plicit memory. In recognition, people's intuitions about the past -- the feeling of familiarity, in the absence of full recollection -- seem to be based on the perceptual fluency that comes with priming. Here, we have a case in which people can strategically capitalize on implicit memory in order to perform an explicit memory task. Priming can also underlie people's intuitions in more traditional problem-solving situations as well. These intuitions are not exactly implicit memories, because they are not representations of past events. Nor are they implicit percepts ( Kihlstrom, Barnhardt, & Tataryn, 1993), because they are not representations of current environmental stimuli. We actually think of these mental states as implicit thoughts ( Kihlstrom, 1987, 1990): instances in which an idea or image influences experience, thought, or action in the absence of conscious awareness of what that idea or image is. Having thoughts, and even knowing that we have thoughts, but yet not knowing what those thoughts are, is a metacognitive puzzle that further research on implicit memory and related phenomena should help us to solve.

For the present, however, it is clear that problem solutions, like memories, are not discontinuous, all-or-none affairs, remaining entirely unconscious until they emerge full-blown into the full light of consciousness. There is a point, as they approach and cross what Wallas ( 1926), following William James ( 1890), called the "fringe" of consciousness, when we know they are coming, even when we do not know what they are. This is the point, between preparation and insight, where intuitions occur.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

For additional coverage of problems of intuition, incubation, and insight, see Dorfman, Shames, and Kihlstrom ( 1994). Preparation of this chapter was supported by Grant MH-35856 from the National Institute of Mental Health to John F. Kihlstrom, a Minority Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation to Victor A. Shames, and a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health to Jennifer Dorfman. Thanks to John Anderson, Mahzarin Banaji, Talia Ben-Zeev, Robert Crowder, Marilyn Dabady, Isabel Gauthier, William Hayward, Katherine Krause, Elizabeth Phelps, Lynne Reder, Robert Sternberg, Michael Tarr, and Heidi Wenk, Pepper Williams for their comments. Kenneth S. Bowers died on july 4, 1996.


REFERENCES

Anderson J. R. ( 1983). "A spreading activation theory of memory". Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior, 22, 261-295.

Atkinson R. C., & Juola J. F. ( 1973). "Factors influencing speed and accuracy of word recognition". In S. Kornblum (Ed.), Attention and performance IV (pp. 583-612). New York: Academic Press.

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