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Medical The difference between procedural and propositional knowledge?

  1. Feb 9, 2007 #1
    I'm having a bit of trouble distinguishing between procedural knowledge and propositional knowledge. Particularly in problem solving. Generally the difference between them is knowing how and knowing what, respectively. Propositional knowledge is composed of four parts, syntactic (learning equations, vocabulary etc.) semantic (linguistic sense, how to use the vocabulary etc.), schematic (structural awareness, similarities and differences between categories) and finally there is strategic knowledge. This involves problem-solving strategies, so what's the difference between that and procedural knowledge?

    Can't they both be tacit/subconscious? Aren't they both dependent on experience, recognizing familiar cues thereby retrieving the relevant knowledge intuitively/quickly? I think it'd be better to say that procedural knowledge is the application of propositional knowledge tactfully in order to accomplish a task.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2007 #2
    I learnt at uni that there was two types of memory...

    1) Declarative memory - this is memory of facts (i'm not really sure if this related to what you are calling 'propositional knowledge')

    2) Procedural memory - memomry of procedures, i.e. riding a bike

    I'm no expert on the brain... but no-one really seems to understand much about memory... i was told that declarative memory has no real pinpoint part of the brain... you use lots of different parts of the cerebral cortex such as the temporal lobes and others parts such as the thalamus, hippocampus...etc.

    Procedural memory is more to do with the cerebellum and the basal ganglia...etc.

    I'm not entirely sure by the parts of the brain that are involved but there is clear evidence of a differenciation between neural pathways involved in learning facts and those in learning procedures... There is definately a clear distinction...

    How do they know this?

    Well, they've taken human brain out and see what happens... An interesting case is where they removed both the medial temporal lobes of someone with very very severe epillepsy... It cured the epilepsy but it is interesting because he cannot form any new memories after the operation and can only remember things for a few seconds or if he continues to think about it all the time... This guy also can only remember a few memories from his very earliest childhood...

    There was another person who got his thallamus pierced by a fencing sword that got stuck up his nose and fractured his skull.... that's got to hurt... and he has the same symptoms even though he has a completely different part of the brain damaged...

    If you want to look into declarative memory... It is very interesting to see the effects of loss of different parts of the brain... even though we may not have a clue why it causes such an effect... you can tell a lot about the brain works by looking at people with amnesia

    Procedural memory I think would mainly be subconscious whereas declarative would mainly be conscious... One you've learnt to drive a car you can do a lot of things automatically without thinking about it... I don't know if this is really what you can define as 'subconscious' though...

    Procedural memory is better studied because it is eas=ier to simulate experiments about it in the lab...
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2007
  4. Feb 10, 2007 #3
    This seems to be cognitive psychologists' main distinction. Procedural knowledge is mainly subconscious, nearly impossible to articulate and there is evidence that it works in a different part of the brain than declarative or propositional knowledge.

    I'm not a psych student, but I'm interested in this stuff because I'm interest in expertise and the acquisition thereof, in the hopes that it'll help me develop expertise more effectively in what I'm interested in.

    Thanks for replying.

    ETA: I don't suppose you know what the difference is between Qualitative knowledge and Quantitative knowledge? Their definitions aren't located in the Glossary of any papers I read, though they make sure to make explicit the definitions of other terms.

    From my understanding, success in understanding, say, physics requires building expert like schemas and building connections between different schemas. A schema contains both declarative knowledge (facts, formulas and concepts) and procedural knowledge (rules consisting of skills and technqiues). Basically it's our memory's chain of responses to a particular context or situation (like a certain problem). We see a problem and we activate the relevant knowledge/procedures to solve it. For instance, when presented with a problem involving a block on an inclined plane you might activate a schema for dynamics, which would contain information about Newton's laws and how to apply them in a problem.

    I just don't understand what Qualitative and Quantitative knowledge is!
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2007
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