The novice and the expert: Knowledge-based strategies in political cognition

Susan T. Fiske, Donald R. Kinder, W. Michael Larter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

240 Scopus citations


An experiment examined knowledge-based strategies in political cognition, as a function of expertise. Both experts and novices were predicted to use information that was consistent with their shared prior knowledge set. However, it was hypothesized that experts should have extra on-line processing capacity because of their tighter organization of the shared knowledge. Consequently, experts were predicted to use information inconsistent with the prior knowledge as well. To test this, subjects read a description of a previously unknown third-world country, Mauritius, under the expectation (prior knowledge set) that it was communist, democratic, or unspecified. Information processing depended on subjects' level of political sophistication. Political experts inferred and recalled on the basis of inconsistencies to a greater extent than did novices, as predicted. Correlational data indicated that for experts, but not for novices, knowledge-based inferences were mediated by their clustering of recall in terms of inconsistency. The results are discussed as one possible basis for predicting when people will process consistent or inconsistent information and as a possible way to predict judgments from recall. Expert/novice differences in the use of shared knowledge content encourages more focus on individual differences in strategies for the use of prior knowledge in social cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-400
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1983
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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