Transactive memory refers to information that is not resident in one’s own biological memory but resides externally. This external source could be human, a knowledgeable person whom you ask. Or the external source could be technological. Technology can range from a note on a postit pad, to someplace in cyberspace. Memory theorists make a distinction between information that is accessible and information that is available. Memories that are accessible are memories that can be recalled with little or no effort. Available memory is a superset of accessible memories (all accessible memories are available). Information can be available, but not accessible at the moment. Often we know that we know something, but just cannot recall it. Metamemory refers to our knowledge of our own memories. Sometimes long after we have expended great effort in trying to recall something, it will suddenly pop into our minds. Your brain can continue to search after you have abandoned your conscious attempts.
Similarly, transactive memory can be divided into three sets. The superset being potential transactive memory. Potential transactive memory includes all information stored in any form of technology and/or in any human being. Available transactive memory is information that you know exists and have probably accessed previously, but need to search for it know. Accessible transactive memory is information that you know how to access immediately without having to search for it.
So there are two circumstances when you have to resort to your search tool. One is the available case, in which the know the information exists, but have forgotten how to access it. And the other is the potential transactive memory case, in which you think the information might be available, but you are not sure. The APS Observer published a piece by a Google scientist offering search tips.1 The article pointed out that searching that there are similarities between searching on the internet and searching in your own mind. The author used the term “framing” the query. So a successful search involves finding the correct context and retrieval cue for the desired information.
Difficult search tasks are called “long tail” problems because they are tasks that require more than the usual number of searches to find. Most searches are accomplished quickly. But difficult searches can take a long, long time in to find the successful key term. These difficult search tasks are more commonly found in the technical literature. Popular searches tend to be easier. Once you have done a search on Google, you will receive a list of many potential responses. If you don’t find a good response on that first page of results, you can look at the left column for a variety of options. Clicking on “Search Tools” will provide a variety of options. Clicking on “related searches” will provide a list of searches made on this or similar topics. This can provide an aide for refining your search. It also might lead you to some serendipitous site with some interesting and useful information.
Google has an advanced search option that is quite easy to use. Many who have had bad experiences trying to search databases with arcane formulae might be scared off this option. It is quite easy to use. You can specify sites that contain all the words, you specify, some of the words you specify, and you can even include words that would exclude the site for consideration. There are also options on language, file type, and even reading level.
If you know the website where the information is located, you can put that in your search. For example if you were on google and looking for something on this blog you could simply enter
healthymemory.wordpress.com method of loci and you would be find a variety of listings specific to this topic and this blog.
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