Cognitive Interdependence - Part 2

In 1985, Daniel Wegner and his colleagues published a book chapter that proposed a theoretical framework called transactive memory for the first time. As I mentioned in the previous post, transactive memory proposes that groups of people develop an implicit division of memory if they spend enough time together. In Wegner's life, this concept become apparent after he and his wife divorced. He found that it was a struggle to remember things without his companion there to both help remind him of information he knew and to tell him information he never stored.

Wegner proposed that transactive memory has 2 components: the store of information that an individual carries and and the "knowledge-relevant transactive processes". These processes were that one party knows the other party has some information and can ask. The other main kind of process was that one party can remind another party that they have some knowledge and cue them with enough clues to lead to their recall. Like traditional memory, Wegner et al. (1985) proposed that there were three processes that lead to transactive memory's development: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding was witnessing or being told that another had information or an expertise. Storage was the act of remembering that information or expertise, associated with the person. Retrieval is then the process of using the association between the thing and the person to access that information. At the time, and still, this is a rather revolutionary idea, which is probably why the only place for this work for a long time was in book chapters.

Several of the most important papers in the brief history of transactive memory research has been in the form of book chapters. There was the initial Wegner et al., 1986 chapter, the Wegner 1987 chapter, and much later the Moreland, 1999 chapter. Outside of psychology, this may not mean much, but it is quite intriguing, and adds an intriguing element to the story. When an academic has work that they would like to publish there are three main avenues: conferences, journal articles, and book chapters. One could also publish whole academic books, but that appears to be less common now than in the past. The type and prestige of these different avenues varies by discipline. For example, in computer science, conference papers are seen as archival and 'count' as the publication itself. In management, marketing, and social psychology, however, conferences are seen as a place to get feedback on the work and only a step along the way to a journal article. Journal articles are the most prestigious with various journals seen as more influential than others. And then there are book chapters

Book chapters are different from most conferences and journal articles because they are typically invited. The editors for a book chapter contact a set of authors, propose a theme for the book, mention the other people involved, and attempt to convince the academic to propose a chapter. In the one book chapter I have been involved with, the submitted paper was returned with a few comments from other authors on the book but there was no other peer review. My adviser was also very clear with me that though book chapters are good, they will not help me get a job. The lack of strict peer review and the low expectation for benefit from a book chapter have led to these publications being very low in value on one's CV. However, much of the early work on TMS was published in books. I think of this work as being high quality and it has certainly been very influential, so why was it not published in more prestigious locations?

I do not honestly know, but I can make an educated guess. In 1985, Wegner had just become a full professor at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. After you become a full professor, there is much more freedom to pursue work that you think may be riskier. A place to publish work that is risky is also a book chapter. Due to the lack of editorial intrusion, the ideas in a book chapter have not been molded and adjusted to appease a set of reviewers. Publishing in a book would mean that Wegner wouldn't have to defend all of the things that he said in the chapter. It is also possible that this or similar work had been taken to a journal but there had been limited interest in publishing it. For several of the later chapters of TMS research, I am fairly confident that the authors thought that they had very interesting, compelling findings but that journals were not willing to accept an idea like transactive memory. So Wegner, his coauthors, Moreland, and etc. published in the last place left to them, book chapters. Thankfully, the interest in TMS began picking up in the management literature in the late 90s so these chapters haven't been lost, buried under all the mediocre books in psychology.

After the initial two chapters (Wegner et al., 1985; Wegner, 1987), there was not an immediate followup. Wegner had collected some experimental data with romantic couples published in these papers, but there just did not seem to be much interest. It wasn't until Liang, Moreland, and Argote (1995) that significant exploration of transactive memory began. This study was considered a transactive memory to be a system of relationships between many people as opposed to just couples. It also proposed that transactive memory could be important for many kinds of groups, including groups within organizations. These authors saw within Wegner's theory a useful idea that they could use, but they sparked a whole stream of research. On Monday, I will discuss a bit more about the early studies that have explored TMS.

**Personal information about the researchers was attained second-hand and may not be accurate.