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Know How

Know how is an informal way of referring to procedural knowledge. It is also known as practical knowledge, imperative knowledge, or performative knowledge. Know how refers to the knowledge exercised in the performance of some task. Different from descriptive knowledge, which is also known as declarative knowledge or propositional knowledge, which involves knowledge of certain facts or propositions, procedural knowledge refers to a person’s ability to do something. A person does not need to be able to verbally articulate their procedural knowledge for it to count as knowledge, as procedural knowledge needs, as the name goes, knowing how to perform an action or exercise a skill with precision.

The development of procedural knowledge is always entangled with the development of declarative knowledge. Initial problem solving refers to referring to examples explicitly, participants begin with pure example-based processing. The examples illustrate the solution of a similar problem and the problem solver analogically maps the solution of the example onto a solution for the current problem. People make extensive references to examples even when they are taught the rules and principles in the initial stage. It is believed that when people acquire cognitive skills, an example is first encoded as a declarative structure after which the participants are tested on their first problems. There are two possible ways to respond. If the example matches the problem that they have learned, they can simply retrieve the answer. However, if it does not match, they need to extend the example analogically. With repeated practice, general rules develop, and the specific example can no longer be accessed. In this way, knowledge transitions from a declarative form to a procedural form which is known as the adaptive control of thought—rational (ACT-R) theory.

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