Recognition is the ability to retrieve information given a set of stimulus, be it a cue, a hint, a reference to a term then asking one to elaborate. Recall is the ability to produce content without such stimulus. Assume one is taking a critical thinking examination, where there is a discrete list of prerequisite content recommended for success on an examination. However, the examination is not a fill in the blank of this definition with 4 answer choices examination. The examination is of the format where one would read a passage. The passage's content is arbitrary and transcends the discrete list of prerequisite content. That is, it is related to the prerequisite content, but it is more complex and cannot be studied for. To achieve a high score, a test taker must apply relevant prerequisite knowledge to the passage's details and answer scenario questions.

Is the test taker at a disadvantage if the test taker is very fluent in the content, but only from a recognition perspective as opposed to a recall perspective? That is, the test taker cannot spontaneously lecture or write a chapter on the content, but given a cue, can retrieve information.

Here is an example. Pretend there is a neuroscience test. The requisite knowledge the professor assigns include:

  1. Know the physiology of action potentials

  2. Know common neurotransmitters and roles

  3. Know neuroanatomy

  4. Know common psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, ADHD, and symptoms/treatments

A student reads upon these chapters, understands the content well, but cannot simply draw up a chart and list 20 neurotransmitters, with their common effectors, ec. Nor can the student spontaneously reference literature on schizophrenia and genetics for 30 minutes, despite spending hours reading such literature.

Then the student walks into an examination, and the first passage is about a drug that the student has never heard (again, this is a critical thinking examination) of and its mechanism of action in dopamine receptors. The student is asked scenario questions about how this drug would affect schizophrenics. Given the cues "dopamine" and "schizophrenia", can a student realistically succeed on a test assuming normal reading comprehension if he can only remember pertinent information about "dopamine" and "schizophrenia" when triggered by a test taking atmosphere, a passage, reading those words, etc.? Or is innate recall outside of these cues more likely to end up in academic success on this test?


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