Assessing and modifying knowledge: Facts vs. Constellations

David N. Rapp*, Amalia M. Donovan, Nikita A. Salovich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


There is a rich philosophical and empirical history associated with examinations of the nature of knowledge. Epistemological queries have focused on determining how to characterize knowledge, and on developing methods of supporting people's accurate understandings. The resulting work has led to contentious debates about whether, when, and how knowledge is amenable to change. These are timely disputes given contemporary concerns about the consequences of exposure to inaccurate information from multiple perspectives (including but not limited to social media, fake news, and unsubstantiated reports), and how information from competing sources influences people's understandings of the world. Emerging investigations have focused on when and in what ways people might modify what they know. In the current chapter, we highlight two distinct ways that "what people know" has been characterized - as declarative ideas and as constellations of ideas. Different concepts and topics might reflect either of these representational possibilities, which has crucial implications for epistemological investigations and claims about how to modify knowledge. We highlight the challenges and problems that can emerge when researchers confabulate distinct conceptualizations of knowledge representation. These are important considerations for selecting methodological approaches, deriving theoretical models, and arguing for (or against) the generalizability of findings. Suggestions for wrestling with these issues are offered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Learning from Multiple Representations and Perspectives
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780429813665
ISBN (Print)9780367001179
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Epistemology
  • Knowledge
  • Learning
  • Mental representation
  • Updating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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