Transactive memory theory
Transactive memory theory
Main dependent construct(s)/factor(s)
Main independent construct(s)/factor(s)
Concise description of theory
Transactive memory theory is based on the idea that individual members can serve as external memory aids to each other (Wegner, 1987). Members are able to benefit from each other’s knowledge and expertise if they develop a good, shared understanding of who knows what in the group/unit. A transactive memory system is built on the distinction between internal and external memory encoding. Often, individuals encode new knowledge internally, in their own memory. However, even more often individuals encode or use knowledge encoded externally (in diaries, in books, or even in other people’s memory). In these cases, the individual internally encodes the label (subject) of the knowledge as well as its location but not the knowledge itself.
Transactive memory systems are built on this view of individuals playing the role of external memory for other individuals who – in turn – encode meta-memories (i.e. memories about the memories of others). Wegner (1995) proposes that two types of meta-memories are maintained in people’s minds – information about the subjects of knowledge of each member (i.e. areas of expertise) and information about the locations of the knowledge. Knowledge is encoded, stored, and retrieved from the collective memory through various transactions between individuals, based on their meta-memories.
Findings of both field and laboratory research indicate that transactive memory can serve as a facilitator of group performance, where groups whose members are aware of the knowledge and expertise of other group members perform better than groups whose members do not
Members of small groups, who are co-located, can initially use surface information to infer rough estimates of “who knows what” (Wegner, 1986), and can then reach greater accuracy in the attribution of expertise to other group members through common experiences (Moreland, Argote & Krishnan, 1998), such as group training (Liang, Moreland & Argote, 1995), and group discussion (Rulke & Rao, 2000).
Diagram/schematic of theory
Wegner, D. M. (1986). Transactive memory: A contemporary analysis of the group mind. In M. B. & G. G. R. (Eds.), Theories of Group Behavior (pp. 185-205). New York: Springer-Verlag.
Level of analysis
IS articles that use the theory
Griffith, Sawyer, and Neale. 2003. “Virtualness and Knowledge in Teams: Managing the Love Triangle of Organizations, Individuals, and Information Technology MIS Quarterly, 27, 2, 2003, pp. 265-287
Nevo, D., Y. Wand. 2005. Organizational memory information systems: a transactive memory approach. Decision Support Systems. 39(4):549-562
Sharma, R., & Yetton, P. 2007. The Contingent Effects of Training, Technical Complexity and Task Interdependence on Successful Information Systems Implementation. MIS Quarterly, 31(2).
Yoo, Y., & Kanawattanachai, P. 2002. Developments of Transactive Memory and Collective Mind in Virtual Teams. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 9(2).
Links from this theory to other theories
http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~wegner/pubs.htm, Website of Daniel Wegner, originator of the theory
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