Knowledge Encapsulation

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Knowledge encapsulation is the process of merging several facts about a concept under one term. According to the Cognitive Load Theory, the number of chunks of information we are able to simultaneously process in our working memory is very limited. To overcome this limitation, we may subconsciously encapsulate several of these information chunks into expressive concepts (e.g., “sepsis”). In case it is needed, experts are able, with some additional mental effort, to deliberately “unpack” this knowledge to rationalize their decisions. This explains the effectiveness of thinking by medical experts and also justifies the need to keep basic science knowledge in the curriculum, even if it might seem that medical experts do not use it in their clinical practice.

  • Trowbridge RL Jr, Rencic JJ, Durning SJ, eds. Teaching Clinical Reasoning. Philadelphia, PA: American College of Physicians; 2015.
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