During interactions members cue one another by "verbalizing details about the context in which the knowledge was obtained, posing questions, or verbalizing associations with the question" (Hollingshead 1998b, p. 661). Cues from other members help individuals retrieve and share knowledge that they possess-uniquely held knowledge that would have otherwise remained unshared. Communication processes that aid in transactive retrieval are important for creating a TMS that facilitates knowledge utilization and integration during the implementation phase.
Expert recognition is a continuous knowledge inventory process over time. For example, in a transactive memory network with three employees A, B, and C, employee A's perception of how knowledgeable employee B is, regarding a particular computer software, might increase by directly asking employee B questions and finding that employee B is a good source of information. However, employee A's perception of employee B's expertise may decrease after communicating with employee C, who proves to be more knowledgeable about the topic than employee B.
Wegner (1987) indicated that transactive memory is of no use once the team is dissolved. Rouse et al. (1992) mentioned that presence of strong shared cognition might lead to erroneous behavior if inadequate and inappropriate expectations exist in the team. TMS based on incomplete and wrong information may also lead to poor efficiency.
Transactive memory stresses heterogeneity in relation to the task-related expertise possessed by team members. The idea is that the specialization of the members within the team could reduce individual cognitive duties and, thus, members can easily and efficiently coordinate and rely on the others' knowledge (Hollingshead, 1998; Lewis, 2003; Wegner, 1995). Therefore, experience is the fundamental variable in the transactive memory, since a greater degree of experience and knowledge will promote the discussion of unshared information.
In applying transactive memory, group members recall who knows what and who can do what, and they draw on this knowledge of each other when the need arises. They recognize the role they play in the group and that others rely on them to maintain and deepen their expertise to meet member expectations. As interpersonal congruence develops, group members begin to divide the cognitive labor to remember and retrieve more knowledge than any one of the members could retain.
Transactive memory is the shared division of cognitive labor with respect to the encoding, storage, retrieval, and communication of information from different knowledge domains, which often develops in groups and can lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness. Although discussions of transactive memory theory suggest that components of the theory are dynamic, research tends to treat transactive memory as evolving linearly, using static measures rather than assessing development over time.
Regardless of whether they remember the facts, however, people tend to recall the Web sites that hold the answers they seek.
In this way, the Internet has become a primary form of external or "transactive" memory (a term coined by Sparrow's one-time academic advisor, social psychologist Daniel Wegner), where information is stored collectively outside the brain. This is not so different from the pre-Internet past, when people relied on books, libraries and one another—such as using a "lifeline" on the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?—for information.
My students have become cyborgs. They are constantly wired in and uncomfortable if they don’t have continuous access to the internet. As they leave class, the smart phones glow immediately. For the cyborg generation, part of their memories and their minds reside online.
Hollingshead (1998) examined the interpersonal communication processes of transactive memory in dyads of intimate couples and strangers. She asked these couples to pool their knowledge in various domains (such as science, entertainment, and sports) under either a face-to-face or computer-- conferencing condition. She found that intimate couples performed better on the knowledge pooling task than dyads of strangers under both face-to-face and computer-conferencing conditions. Intimate couples, however, differed in their performance across the two types of media. Intimate couples performed better in the face-to-face than in the computer-conferencing condition.
Wegner (1987; Wegner et al., 1991) first developed the notion of a transactive memory system based on the observation that few people rely exclusively on their own memories. He noted that couples in close relationships seemed to treat their partners as external memory aids, relying on each other to remember details about specific domains of expertise.