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Tacit knowledge, implicit learning and scientific reasoning


The concept of tacit knowledge is widely used in social sciences to refer to all those knowledge that cannot be codified and have to be transferred by personal contacts. All this literature has been affected by two kind of “biases”: (1) the interest has been focused more on the result (tacit knowledge) than on the process (implicit learning); (2) “tacit knowledge” has been somehow reduced to physical skills or know-how; other possible forms of tacit knowledge have been neglected. These two “biases” seem interconnected one with each other. A greater consideration of the role and relevance of implicit learning allows us to consider tacit knowledge as something more than pure physical skills or know how. This is the first step in order to develop more detailed categorisation of the different forms that tacit knowledge can assume.

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    A quick research performed on the main databases for social sciences (Econlit, PsycINFO, Social Services Abstract and Sociological Abstract) on the period going from 1960 to 2006 gives the following results: the papers dealing with tacit knowledge are 590 (163 of which carrying the exact phrase “tacit knowledge” in the title). If we limit ourselves to consider only the last seven years (from 1999 to 2006), we find 356 papers dealing with tacit knowledge and 91 carrying “tacit knowledge” in the title. In other words, more than half of all the papers dealing in one way or another with this topic have been written in the last seven years.


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This article is a revised version of the paper presented at the International Conference Model-Based Reasoning in Science and Engineering (MBR04), held at the University of Pavia, Italy (16–18 December 2004) and chaired by Lorenzo Magnani.

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Correspondence to Andrea Pozzali.

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Pozzali, A. Tacit knowledge, implicit learning and scientific reasoning. Mind Soc 7, 227 (2008).

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  • Implicit learning
  • Knowledge theory
  • Skills
  • Tacit knowledge