The Cognitive Management of E-Testimony

  • Saul Traiger Cognitive Science Program, Occidental College
Keywords: testimony, e-mail, cognitive management, epistemology


This paper explores the the justificatory status of etestimony, the electronic transmission of testimony through such electronic media as e-mail, the web, instant messaging, and file-sharing. I argue that e-testimony introduces complexities in justification and cognitive management generally which should be of special interest to epistemologists and cognitive scientists. In contrast to ordinary non-technology mediated testimony, e-testimony is an impoverished stimulus. Users have to assess the epistemic and non-epistemic risks of accessing e-testimony with very little supporting information. This raises the cognitive overhead of such judgments. The paper explores mechanisms for reducing this cognitive overhead and more effectively managing e-testimony, including automated filtering and automated censorship of the incoming e-testimony stream. It is argued that such solutions may not reduce cognitive load, since epistemic responsibility still resides with the individual recipient of e-testimony.