Cognition, Behaviorism, Watson,
What is cognition?
"…The term "cognition" refers to all the processes by which the sensory input is
transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used. It is concerned with
these processes even when they operate in the absence of relevant stimulation, […].
Such terms as sensation, perception, imagery, retention, recall, problemsolving, and
thinking, among many others, refer to hypothetical stages or aspects of cognition
(Neisser, 1967 p. 4)".
Plato (Meno); Aristotle (De anima); Descartes (Méditations
Métaphysiques); Locke (An essay concerning human understanding); Hume (An
enquiry concerning human understanding); Kant (A critique of pure reason).
Their ideas about the mind were vastly different, but they all agreed
that it was something important to study.
Wundt, the scientific method and introspectionism:
In 1879, Wundt established the first psychology laboratory.
One of the methods developed for studying cognition was introspectionism
The study of the contents of consciousness and of mental processes through
Example: Freeassociation task
Problem: Most mental processes are not cognitively penetrable
This major difficulty and the Zeitgeist:
The theory of evolution
and Pavlov's Conditioned reflexes (1903)
led to behaviorism.
• In other words, it is actually very difficult for people to realize the cognitive
processes that are going on in their own brains. Your brain has to process a lot of information to achieve a certain result, and a person, for the most part,
doesn’t actually feel the processing.
• It is not in debate that the method of introspection is a failed attempt at
Behaviorism (or the dark ages for cognitive psychology):
"Behaviorism is a theory in the philosophy of mind which maintains that talk
of mental events should be translated into talk about observable behavior."
• It makes the term "psychology" problematic.
• Input/stimulus (environment) > cognitive processing in the brain >
Evolution via natural selection
Members of species are variable
There is a struggle for existence
Therefore, some variations must confer an advantage for survival
These adapted individuals will tend to survive