PSYB57 Sept 18, 2013
CHAPTER 1: COGNITION AND ITS HISTORY/FIELDS
The word cognition is derived from the Latin word cognoscere, meaning “to know” or “to
come to know”.
Cognition is therefore the activities and processes concerned with the acquisition,
storage, retrieval and processing of knowledge.
Cognition: activities and processes concerned with the acquisition of knowledge.
What is Cognitive Psychology?
It is the scientific study of how the mind works.
Also the study of knowledge.
How do we study and memorize?
How do we focus our attention and concentrate?
How do we make decisions?
Things which cognitive psychologists may seek to explain.
Why do we find it difficult to describe how to tie a shoelace without moving our
hands or looking at our shoes?
What processes are involved in planning a trip?
How to recognize a song from the first few beats of music?
H.M. was a patient who had surgery to fix epileptic surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery
gave him amnesia. He could remember everything before the surgery. After the surgery,
he was unable to form new memories. He could not remember that his uncle was dead
and he also had very little sense of himself.
As he couldn‟t remember recent things that he had done, H.M. did not know what
kind of person he was. He could have done something terrible but forgotten.
A Brief History
Psychology is still a young science. Before, everything was about biology or philosophy.
Pre-20 century history of cognitive psychology
Aristotle – how do we classify objects into groups?
Descartes – what is the relationship between mind and body? PSYB57 Sept 18, 2013
Locke – how much do environmental and genetic influences affect perception?
Ebbinghaus – can we quantify how information is retained and retrieved from memory?
Def.: Observing your own thoughts. „Study of within‟
This was difficult – even if we wanted to detail how to pick up a pen, we could maybe
get most of our conscious thoughts about the process. However, we could not describe
Thoughts are directly observable
Impossible to test objectively
This overcame the limitations posed by introspection – it focused on observable
Uncovered principles of how behaviour changes in response to stimuli, such as rewards
Stimulus-response accounts are not enough
Behaviour has a mental cause – why are you doing that behaviour?
Different stimuli elicit the same behaviour
Same stimulus elicits a different behaviour
From introspection/behaviourism, experiemental psychologists learned that:
Instrospectibe events are not scientific
But we still need to study mental events in order to understand behaviour
Immanuel Kant‟s transcendental method.
Def.: look at event and determine the cause for the event
Cognitive psychologists study mental events but do so indirectly PSYB57 Sept 18, 2013
Measure stimuli and responses
Develop hypothesis about mental events
Design new experiments
Approaches to Cognitive Psychology
Experimental Cognitive Psychology
Tightly controlled experiments carried out under lab conditions on healthy
Often designed to disrupt normal functions/activity.
Hypotheses can lead to theories
Is behaviour in laboratory conditions fundamentally different to that in real world
settings. Are the finding of experiments ecologically valid?
Does not look directly at brain function but rather the explicit results of brain
function – something may be missed.
Tendency to negate individual differences by averaging many participant
performances. Does not allow for the possibility of unique cognitive function
Computational Cognitive Science
Involves recreating some aspect of human cognition in the form of computer
program/flow chart/formula in order to predict behaviour in novel situations. (While this
is still used, it was kind of taken over by neuroscience.)
Computational models can vary in complexity from simple flow charts to highly
detailed connectionist networks.
In these latter models, units