Thinking and Intelligence – Chapter 8 Summary
German psychologist, Gerd Gigerenzer proposed that low-probability events that are highly
publicized and have dire consequences could result in fears he called DREAD RISKS.
e.g. The deaths associated with the hijackings of 9/11.
Sometimes humans do not always weigh the actual probabilities of different actions (e.g. an estimated 350
Americans died during the 3 months following 9/11 because they avoided flying)
We can be influenced by numerous factors that might not be considered rational (the prominence
of events of images in our minds)
How does the mind represent information?
Our thoughts guide much of our behavior as we solve problems, make decisions and try to make
sense of events going on around us.
Some people seem to be better at using information than others; we describe this ability as
Thinking is adaptive; we develop rules for making fast decisions (deciding to go a different route
to avoid hard – snap judgments). Unconscious cognitive processes not only influence thought and
behavior, but also affect decision-making and problem solving.
Malcom Gladwell tried to illustrate how snap judgments can have important consequences by
using the example of the fire fighter, who because of intuition developed over years of experience
in fire fighting, decided to evacuate a building when the fire wouldn‟t go out after spraying water
on it. Knowing something was not right (because of the intuition) he decided to evacuate the
building, after doing so, the floor collapsed where they were standing. He made the right SNAP
Some thoughts generate images in your head; while others come out as spoken words in our
heads; HOWEVER some are still difficult to describe because they are formed without any
conscious awareness of where they came from.
Cognitive psych was originally based on the notion that the brain represents information, and that
the act of thinking is directly associated with manipulating the info. (e.g. of representations: a
road map represents streets; a menu represents food options).
The challenge for cognitive psychologists is to understand the nature of our everyday mental
representations; you don‟t need an actual physical representation to describe everything. For
instance, you can describe what your mother without having to look at a picture.
There are two different types of representations, which are both very important in understanding
how we think because they form the basis of human thought , intelligence and the ability to solve
Mental Images Are Analogical Representations:
Several lines of evidence support the notion that representations take on picture-like qualities.
E.g. In a study, they made participants determine whether the letters were normally orientated or
mirror imaged, while being rotated. They reached the conclusion that the more the image is
rotated, the longer it would take for them to decide whether the image was normally orientated or
mirror imaged. This is because; in their heads they‟re picture the letter being rotated back to the
normal position. If it were completely upside-down, them it would take the longest time to react.
BUT are all representations of objects analogical? Cant you just think of the characteristics of an
object (i.e. lemons; yellow and waxy/dimpled skin) without having to picture the object? Research
has shown that at least some thoughts take the form of mental images. Stephen Kosslyn and his
colleagues had shown that visual imagery is associated with activity in visual perception-related
areas of the brain (primary visual cortex).
The „picture‟ in your head happens because of electrical impulses that cause groups of neurons to
fire. Manipulating mental images allows you to think about your environment in novel and
creative ways; helping you solve problems.
Limits of Analogical Representations:
If something cannot be perceived wholly by out perceptual system then we cannot form a
complete analogical representation of it.
Mental maps involve a mixture of analogical and symbolic representations. E.g. When asked
whether San Diego or Jasper is father east: Symbolic representations can lead to errors, because
we can represent only a limited range of knowledge analogically and thus use memory shortcuts
Much of our thinking reflects not only visual representations of objects in the world but also our
general knowledge about the world. E.g. a lemon and how we can use it. By picturing a lemon it
doesn‟t tell you how to use it, but because you know that the inside is edible, you know that you
can squeeze the juice out. THUS; WHAT YOU DO WITH A LEMON DEPENDS ON HOW
YOU THINK ABOUT IT.
However we have to store unique knowledge for each member of a category. E.g. a violin has
„four strings‟ and a guitar has „six strings‟.
A concept ensures that we do not have to store every instance of an
object/relation/quality/dimension individually. Instead, they are stored as abstract representations
based on properties that particular items/ideas share.
Defining attribute model fails to capture many key aspects of how we organize things in our
heads. It suggests that membership within a category is on an all-or-none basis, but we actually
make exceptions in our categorizations (e.x. DAM of a bird is “can fly”, butttt penguins are birds
which DON‟T fly). Also, a DAM suggests that all of a given category‟s attributes are equally
salient in terms of defining a category; BUT research shows that some attributes are more
important for defining membership than others but that boundaries between categories are much
fuzzier than the DAM suggests (e.x. “has wings” comes to mind when we think of birds. BUT
“warm-blooded” does not as readily come to mind when we think of birds.) Third: DAMs suggest
that no one item is a better fit than any other (e.x. a 16 year old boy, a man who has been in a
relationship for a while but never got married and a 30 year old who goes on dates every now and
again – THEY ARE NOT ON THE SAME LEVEL).
The best example in a category is called the PROTOTYPE MODEL.
It allows for flexibility in the representation of concepts, but its also bad because that prototype
can be chosen for different reasons (e.x. is it the most common example of that particular
category? Is it a representation that all category members most resemble?)
E.x. of an exemplar model: your representation of dogs has come from all your experiences with
dogs. If it best resembles the dogs you have encountered, then you conclude it is a dog.
The exemplar model assumes that people form fundamental representation of a concepts because
there is no single representation of any concept.
Schemas Organize Useful Information about Environments:
How we think about the world extends well beyond a simple list of facts about the specific items
we encounter every day:
o “Schemas” help us perceive, organize and process information; it enables us to interact
with the complex realities of our daily environments. We do this by drawing on
knowledge of what objects/behaviors/events apply to each setting.
E.x. It is all right to squeeze between people to sit on a blackjack table at a casino; but it would be
weird if someone you don‟t know randomly joins you on a dinner table.
Scripts: the sequences of events in certain situations: e.x. Going to the movies is a script a lot of us
are familiar with.
Scripts and schemas can have negative impacts: reinforcing sexist or racist beliefs. E.x. when kids
are asked to draw a scientist, many of the them would draw a male scientist because
unconsciously, they associate being a scientist with being male. This is called GENDER ROLES:
we follow them unconsciously.
Relational Schemas: influence what people expect from others in their social interactions. E.x.
When children were asked to use props and dolls to act out a social evening for adults, the children
were meant to select items from a miniature grocery store; the most common items picked were
alcohol and cigarettes.
If scripts and schemas are potentially problematic, why do we persist? They minimize the amounts
of attention required to navigate familiar environments. They can help us recognize and avoid
unusual or dangerous situations.
How DO We Make Decisions and Solve Problems?
In reasoning, you determine if a conclusion is valid, using info you believe is true. In decision-
making you select among alternatives, usually by identifying important criteria and determining
how well each alternative satisfies these criteria. In problem solving, you over come obstacles to
move from a present state to a desired goal state.
IN GENERAL: A problem comes up when a gap or barrier exists between where you are and
where you want to be.
Deductive reasoning tasks are often presented as syllogisms (logical arguments containing
statements and a conclusion)
A CONDITIONAL syllogism: the argument take the form of “if A is true, then B is true.” The
arguments conclusion is conditioned on whether the statement is true. The conclusions may or
may not be true because they follow the rules of “if, then”.
A CATEGORICAL syllogism: the argument contains two statements and a conclusion.