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 JUDGEMENT.
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 WO 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 life's problems.
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
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:
“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.
E.x. All A are B.
All B are C.
Therefore, all A are C.
This conclusion is valid, since it is logical.
E.x. All people from Vancouver are friendly.
Some friendly people like Thai food.
Therefore, some people from Vancouver like Thai food.
This conclusion is INVALID. Since: some friendly people might not like Thai food.
The ambiguity of the word ‘nothing’ in statements causes a logical error in some syllogisms. E.x. of INDUCTIVE REASONING: The use of scientific method to discover general principles; if a
group of researchers hypothesize that students involved in school clubs perform better
academically, they might select a random sample of students, half of whom participate in
school clubs and the rest do not, and compare their GPA’s would lead to the conclusion that
overall students who participate in school clubs perform better academically.
We often are strongly influenced by anecdotal reports, especially when it comes from someone
you know. E.x. when all the reviews say the Porsche is an amazing car, while you’re friend who
owns one says its horrible, you’re friends opinion would have heavy weight on your purchasing
decision because you know your friend.
Decision Making Often Involves Heuristics
Research on decision-making had been influenced by normative models (they have viewed
humans as optimal decision makers, who always select the choice that yields the largest gain.)
and descriptive models (they have tried to account for humans’ tendencies to misinterpret and
misrepresent the probabilities underlying many decision making scenarios and to act
irrationally even when they understand the probabilities.)
Psychologists focus on how people make decisions in everyday life. We often need to make
decisions without fully thinking through the pros and cons, to make fast decisions.
EXPECTED UTILITY THEORY: a normative model of how humans should make decisions, basically
saying that humans should pick the option that seems most desirable to them.
The rational way to decide would be to rank order the alternatives and select the one with
most utility/value to you.
An ALGORITHM is a procedure that, if followed correctly, will ALWAYS yield the correct answer.
While a HEURISTIC is an INFORMAL GUIDE – there is no guarantee.
Heuristic thinking can be adaptive in that it allows us to decide quickly rather than weighing all
the evidence each time we have to decide.
Heuristics can also result in biases, which may lead to errors or fault decisions: E.x. the heuristic
that a high price equals high quality.
Understanding How the Availability and Representativeness Heuristics Can Affect Thinking:
E.x. : In most industrialized countries, are there more farmers or more librarians? People who
live in a more agricultural area, who have encountered many farmers (more than librarians)
would think that there are more farmers than librarians; while people who have lived in a less
agricultural area, who have encountered many librarians, would think that there are more
librarians than farmers. In fact, there are more farmers than librarians, but people who live in
cities and suburbs and may never have met a farmer will likely believe the opposite. E.x. Helena is an intelligent, ambitious and scientific-minded person. She enjoys working on
mathematical puzzles, talking with other people, reading and gardening. Would you guess that
she is a cognitive psychologist or a postal worker? Most people would think she was a cognitive
psychologist because her characteristics seem more representative of a psychologist than a
BASE RATE: the frequency of an events occurrence. E.x. there are so many more postal workers
than cognitive psychologists, so the base rate for a postal worker is higher than that for a
cognitive psychologist, therefore, any given person (including Helena) would most likely be a
Framing effects: How information is presented can alter how people perceive it. Framing a
decision to emphasize the potential losses or potential gains of at least one alternative can
significantly influence the decision-making.
E.x. Pick one: If you pick program A 200 people out of 600 will be saved. Program B, there is a
one third possibility that all 600 people will be saved and 2/3 that no one will be saved.
In this situation, most people will pick Program A.
But: Program A: 400 people will die. Program B: 1/3 probability that no one will die, and 2/3
probabilities that everyone will die.
In this situation most people would then pick Program B. The only difference here is the
wording. The wording of Program A is grimmer, which therefore pushed people to think that
Program B was the better option.
Prospect theory: a major theory in decision making: has two components:
The need to take into account peoples wealth in predicting their choices.
The fact that because losses feel much worse than gains feel good, people try to avoid “loss”
E.x. of component one: In an experiment, people have two choices: to pick the option that will
give them a “sure win” of $200 every time, while the other choice is that they have a 0.20
probability that they could win $1000; it has the same “expected utility” if done numerous
times. Since they can only do it once, people who are more desperate for money (e.x. a student
on a college budget) will go for option one. While someone who has generous parents, or is not
in desperate need of cash will gamble by picking option two.
Loss aversion: 2nd component: LOSING IS MUCH WORSE THAN GAINING IS GOOD.
E.x. losing $1000 feels much worse than winning $1000 feels good.
Affective Forecasting: a theory that people are not good at knowing how they will feel about
something in the future. E.x. When a break-up actually feels less devastating than you thought
it would feel. E.x. 2 : when a death occurs, you predict that you would never feel better again;
but with time, life continues and with its daily joys and sorrows, the pain of the loss becomes
less salient against the effect of everyday events. After such a negative situation; people automatically start treating themselves by doing a set of
strategies (e.x. making sense of an event helps reduce its negative emotional consequences.)
Humans have an amazing capacity for happiness, and even after suffering a loss or a negative
event, most people are able to adapt and return to their typical positive outlook (possibly by
finding the “silver lining”). E.x. a woman with Polio says that after being diagnosed, she was
glad she had polio because it taught her how to persevere and overcome adversity.)
Affective forecasting can also influence our perceptions of positive events. E.x. winning a silver
medal may feel worse than winning a bronze metal. Psychologists tested this out, and came to
the conclusion, according to one test subject that “winning silver does not measure up to
Also, AFFETIVE FORECASTING ERRORS can also be involved in racism. Some people said they
would be extremely upset by racism, but when faced with someone showing racism, they
showed very little distress.
GOOD DECISION MAKERS should be less affected by a situations framing than a poor thinker
Participants who performed better at on the decision-making test reported fewer negative life
events than those who performed poorly on the test. THEREFORE applying critical thinking skills
can positively affect multiple areas of a person’s life.
Problem Solving Achieves Goals
How the person thinks about the problem can help or hinder that persons ability to find
Organization of Sub-goals: Solving a problem requires breaking the task down into sub-goals.
However, identifying the appropriate steps or sub-goals and their order can be challenging for
complex problems in which there is no obvious next step.
E.x. a banana and several short sticks are placed in front of a caged chimp. The chimp must find
out how to get to the banana without touching it himself (he cant reach anyway). The chimp sat
looking at the sticks for some time, suddenly grabbed the sticks and joined them together by
placing one stick