We have to keep in mind how other people see and think of the world.
Zeigarnik effect- if there is something that is unfinished (Some cognitive task that is unable to complete
or get a solution) it will continue to bother you until you think “I don’t care” or achieve a satisfactory
When we talk about cognition we usually talk about thinking. Emotions interfere with that, as well as
habit. We usually don’t do thinks because we think it is right but because we’re habituated. In this
course we will talk about rational thoughts, not about emotions.
Cognitive psychologists are behaviourists. Behaviourists tend to suggest that they don’t care about
what’s going on in the brain but about inputs and outputs. The way we look in the brain is by using
various physiological techniques.
fMRI- measures the effects of magnetic forces on the brain.
One of the first attempts to look at how we process information was by the structuralists who believed
that there are structures according to which we act. The first to look into it was Wundt, who created the
first laboratory in Germany. He used introspection- had people describe what was going on in their
Problems with introspection?
A lot of times we don’t know what’s going on in there; sometimes it’s much too fast. You would
get different replies when using introspection because what is the right answer?
Observing behaviour- the mere observation may affect and bias what they’re looking at.
Observer bias- at the base of that particular problem; when you observe something you have
particular expectations as to what you’re watching and what you expect to see. We focus on
some aspect of the environment which represents what we want to see. When they asked
people to look into their brains and tell what they’re doing, the fact that they were aware to be
looking for something provided different results than otherwise would have been found.
Insensitivity- some things just happen to fast. When asked what’s 2+2, you immediately know
it’s 4. How did you do that? I just did. Insensitivity problem has to do with speed with which
things happen; a lot of things we do, mentally, occur really fast and the solutions we come up
with are not consistent with what we think we’re doing. What people would describe is what
they think they should be doing but they might not really do it; might use a shortcut they’re not
Experience- if you start observing, you start to learn about the things you’re observing which
o Nominal fallacy- giving something a name and feeling that you somehow explained it.
Giving something a name helps you identify it. Kleptomaniac: why is this person taking
things they don’t need? Because they’re kleptomaniac, well why are they kleptomaniac?
Because they take things they don’t need. Structuralists were followed by functionalists. Functionalists wanted to find the function of mental
processes. Behaviourism- once objective measures were used to get something useful going on.
First experimental work was done by Donders.
Personal equation- people process information at different speeds. Donders decided to use a method to
find out about this. One of the things that is used a lot in cognition is reaction time (how long it takes
people to respond and react). To find out what’s going on we can look at the kinds of errors that are
made. If you observe the kinds of errors people make you can infere on how they deal with the problem.
Ytou look at the number of corrections and measure the type of information that is used. Also, can ask
“what do you think you’re doing?”- asking is the first step to finding out what’s going on but can’t just
take it as the absolute truth.
Donders used the subtractive method
1. Lights goes on- press a button
2. Red light press; Green light don’t press
You subtract the first reaction time from the second reaction time. It takes longer to find make decision
for first kind than for the second kind. By subtracting the time it takes to do the easy task from the
harder task you find how long it takes. If you know how long it takes to do something you can try to
figure out the kinds of processes that take place.
This was the first time that someone took an objective measure to find out what kind of processes take
place. To get some idea of what’s going on, measure reaction time. Reaction time and error (what kind
of errors made) is a good measurement to find out what’s going on in terms of processes.
Sensation and perception- These are two different stages in our comprehension of the world
Sensation- is there something or has something changed and where? It has to reach a certain intensity
(visually or auditory, touch or smell) before you recognize its existence.
Threshold- When something has certain intensity, up to a certain point I can hear it and all of a sudden I
can hear or see it. This is referred to as threshold. The point where you switch from not being able to
notice something to actually being able to notice it.
The absolute threshold- individual difference; different people have different acuity for hearing, seeing.
The question of whether or not something is there, it depends on how people expect something to
occur, how alert they are, or how experienced they are. How long does something have to intensify for
it to be detected? 50% of intensity is considered to be the absolute threshold; the stimulus is at such an
intensity that it is noticeable 50% of the time.
Difference threshold- there has to be a certain degree or change for something to be noticed. There’s
certain amount of energy that has to go into something for it to really change. JND- just noticeable difference; the smallest amount you change something for a person to say “ah, this is not the same
thing as the previous thing”.
Weber’s Law- the change in intensity divided by ori