Cognitive Psychology – Midterm Review
Lecture One: Introduction to Cognitive Psychology
What is Cognitive Psychology?
- A branch of psychology that is concerned with the scientific study of the mind and
What is the Mind?
- A system that controls mental functions (e.g. cognitive processes) and that creates
mental representations of the world.
Part I: Early Attempts at Studying Mental Processing
- Late 1800, Early 1900s: Wilhelm Wundt, Structuralism and Empirical Psychology
Empirical Psychology = First form of Psychology
Structuralism: Overall experience is determined by combining basic
elements of “sensations”.
Method = Analytic Introspection: “The Verbal Report” it is a technique
used on trained participants described their experiences and thought
processes in response to stimuli.
- Early Experiments: Studying of the Mind
Donder’s Pioneering Experiment: How long does it take to make a
Measuring reaction time by how long it takes to
respond to a presentation of a stimulus.
- Simple Reaction Time Task: Light Flashes
Perceive Light Press Button
- Choice Reaction Time Task: Left Light
Flashes Perceive Left Light and Decide
which Button to Press Press Left Button
One of the first “Cognitive Psychology” Experiments
Mental processes cannot be measured directly; they
must be inferred from behaviour.
Ebbinghaus’ Memory Experiment: What is the time-course for
Determining the nature of memory and forgetting –
How information that is learned is lost over time. PSYCH 221
- Memory Drum “Computer” Presents
Nonsense Syllables (one at a time) Learn,
Repeat, Check (until no mistakes) Delays
(ranging from immediately to 31 days) Noted
Number of Trials needed to learn the list after
- Calculated Savings Score: Initial Repetitions
subtract (Relearning Repetitions/Initial
Repetitions) x 100
o Savings curve demonstrated that
memory could be quantified and that it
functions like a forgetting curve, which
describes the ability to retain
- In the 1900s, John B. Watson founded an approach called Behaviourism
Behaviourism was based on the argument that it was not possible for the
mind to study itself because it could not be measure (abstract entity)
Part II: Behaviourists bring a halt to Cognitive Psychology
- John B. Watson founded Behaviourism because he dissatisfied with Wundt’s
1. Analytic Introspection gave extremely variable results.
2. Psychology should not focus on the unobservable processes and should be
more directed to observable behaviour.
- Watson proposed at the APA conference that psychology should focus on only studying
observable behaviour – threw out all the best parts of cognitive psychology (limiting
Cognition research was interrupted for about 50 years.
The mind is like a black box, it is not observable
We can only observe what goes in and what comes out.
Stimulus “Mind” Response
We have specialized boxes for different mental processes.
- Behaviourism: Observable behaviour provides only valid data for psychology.
Consciousness and unobservable mental processes are not considered
worthy of the study of psychology.
Examples of Behaviourism Studies:
- Ivan Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning Dog-Bell
- Watson’s & Rayner’s Classical Conditioning of
Fear-Little Albert Study
- B. F. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning of Rats
- Tolman’s Cognitive Map Study *outside main
stream of Behaviourism* PSYCH 221
Part III – The Rebirth of Cognitive Psychology “The Cognitive Revolution”
- Behaviourist theories were too simple to explain complex cognitive processes (e.g.
B. F. Skinner vs. Noam Chomsky debate:
Skinner: Children learn language through operant
conditioning imitation of what they hear correctly with
Chomsky: Opposed imitation and reinforcements as the
cause of language development and believed it was an
inborn (innate) biological program that holds across
- “The Cognitive Revolution”
The shift from the behaviourist’s stimulus-response relationships to the
Applied Research (1950s), on cognition and attention.
- Research done privately and specific/directly
applied to everyday life.
Part IV – What do Cognitive Psychologist study?
- Models of the Mind:
Make complicated systems easier to understand.
Provides a “starting point” for further research questions.
- Medical Imaging:
Can help us see the unobservable:
- PET Scan (Landmark Finding) 1980
- fMRI = Functional MRI 1990
- CAT Scan 1970
Part V – What is this stuff good for?
- Education Learning Disabilities
- Disorders Dyslexia PSYCH 221
Lecture Two: Cognitive Neuroscience Methods
- Behaviourism was needed because the introspective method wasn’t working.
Therefore, the behaviourists brought in rigorous research methods
Psychology = Rigorous Science
Cognitive Neuroscience: The study of the physiological basis of cognition.
Part I: Overview of the Brain’s Structure
- The Lobes of the Brain
1. Occipital Lobe “Visual Cortex”
Lobe at the back of the brain
Primarily devoted to analyzing incoming visual information.
2. Temporal Lobe “Auditory Cortex”
Lobe on the side of the brain that contains mechanisms responsible for:
Hearing (Auditory Processing)
Vision (Higher Levels of Visual Processing)
3. Parietal Lobe “Association Cortex”
Lobe at the top of the brain that contains mechanisms at the top of the
brain that contains by stimulation of the skin, and also some aspects of
sensory information (visual, auditory and touch) to help make sense of the
Combines input from different sensory modalities.
Somatosensory Cortex Skin Responses to Touch,
Temperature and Pain.
Controls the ability to pay attention
If damaged (stroke-related) people can have difficulties
- Stroke damage to right parietal lobe Results in
lack of awareness of the left side of the world
4. Frontal Lobe “Brain’s Executive Area”
Lobe at the front of the brain that serves for higher functioning: (Carried
out in the Pre-frontal Cortex)
Planning Formulating Goals
“Sea of Consciousness” PSYCH 221
- “Folded Structure” = Convolutions
Fissures (Depressions) = Sulci (Sulcus)
Ridges (Bumps) = Gyri (Gyrus)
- Larger fissures separate the lobes of the brain:
Central Sulcus: Between the parietal lobe and frontal lobe
Sylvian Fissure (Lateral Sulcus): Divides the frontal lobe and
parietal lobe above from the temporal lobe below.
- Monkey Brain Studies (Macaque Monkeys)
Visual Cortex: Similar to humans in terms of structure and function of
the occipital lobe.
Temporal Lobe: Similar to humans, except ours is bigger.
Parietal Lobe: Correlation between monkey’s brain and humans is not
as great compared to the occipital lobe.
Frontal Lobe: No correspondence between Monkey and Human.
- Sub-Cortex: Evolutionary-speaking, it is the oldest part of our brains (more like
Part II – Searching for Brain Localization Areas of Mental Processes
- Localization for Language
Aphasia: Difficulty producing language in terms of actual speech or
clear semantic language.
- Broca’s Aphasia: Difficulty using speech to
express thoughts, but can still understand speech.
Caused by damage to the left frontal lobe “Broca’s
- Wernicke’s Aphasia: Difficulty understanding
language, but can still create speech that is
incoherent. Caused by damage to the left temporal
lobe “Wernicke’s Area”
- Localization of Cognitive Functions
Due to specialization of language areas, researchers were very keen to
find other areas that would specialize on other mental processes.
Franz Gall (1800s):
Two important and one silly idea:
1. Explained why the cortex of the brain (thin outer
layer) was so convoluted.
- We can fit more cortical tissue if we have
convolutions in the cortex. PSYCH 221
2. One of the first to explain the brain’s White
Matter and Grey Matter.
- White Matter (Inner Layer) = Connective Tissue
for different parts of the brain.
- Grey Matter (Outer Layer) = Important for lots of
different brain functions.
3. Phrenology: Measuring the size of bumps on the
skull and trying to map it out Drawing
conclusions about different personality traits and
- Brain tissue is soft and cannot push on the
bone or retract the skull.
Facts about White Matter:
When white matter degrades it can lead to multiple
sclerosis or other diseases like that.
Scientists became more interested in white matter in the
past 10 years.
Practice Effects: Increasing white matter for certain
neurons involved in tasks that we are doing.
- “Practice makes perfect”
Lashley (Early 1900s): He wanted to find a specialized area in the
brain for memory.
Large Group of rats
Systematically made tiny lesions in each rat brain to
find the specialized area for memory – but had no luck.
- There are no single areas that specialize in a
specific mental processing.
- Each of the different types of cognitive
processes is mediated by the network of
different brain areas spread out (including
- Localization for Perception
Primary-Receiving Areas: Areas in the cortex that is first to receive
inputs from one of the senses.
Identified by noting the effects of brain damage
- Damage to the occipital lobe Blindness.
- Damage to a certain area in temporal lobe
(lower right side of the brain)
Prosopagnosia: The inability to recognize faces due to damage of the
Fusiform Face Area (FFA) in the lower right side of the brain in the
temporal lobe. PSYCH 221
Grandmother Cell: A neuron that only corresponds to one specific
Part III – The Brain’s Neural “Electricity”
Made a shocking discovery in 1700s.
Used Leyden Jar (which works like a capacitor and holds an electric
charge for days) and touched frog legs – which made them kick.
Resulted in the idea that we have electrical potentials situated inside of
- Single-Cell Recording
Using microelectrodes positioned near a neuron (recording electrode),
which is also connected to a recording device and another
microelectrode (reference electrode) that is connected to the outside of
It measures the nerve’s action potential when transmitting/firing
impulses down the axon.
Can use single-cell recording with microstimulation (introducing an
electrical charge into the axon – motor cortex based) to see if two
areas of the brain are connected and have a functional relationship.
Discovered the EEG (Electroencephalography)
Recorded the first Human EEG Recording in 1924.
Method: Attaching electrodes to the scalp.
Studies and research were based on humans having neural “electricity”
The EEG is used for measuring large-scale cell recordings.
Cognitive neuroscientist: Interested in a certain measurement ERP
(Event Related Potential)
Event Related Potential: Measured brain response that
is direct result of specific sensory, cognitive or motor
- It is good for telling when a neural activation
has occurred = The “When” Method.
- Röntgen th
Discovered the X-ray in the beginning of the 19 Century.
Serendipity Observation = Ground Breaking Discovery.
Certain objects cannot be penetrated by X-rays and appear to be solid
- Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT Scan): Used to define normal and abnormal
structures in the body (1970s). PSYCH 221
Involves radiation and X-ray procedures
Used to determine areas of stroke and internal bleeding
Produces “slices” to generate cross-sectional views of internal organs
and structures of the body.
Records different levels of “sections” of the body.
Part IV – Blood Flow Indicates Brain Locations of Mental Processes
Conducted demonstrations that supported the idea that were dependent
on what we were thinking, blood flow will those areas of the brain.
Suggested that the brain uses disproportionately large amounts of
oxygenated blood, because neurons need lots of oxygen.
Hypothesis: Blood will flow more to the area that is required when
completing a task.
- Brain Imaging
Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan): Shows what areas of
the brain are working when doing specific tasks.
Landmark Finding (1980): First functional
Measures activity through changes in blood flow of the
Needs a radioactive tracer.
Electrons collides with the positron and two photons are
released “annihilation photons”, which are then
detected and allows us to figure out where the collision
took place by the time of arrival and distance.
Subtraction Technique: Interprets the results of brain
imaging by measuring brain activity in a “controlled
state” before the stimulation is presented and measured
during the stimulation is presented.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI): Shows what areas
of the brain are working when doing specific tasks.
Currently the best functional neuroimaging method
It uses the iron found in the hemoglobin and therefore
when a magnetic field is presented near the brain the
hemoglobin line up like little magnets.
Indicates the presence of brain activity because the
hemoglobin molecules in areas of high brain activity
lose some of the oxygen they are transporting – make
hemoglobin more magnetic so they respond to the
magnetic field of the fMRI.
No radioactive tracer needed. PSYCH 221
Used to determine which areas of the brain are
activated by different cognitive functions.
- Fusiform Face Area (FFA): The area of the brain found in the lower right side of the
temporal lobe that responds to faces.
Damage to this area results in Prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize
- Parahippocampal Place Area (PPA): The area of the temporal cortex that is activated
by pictures representing indoor and outdoor scenes or spatial layout.
- Extrastriate Body Area (EBA): Another area in the temporal cortex that is activated
by pictures of bodies or parts of bodies (excluding faces).
Part V – Creating Virtual Lesions with TMS
- Modern Lesioning Method
Lesioning: Breaking down something and seeing what stops working
Temperature: Using temperature change to
temporarily deactivating an area of the brain.
Chemical Deactivation: Using drugs to temporarily
deactivate an area of the brain.
Data might not be accurate/specific
Neighboring area could be the cause
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): A procedure that uses magnetic fields to
stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression.
Can be used to deactivate parts “Virtual Lesions” of the brain but it
could cause disruption, especially in the visual, auditory and parietal
cortex. PSYCH 221
Lecture Three: Sensory Systems
Far Senses: Can be stimulated by things faraway “more cognitive based”
Near Senses: Have to make physical contact.
Why talk about Perception and Sensation in a Cognitive Course?
To understand Cognitive Processing, you have to have a good
understanding of Perception.
Perceptual Processing is the initial stage of Cognitive
A lot of perceptual processing is Cognitive.
Stages in Visual/Auditory Systems:
Information (Stimulus Energy) Stimulates Sensory Receptors (Photoreceptors in
Eyeball /Hair Cells in Inner Ear) Transduction (Conversion) of Stimulus Energy into
Transduction: The conversion of stimulus energy from information gathered from our
environment into neural code, in which our brains can understand.
- When we see things:
Electromagnetic Radiation Enters our eyes Photoreceptors are
able to Convert the Radiation into a Neural Signal.
- When we hear things:
Eardrums vibrate Hair Cells in our Inner Ear Bend Bending of
Hair Cells Physical Bending of Hair Cells Converts Sound Pressure
Waves to Neural Code.
* Sensory Memory (More Information in Lecture 5)*
- Iconic Memory
Very short-term visual memory
Lasts for about 250 ms after exposure to the visual stimuli.
E.g. Sparkler “Creates a Trail”
- Echoic Memory
2 to 3 seconds of short-term auditory memory
E.g. Sound or a word PSYCH 221
Part I – Eye & Vision
When the left side of the visual world is projected onto the right
hemisphere of the brain.
When the right side of the visual world is projected onto the left
hemisphere of the brain.
Right side information activates the left side retina
inside the eyeball and that goes to the left hemisphere.
(Information on right side is contralateral to left
Left side information activates the right side retina
inside the eyeball and that goes to the right hemisphere.
(Information on the left side is contralateral to the right
- Visual Pathway
Retinal image out there in the real world is inverted in the retina (in the
E.g. Camera Metaphor
Light Enters the Eye Cornea (Outside of Eyeball) Iris (Coloured Area) Lens
Ciliary Muscles (Changes Lens Shape) Vitreous Humour (Fluid in Eyeball)
Photoreceptors (Layer of Cells at the Back of Eyeball) Optic Nerve
The transparent part of the outside of the eyeball that covers the iris, the
pupil and the anterior chamber.
It refracts light into the eyeball through the iris.
The colour part of the eye that controls the size of the pupil when light is
refracted through it, which means it also control the amount of light that
reaches the retina.
Transparent structure of the eye that helps to refract light to be focused on
Accommodation: The way the lens change shape in order to focus the
retinal image directly on the back of the retina.
Faraway = Flatter Lens
Close by = Rounder Lens
- Ciliary Muscles: Muscles that push or pull the lens, which changes the shape of the
lens in order for us to see faraway or see close by.
Faraway = Flatter Lens PSYCH 221
Close by = Rounder Lens
As we get older, the lenses in our eyes start to stiffen making it harder for
the muscles to change the shape.
- Vitreous Humour
Clear fluid situated in the eyeball that fills in space between the lens and
- Retina: Photoreceptors & Blind Spot
Retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of
Photoreceptors are the neurons that are situated within the retina.
- The photoreceptors that we have the most of
- Not sensitive to colour
- Very sensitive to motion and slight changes in
- Used for night vision
- Sensitive to colour.
- Sensitive to three kinds of wavelengths (red 560
nm, blue 430 nm and green 530 nm)
Blind spot is the area of the inner surface of the eye that contains no
photoreceptor but is where the axons of the ganglion cells form together to
become the optic nerve.
We do not notice the blind spot because our brain is
good at filling it in (interpolates).
The brain interpolates the blind spot based on the
details of the surroundings.
There 3 types of cell layers in the eye:
Outer Layer = Ganglion Cells
Medial Layer = Bipolar Cells
Inner Layer = Photoreceptors
- Convert light energy to neural code
- Needs a lot of oxygenated blood and therefore
they are embedded at the back of the eye where
the blood vessels are.
Image in Real World Retinal Image Inverted Cornea Iris Lens focuses image
to back of the Eyeball Fovea PSYCH 221
Moving the eyes to look at something directly.
It improves acuity
This is where most of the cones are situated in, and the rods are situated
outside the fovea.
- Dark Adaptation
It takes 20 minutes for our eyes to fully adapt to the dark.
Process of going from a Bright Environment to a Dark Environment
The eyes are light adapted so we can’t see anything in
Cones dark adapt very quickly but are not very
functional in the dark conditions
No colour vision in darkness, therefore we need bright
levels of light intensity.
- Exit Signs: Why are they Red?
Rods in our eyes are not sensitive to long wavelengths of light
Red light has longer wavelengths compared to blue and green
Rods are not really sensitive to red light so when emergency lights go on
our eyes dark-adapt and the red light won’t affect dark adaptation (or urge
to light adapt).
Rods are used in night vision and are not sensitive to red light; so a little
cone functioning is needed to help us see.
An opening in the eye.
Dark Adapt Pupils dilate to let in more light.
Bright Condition Pupils constrict to limit the amount of light.
The pupil can also dilate when we are aroused (E.g. Poker Players wear
Lens gradually can get cloudier due to a build up of proteins.
The lens thickens with impurities affecting vision.
Cataract Operation: Replacing original lens with plastic malleable lens
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Layers of the retinal wall begin to delaminate
Strands of floaters (proteins) are not cleaned out properly leads to
Deficiency of Vitamin B
Vision is impaired. PSYCH 221
Strands of protein that float in the eyeball in the vitreous humour.
Build up of pressure inside the eyeball due to clogs in the ducts, which
puts stress in the optic nerve, which can damage the layers of retinal wall.
- Vision Changes when we age
Nearsighted: Eyeball flattened Solution: Concave Lens
Farsighted: Eyeball rounded Solution: Convex Lens
When our ciliary muscles change the shape of our lens to accommodate
the distance of the stimulus we are seeing.
The ciliary muscles pull the lenses to become flat when
looking at stimuli that are nearby.
The ciliary muscles push the lens to become more
round when looking at stimuli that are far away.
Part II – Ear & Hearing
- Pressure Waves
Sound that stimulates the ear is a traveling pressure wave.
E.g. Our vocal chords vibrate when we speak and they
create a pressure wave. That pressure wave is
propagating all through out the room and the pressure
wave is making your eardrum vibrates a tiny little bit.
Pressure wave, in terms of air molecules.
E.g. Vibrating pitch fork, as it vibrates the tongs push
forward the air molecules closer together and then when
the tongs move backwards then the air becomes less
When pressure is at its peak the air molecules are
When pressure is at its lowest point the air molecules
are at their lowest density.
Traveling pressure wave is what makes our ear drums
vibrate so we can perceive sound to that frequency.
- Properties of Sound Waves
Height of sound wave (amplitude) corresponds to loudness.
The bigger it is the louder the sound is.
The smaller it is the quieter the sound is. PSYCH 221
Amplitude Range: Humans are sensitive to a range of
Frequency of sound wave corresponds to pitch.