8.1 What is thought?
Thinking is manipulation of mental representations; adaptive. cogsci is study of thought, based on ideas that
brain represents info, thinking: mental manipulation of reps. We use reps to understand objects we encounter.
Cog: mental activity that includes thinking, understandings that result.
Thinking = 2 types of rep: analogical: mental reps that have some physical characteristics of objects; e.g.
images, maps, clocks. Symbolic: abstract mental reps that do not correspond to physical features
o Mental maps combine reps: shortcuts used unconsciously to organize, represent info
Concepts are symbolic reps: categorization: grouping things based on shared properties, reducing knowledge
to hold in memory, efficient. Concept: category/class, inc subtypes and/or individual items, can consist of
mental reps, relation between reps, quality/dimension.
o Defining attribute model: way of thinking about concepts; category is characterized by list of features
that det if object is member of category, fails to capture key aspects of how we organize things in our
heads, suggests membership in category is all-or-none when there are exceptions, suggests that all of
given category’s attributes equally important in defining category.
o Prototype model: way of thinking about concepts where each category has best example for that
category; some items within group or class are more representative of that category than other items.
Model allows for flexibility in representation; may be different reasons behind choosing prototypes.
o Exemplar model: way of thinking about concepts, all members of category are examples, together
they form concept and determine category membership. Any concept has no single best representation.
Through experience, people form fuzzy representation of concept because there is no single
representation of any concept. Accounts for observation that some category members are more
prototypical than others, they are simply members we have encountered more often.
Schemas organize useful info about environments: cognitive structures that help perceive, organize, process
info. Schemas employed because common situations have consistent attributes, people have specific roles in
situational contexts, but schemas are like prototypes in that they sometimes have unintended consequences,
e.g., stereotypes: cognitive schemas that allow for easy, fast processing of info about people based on
membership in certain groups. Gender roles represent type of schemas that operates at unconscious level.
Scripts: schema that directs behavior over time within a situation, e.g. dating. Schemas and scripts that
children learn are likely to affect behavior when they are older; influenced by alcohol/cigarettes of parents.
The adaptive value of schemas and scripts minimizes amounts of attention required to navigate familiar
environments, allow us to recognize and avoid unusual/dangerous situations.
8.2 How do we make decisions and solve problems? Reasoning: using info to determine if conclusion is valid or
reasonable. Decision making: attempt to select best alternative among several options, identify important criteria and
determine how well each alternative satisfies criteria. Problem solving: overcome obstacles to reach a goal.
People use deductive and inductive reasoning: deductive: using general rules to draw conclusions about
specific instances. Inductive: using specific instances to draw conclusions about general rules.
o Deductive reasoning: use logic to draw specific conclusions under certain premises/assumptions.
Syllogism: logical argument that consists of premise and conclusion (if A is true then B is true).
Conclusion depends on whether premise is true. Deductive reasoning allows us to determine
statement’s validity given the premises. Can be difficult because prior beliefs/schemas about typical
events/situations influence reasoning process. Beliefs interfere with ability to use logic.
o Inductive reasoning: more common, drawing conclusions on several separate instances
o Combined: belief that Nicolas Cage’s latest movies are all terrible (premise based on inductive) leads
you to expect that new movie is not worth seeing (conclusion based on deductive)
o Reasoning and scientific method: e.g., researchers inducing general principle from specific instances
of students in clubs having better grades. We are often more swayed by anecdotes/personal experience
Decision making often involves heuristics: mental shortcuts we typically use to make decisions. E.g. rules of
thumb, informal guidelines. Normative models of decision making view people as optimal decision makers
vs. descriptive models, where we tend to misinterpret and misrepresent probabilities underlying many
decision making scenarios. Expected utility theory: normative model of how we should make decisions, by
considering possible alternative and choosing most desirable. Heuristics vs. algorithm; procedure that, if followed correctly, will always yield correct answer, e.g. area of circle versus substituting ingredients in cake.
Heuristic thinking often occurs unconsciously, not thinking of mental shortcuts, useful because it requires
minimal cognitive resources, can be adaptive in that it allows us to decide quickly, but can result in biases,
leading to errors or faulty decisions