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Chapter 1

Chapter 1- introduction.docx

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McGill University
PSYC 213
Signy Sheldon

Chapter 1 Introduction What is cognition?  Not easy to give a precise definition of cognition, cognition means different things to different people  Solution: examine ways in which “cognition” is used in everyday life Folk-Psychology: A set of assumptions and theories based on everyday behaviours of ourselves and others  One meaning for cognition= faculty of knowing  Cognition is the action of knowing  Cognition is a faculty  Study of cognition= study of processes  G.A Miller (1986) is one of the founders of cognitive psychology  Concepts associated with cognition: Awareness Recognition Intelligence Skill Intuition Understanding Personal acquaintance Cognitive Psychology and information-processing theory  We take in and act on information in countless ways  Everyday activities such as attending, comprehending, remembering, problem-solving = thinking for most people  But to psychologists they are information-processing.  Information-processing came into psych from telephone and radio engineering  Shannon (1948), Shannon and Weaver (1949): all forms of communication can be broken down into a sequence of events with at least 3 major stages 1. Sender encodes message through signals 2. Communication channel transmits the message 3. Receiver decodes the signals to get the message Information theory  Information reduces uncertainty in the mind of the receiver  The amount of information provided by a message is proportional to the probability of that message occurring.  The information provided by a particular message is not determined solely by the signal itself, but rather by the whole array of possible messages  The amount of information provided by the occurrence of an event can be quantified in terms of “bits” Information theory: The information provided by a particular event is inversely related to its probability of occurrence. The less likely a message is, the more info it conveys. Bit: Short for Binary digit- an event that occurs in a situation with 2 equally likely outcomes provides one bit of information Early tests of information theory  Merkel (1885): people appear to respond more slowly to less likely signals  Participants were required to make appropriate responses to the occurrence of one of a set of possible signals  Normal digits (1 to 5) and roman digits (I to V) were presented  Each stimulus was assigned to one of 10 buttons (1 for each finger)  Result: as number of possible responses ↑, response time also ↑  Hick (1952): Confirmed the results  Same task  Stimuli were 1-10 lights arranged in circular display  Result: Reaction time varies as a function of the number of possible stimuli  Small set of stimuli= little uncertainty as to which signal will occur; information produced by a stimulus is small.  Large set of stimuli= uncertainty ↑ as to which signal will occur, information produced by a stimulus ↑  Response time intimately concerned with the info conveyed by a particular stimulus  Hyman (1953): extended the interpretation by changing stimulus probability in other ways  Participants were required to make an appropriate verbal response to 1 of 8 possible lights  Result: ↑ number of probable response = ↑ response time  Occurrence of some signals more frequent than other signals  Result: response time to frequent signals < response time to infrequent signals  Clearly shows that the time it takes to respond to a stimulus is not determined by the stimulus itself but rather by the entire complex of situations  it takes longer to respond to an improbable stimulus (more info) than a probable stimulus (less info)  appears to be true regardless of how stimulus is presented Information-processing limitations  Time it takes for info to flow through the nervous system  Nervous system exhibits a capacity limitation for the amount of info that can be handled  Amount of visual info that a person can transmit (↑ info =↑ time)  Webster and Thompson (1953): similar conclusion, confirmed by Poulton (1953)  Listen to recorded voice transmission messages from pilots: airplane’s call signal + 3 unrelated words  Result: control tower operators could identify call signals from 2 airplanes arriving
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