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Chapter 2

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Simon Fraser University
PSYC 221
Thomas Spalek

Chapter 2: The cognitive Science Approach Guiding Principles Metatheory – a general theoretical framework consisting of the assumptions made by practitioners of a science that guide the research activities of those practitioners - Meta means above or beyond - Is a set of assumptions and guiding principles Information-processing approach – the approach that describes cognition as the coordinated operation of active mental processes within a multicomponent memory system - Term’s Original use: mental processing as a sequence of mental operations, each operation taking in information, manipulating or changing it in some fashion, then forwarding the result to the next stage for further processing - Today’s use: refers more generally to the fact that humans encode and process information - Michelin’s guide or metatheory for many years Themes 7 themes of Cognition: 1. Attention – it is limited in quantity, essential to most processing, but only partially under our control 2. Automatic Vs Conscious Processing – Some mental processes occur automatically, whereas others are slow and deliberate, conscious, and demanding of lots of attention 3. Data-driven Vs Conceptually driven processing – Some processing relies heavily on the information we get from the environment (data-driven processing) a. Other processes rely on our existing knowledge (conceptually driven processing) – can be so powerful that we often make errors, from mistakes in perception up through mistakes in reasoning 4. Representation – How is information represented in memory? 5. Implicit Vs Explicit Memory – We have direct and explicit awareness of certain types of memories a. Some memories or memory processes are implicit – they are there but not necessarily with conscious awareness b. Can an unconscious process affect your behavior and thinking 6. Metacognition – Awareness of our own cognitive system and knowledge and insight into its workings a. It is the awareness that prompts us to write reminders to avoid forgetting things 7. Brain – brain-cognition relationships and question 1 Psychology 221 a. How and where a fact is stored in the brain are bery different questions from how and where the fact stored in memory, with radically different answers appropriate to each question Measuring Information Processes Getting Started To figure out how things happen you should look at the input and output of that thing (for example factory) and try to make connections between the two Time and Accuracy Measures How do we measure mental processes in a scientifically acceptable way? – are theres aspects of these otherwise unseen, unobservable mental events that are observable, that can be measured? 2 measures are particularly common ways of obtaining scientific evidence: 1. The time it takes to perform some task 2. The accuracy of that performance There are 2 other types (verbal reports and neuropsychological evidence) which will be discussed later Reaction Times Reaction Time – a measure of the time elapsed between some stimulus and the person’s response to the stimulus - It is always measured in milliseconds – a thousandth of a second Individual differences among people often can be revealed by RT measures Donders – a moment’s reflection reveals why cognitive psychology uses reaction time measures so frequently – mental events take time - Careful comparisons of people’s RT to different stimuli can often give a strong clue to the mental processes going on internally Problem size effect – time curves increase as the size of the mathematical (multiplication) problem increases (larger the single digit numbers being multiplied, longer it takes to solve) It is essential to take both speed and accuracy into account for reaction times and tasks Accuracy Earliest use as a measure of mental process – by Hermann con Ebbinghaus – compared correct recall of information in a second learning as a way of measuring how much material had been saved in memory - Example: first 2 paragraphs of page 40 2 Psychology 221 Guiding Analogies In 1940s and 1950 the seemingly unrelated fields of communications engineering and computer science supplied psychology with some particularly intriguing ideas and useful analogies that were central to developing the human information-processing approach Channel Capacity Channel Capacity – an early analogy for the limited capacity of the human information- processing system - Concept borrowed from communication engineering - In the design of a telephone communication system – one of the built-in limitations is that any channel – any physical device that transmits messages or information – has a limited capacity o Communications engineers tried to design equipment and techniques to get around these built-in limitations, thereby increasing the overall capacity of a channel - Psychologists – thought humans can be thought of as limited-capacity channels – limitation in the amount of information we can handle simultaneously The Computer Analogy - From computer science o They developed a machine that seemed to do many of the things that humans do  These processes were unseen - Analogy said – human information processing may be similar to the sequence of steps and operations in a computer program, similar to the flow of information from input to output when a computer processes information o If this is true, then thinking about how a computer accomplished carious tasks might give us some useful insights into how humans process information Important feature of computer-based theorizing involves explicitness - The formalities of computer programming force the theorist to be very precise and explicit in devising the pieces of a psychological theory The Information-Processing Approach The Standard Theory Atkinson and Shriffin Model Look at figure 2-3 on page 43 Hardware of the system included 3 memory components: 1. Sensory Memory – the initial mental storage system for sensory stimuli 3 Psychology 221 a. There are presumably as many modalities of sensory memory as there are kinds of stimulation that we can sense b. Some of this encoded information is forwarded to short term memory 2. Short-term Memory – the component of human memory that holds information for up to 20 seconds a. Component where current and recently attended information is held – sometimes loosely equated with attention and consciousness b. A temporary working memory with several control processes at its disposal c. Can both transmit information to and retrieve information from long-term memory d. Also responsible for response output 3. Long-term Memory – an analogy for the
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