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PSYC 221
Thomas Spalek

Chapter 1: Cognitive Psychology: An Introduction Cognitive Science – scientific study of perception, attention, memory, language, and thinking, and of how these processes are implemented in the brain (scientific study of the mind) Thinking about Thinking Look at table 1-1 page 4 Cognitive Psychology: 1. Mental processes can occur with very little conscious awareness – especially if the process has received a great deal of practice a. Ex: reading skills 2. Even though these processes can operate very quickly, they are quite complex, involving difficult motor, perceptual, and mental acts An answer to a question is given by looking at the knowledge we have, and related knowledge we have to the question - A lot of the time we make judgments with a lack-of-knowledge Bona fide mental act – each step of thought process Intuitive analysis indicates that many important mental processes can occur automatically – that is, very rapidly and below the level of conscious awareness Memory and Cognition Defined Memory – the mental processes of acquiring and retaining information for later retrieval and the mental storage system that enables these processes – being able to remember or recall some information o Consists of the power, act or process of recalling to mind facts previously learned or past experiences - 1) The event or information being recalled from memory is one from the past o We remember things from the past but experience things in the present - 2) the term memory usually refers to a process, a mental act in which stored information is recovered for some current use o This recovery or retrieval of what has been placed in memory specifies the process of interest, ‘getting out’ something that was previously ‘out in’  Retrieval, here, includes both varieties of remembering the conscious, intentional recalling to mind implied in Webster’s definition and the more automatic (or even unaware) kind of retrieval 1 Psychology 221 - 3) memory also refers to a place, a location where all the events, information, and knowledge of a lifetime are stored o With PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) we are making 2 key advances:  1. Exploring functions and processes as they occur – or occasionally are disrupted – in the brain  2. Identifying regions and areas responsible for those functions and processes - Operationally, memory is demonstrated whenever the processes of retention and retrieval influence your behavior or performance in some way, even if you are unaware of the influence o This includes retention, not jut across hours, weeks, or years, but even across very brief spans of time in any situation in which the original stimulus event is no longer present o Memory refers to 3 different kinds of mental activities in this definition:  1. Initial acquisition of information (usually called learning or encoding)  2. Subsequent retention of the information  3. Retrieval of the information  All these activities are logically necessary to demonstrate that remembering has taken place Cognition – is like an umbrella term for all higher mental processes - The collection of mental processes and activities used in perceiving, remembering, thinking, and understanding, as well as the act of using those processes - One dictionary definition: the mental process or faculty of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment - Cognitive psychology generally ignores dreams o It is largely, but not exclusively, interested in what might be considered every day, ordinary mental processes o It does not include abnormal process but rather usually refers to the customary, commonplace mental activities that most people engage in as they interact with the world around them Much of our cognitive research lack ecological validity – generalizability to the real-world situations in which people think and act In the early stage of investigation it is reasonable for scientists to take an analytic approach – attempting to understand complex events by breaking them down into their components 2 Psychology 221 An Introductory History of Cognitive Psychology Descartes – ultimate proof of human existence is our awareness of our own though - Cogito ergo sum – I think, therefore I am Anticipations of Psychology Aristotle – historical first because: - First philosopher to have advocated an empirically based, natural science approach to understanding o First to advocate for empiricism - His inquiry into the nature of thought and mind by his own natural science method led him to a reasonably objective explanation of how learning and memory take place - Proposed that sensations, images, and ideas become associated through similarities and differences (contrast), and by virtue of occurring close together in time (contiguity) - Mind is a ‘blank slate’ at birth (tabula rasa) o Experiences of the individual are of paramount importance because experience, rather than inborn factors One Cognitive Psychology controversy is in language Early Psychology Four early psychologists are of particular interest 1. Wilhelm Wundt 1832 – 1920 - Directed more than 200 doctoral theses on psychological topics - Created the first truly psychological system - Believed that the proper topic of study for psychology was ‘conscious processes and immediate experience’ – sensation, perception, and attention o To study this in a scientific manner, used self-observation or introspection – a method in which one looks carefully inward, reporting on inner sensations and experiences o All observations were to be repeated many times; and finally, experimental conditions were to be varied systematically to allow a general description of mental contents o Reports in which memory intruded – Wundt’s term was mediate or mediated experience – were excluded 3 Psychology 221 Edward Titchener - Wundt had convinced him that knowledge about psychology was obtainable only with the introspective method - As he studied more, his psychology became narrower o Topics like mental illness, educational applications, and social psychology were ‘impure’ because they could not be studied with introspective methods - Insisted on careful control and rigorous training for his introspectors (like Wundt) o Required to avoid what he called ‘the stimulus error’ of describing the physical stimulus rather than the mental experience of that stimulus - Certain introspections were defined as correct, and certain others as in error, with the final authority being Titchener himself - He studied the structure of the conscious mind, the sensations, images, and feelings that were the elements of the mind’s structure o Called structuralism – first major movement or school of psychological thought - As other researchers applied the introspective method in their own laboratories, differences and contradictory results began to crop up Hermann von Ebbinghaus - Was a contemporary of Wundt in Germany but never studied with Wundt in person Watson – Ebbinghaus was familiar with Wundt’s writings but viewed Wundt’s pessimism about studying higher mental processes as a challenge rather than a deterrent to pursuing that work - Did not have a formal lab and served in a nonpsychological academic position with no similar-minded colleagues o Relied on his own resources to study memory - His goal was to study the mind’s process of association formation, using thoroughly objective methods o Reasoned that for this goal to be accomplished, he needed to use material s that had no preexisting associations o First step in his method involved constructing stimulus lists of nonsense syllables, consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) triads that seemingly by definition were of uniform meaningfulness (ex: had no meaning whatsoever) o His measure of learning was the ‘savings score’, the number (or proportion) of trials that had been saved in memory between the first and second sessions  By this method, he examined forgetting from several angles: as a function of both the time that intervened between two learning sessions and the degree of learning or overlearning, and even in terms of the effect of nonsense vs meaningful material 4 Psychology 221 - The Ebbinghaus tradition is one of the strongest of all the influences on cognitive psychology William James - Contemporary of Wundt, Titchener, and Ebbinghaus - Provided an alternative to Titchener’s rigid system - Approach was a kind of functionalism – the functions of consciousness, rather than its structure, were of interest - Proposed that memory consists of2 parts: o 1. An immediately available memory of which we are currently aware o 2. A larger memory, usually hidden or passive, that is the repository for past experience - The notion of a memory system divided into several parts, based on their different functions, is widely popular today Behaviorism and Neobehaviourism Leahy- ‘Mediated neobheaviourism’ – neobehaviourism theory include some unobservable, mediating variables John B. Watson – viewed experience as the primary factor in determining even the largest aspects of one’s behaviour - Took extreme position on nature vs nurture – of nurture, environmentalism - Observable, quantifiable behaviour are the proper topic of psychology - Viewed attempt to view ‘unobservable’ as hopelessly unscientific - Behaviourism – the scientific study of observable behaviour - Watson was antimentalistic – any concept or idea having to do with mentalism (consciousness, memory, and mind) was to be excluded from psychology o Restriction in hindsight is dumb o To explain such ideas, Watson created implicit behaviour o Implicit (Covert) Behaviour – a reduced, inner version of the normally observable behaviour that psychology investigated  Ex: thought to Watson – nothing more than subvocal talking or muscular habits learned in overt speech which become inaudible as we grow up - Europe never achieved level of dominance of behaviourism as much as North America Gestalt Psychology – emigrated to US in 1930s – maintained interest in - Psychologists who adopted – those interested in perception 5 Psychology 221 - Psychologists who didn’t adopt – those whose behaviourist methods were focused on questions about learning Behaviourism dominated North America until 1940s – when B.F. Skinner emerged as Behavourism vocal and extreme advocate - Skinner also believes that mental concepts have no place in science of psychology o Believes that mental concepts are real but ar
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