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Chapter 1

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University of Guelph
PSYC 2650
Anneke Olthof

COGNITION: EXPLORING THE SCIENCE OF THE MIND CHAPTER 1 SUMMARY What is Cognition? -cognition = what we know, what we remember, and how we think -everything we do or feel depends on cognition -memory is required for every task we do -memory is an important factor in our sense of self  It’s required to know what we have accomplished in life or what we have failed at  Without memory, and thus without the ability to recall the events of our lives, there is no sense of self Brief History of Psychology -Years of Introspection  Wundt and Titchener were the first scholars to introduce the field of psychology, which they defined to be separate from biology or philosophy in the late 19 century  Their research was based on introspection, which was relied on to record an individual’s own mental life and experiences  Introspectors underwent extensive training to teach them specific vocabulary to use and to be as thorough and objective as possible in their accounts  There were problems with relying solely on introspection: o Despite training, personal reports are always subjective and are immeasurable nor testable o This method did not give sight into unconscious mental processes  Introspection was abandoned and replaced by behaviourism -Years of Behaviourism  Driven by the desire to collect only objective, measurable data  Research was conducted by observing changes in individuals’ behaviour based on exposure to differing stimuli  This method left out all subjective, personal reports and looked only at what could actually be physically observed  The problem with this approach was that it did not offer insight or explain WHY people behave the way they do in different situations -The Cognitive Revolution  The field of cognitive psychology is relatively new; only about 50 years old  Kant’s transcendental method (also called “inference to best explanation”)  Involves gathering observable facts and then working backwards to determine what were the underlying causes that produced these observations  Using this method, we can create experiments to text out hypotheses about what mental processes may lead to a certain behaviour  We cannot simply ask what leads to a given behaviour, but also if there are any other events which may lead to the same behaviour or if it’s possible for that sequence of events to lead to a different behavioural outcome Working Memory -working memory is the memory you use for information you are actively working on  For example, it is the memory used when reading to remember the first part of a sentence and integrate these words with the words found at the end of the sentence to get an overall understanding -only has a small capacity for information, so with only a few items being stored, there isn’t a problem instantly locating the item of info you need -span test  Test used to measure the capacity of the working memory  For example, in a span test, a person could be read four letters and then are asked to report them back in sequence immediately after. If they succeed without error, they are then given a sequence of five letters, and so on, until they can no longer accurately repeat them back in order (usually around 7-8 letters). -working-memory system  Working memory consists of several parts, thus can be more accurately described as a system  At the heart of the system is the central executive  The central executive does all the work, but it requires the help of several “assistants” whose jobs are to merely store info temporarily so as to clear up the executive so that it is not burdened with having to store any info and can focus on the task at hand  The assistants do not perform any higher-order work; they simply store info -articulatory rehearsal loop  One of the most important “assistants” to the central executive  For example, imagine you must remember a short sequence of numbers (say, 4, 6, 4, 9, 5) WHILE reading a paragraph. You most likely continuously repeat the numbers in your head, over a
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