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Chapter 1

PSYC 2650 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Memory Span, Vocal Folds, Subvocalization

Course Code
PSYC 2650

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Cog Psych Ch1
The Science of the Mind
-depends on our cognition what we know, what we remember, and how we think.
- ex someone's ability to cope with grief depends on how memory functions.
- ex role of memory in shaping someone's self-image-and hence their self-esteem
-claims can be made for virtually every conversation you participate in, and every social interaction you witness:
In each of these settings, ones ability to understand ones world depends critically on knowledge you
bring to the situation
1.1 Scope of Cognitive Psychology
-When cognitive psychology was first launched, generally understood as the scientific study of knowledge
-conception of field led immediately to series of questions: How is knowledge acquired? How is knowledge
retained so that it's available when needed? How is knowledge used-as a basis for action, or as a basis for
generating further knowledge?
-questions catalogued risk a misunderstanding, make it sound like cognitive psychology is concerned only with our
functioning as intellectuals
-relevance of cognitive psychology far broader -thanks to fact huge range of our actions, thoughts, and feelings
all depend on knowledge.
- ex look at study of memory and ask: When we investigate how memory functions, what exactly we are
investigating:' Or, what tasks rely on memory:
-memory for what you have learned during term. Likewise, rely on memory when at supermarket and
trying to remember a recipe so you can buy ingredients.
-rely on memory when reminiscing about childhood. But what else draws on memory:'
-Consider simple story (adapted from Charniak, 1972):
-Betsy wanted to bring Jacob a present. She shook her piggy bank. It made no sound. She
went to look for her mother.
-four-sentence tale easy to understand, only because you provided some important bits of background yourself.
-ex, weren't at all puzzled, reading the story, about why Betsy was interested in her piggy bank;
- weren't puzzled, about why story's first sentence led naturally to the second.
- because already knew (a) the things one gives as presents often things bought for occasion (rather
than things already owned), (b) buying things requires money, (c) money is stored in piggy
banks. -Without these facts, would have been bewildered about why a desire to give a gift would lead someone to her
piggy bank.
-Likewise, immediately understood why Betsy shook her piggy bank.
-understood she was trying to determine its contents.
-knew this only because already understood (d) children don't keep track of how much money is in
their bank, (e) one cannot simply look into the bank to learn its contents.
- Without these facts, Betsy's shaking of the bank would make no sense.
-Similarly, understood what it meant bank made no sound.
-because you know (f) that it's usually coins (not bills) kept in piggy banks,
(g) coins make noise when shaken.
- If didn't know these facts, might have interpreted bank's silence, when shaken, as good news,
indicating bank filled of $20 bills-
-inference would have led to very different expectation for how the story would unfold from there.
-clearly suggests , in general, our understanding of stories or ordinary conversations depends on memory-depends on
drawing key bits of information from our storehouse of knowledge. \
-Chapter 6, will consider various cases of clinical amnesia-cases which someone, because of brain damage, lost
ability to remember certain materials.

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-cases are fascinating at many levels, including fact they provide us with key insights into what memory is for:
Without memory, what is disrupted
- well-studied amnesia patient - man identified as H.M.;
- memory loss unanticipated by-product of brain surgery intended to control his epilepsy, loss
was quite profound.
-H.M. had no trouble remembering events prior to surgery, but seemed completely unable to
recall any event that occurred after his operation.
-If asked who president is, or about recent events, reported facts and events current at time of
- If asked questions about last week, or hour ago, recalled nothing.
-memory loss, had massive consequences for H.M:s life some of consequences perhaps
-ex had an uncle of whom very fond, H.M. often asked about his uncle: ~
-uncle died sometime after H.M:s surgery -information came as horrible
shock, triggering enormous grief, but because of amnesia, H.M. soon forgot about
- he later asked about his uncle again and was informed of his passing; his grief was
just as intense as when he was initially told
-With no memory, no opportunity to live w/ news, adjust to it. his grief could not
subside. Without memory, H.M. had no way to come to terms with his
uncle's death.
-different glimpse of memory function comes from H.M:s poignant comments about his state and about "who he is:'
-Each of us has a conception of who we are, of what sort of person we are.
-conception supported by numerous memories: We know whether we're deserving of praise for our good deeds
or blame for our transgressions because we remember our good deeds and our transgressions.
-We know whether we've kept promises or achieved goals because, again, we have relevant memories.
-Not true for people who suffer from amnesia
-H.M. sometimes commented, he didn't know who he was.
- didn't know if he should be proud of his accomplishments or ashamed of his crimes;
- he didn't know if he'd been clever or stupid, honorable or dishonest, industrious or lazy.
-without a memory, there is no self.
-What is the scope of cognitive psychology
-field sometimes defined as scientific study of the acquisition, retention, and use of knowledge.
- topics relevant to an extraordinarily broad range of concerns.
- self-concept, it seems, depends on knowledge (in particular, on our episodic knowledge).
-emotional adjustments to the world, rely on our memories.
-ability to understand a story we've read, or a conversation, or, presumably, any of our experiences,
depends on our supplementing that experience with some knowledge.
1.2 A Brief History
-modern form, cognitive psychology is roughly 50 years old.
-Despite relative youth, cognitive psychology has enormous impact-
-many speak of the "cognitive revolution" within psychology.
- "revolution;' which took place across 1950s and 1960s, represented striking change in style of research
and theorizing employed by most psychologists.
- new style intended initially for studying problems : memory, decision making, and so on.
-new styles soon exported to other domains provided important insights in these domains.
-cognitive revolution changed intellectual map of our field.
The Years of Introspection
- need some historical context.
-late 19th century, scholars-notably Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) and his student Edward Bradford
Titchener (1867-1927) -launched new enterprise of research psychology, defining their field as an endeavor
separate from philosophy or biology.
-Wundt's and Titchener's view, psychology needed to be concerned largely with study of conscious mental
events-our feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and recollections.
-how should these events be studied?

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-early researchers started w/ fact - there is no way for you to experience my thoughts, or I yours.
-only person who can experience or observe your thoughts is you.
-concluded = only way to study thoughts is for each of us to introspect, or "look within;' to observe and
record content of our own mental lives and sequence of our own experiences.
-Wundt and Titchener insisted introspection could not be casual.
- introspectors had to be meticulously trained:
- given a vocabulary to describe what they observed; trained to be as careful and complete as
possible; trained simply to report on their experiences, w/ minimum of interpretation.
-style of research enormously influential for several years, but psychologists gradually became disenchanted with it , easy
to see why.
-one concern, early investigators soon forced to acknowledge some thoughts are unconscious
-meant introspection inevitably limited as research tool.
-follows from fact introspection, by nature, is study of conscious experiences, tells us nothing about
unconscious events.
- now know unconscious thought plays huge part in our mental lives.
-ex what is your phone number? likely moment you read question, number "popped" into thoughts w/o any
effort, noticeable steps, or strategies on your part.
-theres good reason to think that this simple bit of remembering requires a complex series of steps (see,
for example, Chapter 8).
-steps take place outside your awareness, if we rely on introspection as means of studying mental events, no way
of examining these processes.
- other problems with introspection: In order for any science to proceed, must be some way of testing its claims;
-otherwise, no way of separating correct assertions from false ones, accurate descriptions of the world from
- science needs way of resolving disagreements:
-If you claim Earth has one moon, and I insist it has two, need some way of determining who is right.
-Otherwise, no way of locating fact of the matter, so our "science" will become a matter of
opinion, not fact.
-With introspection, testability of claims often unattainable.
-imagine I insist my headaches worse than yours.
- How could we ever test claim?
-might be true that I describe headaches in extreme terms: talk about "unbelievable, agonizing, excruciating"
- might simply mean one is inclined toward extravagant descriptions; might reflect my verbal
style, not my headaches.
-Similarly, might be true I need bed rest whenever one of my headaches strikes.
-Does that mean my headaches truly intolerable?
- might mean instead that I am self-indulgent and rest even in face of mild pain.
-Perhaps headaches are identical, but you're stoic about yours and I'm not.
-How should we test claims about my headaches?
-needed is some means of directly comparing headaches , would require transplanting one of my headaches into
your experience, or vice versa.
-Then one could make appropriate comparison.
-no way to do this leaving one unable to determine if headache reports are exaggerated or not,
distorted or accurate.
-We're left with no access to the objective facts.
-only information about headaches : what comes through filter of description, no way to know how
(or whether) that filter is coloring the evidence.
-For purposes of science, not acceptable.
-science needs objective observations, observations
-observations that aren't dependent on a particular point of view or particular descriptive style.
-not enough to consider "the world as one person sees it:'
-. In scientific discourse, usually achieve objectivity by making sure all facts are in plain view, so one can
inspect my evidence, and I yours.
-that way, we can be certain neither of us distorting or misreporting or exaggerating the facts.
-And that is precisely what we cannot do with introspection
1.3 The Years of Behaviorism
- organism's behaviors are observable in the right way:
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