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Cognitive Psychology (PSYC 2650) Chapter Summaries

Course Code
PSYC 2650
Anneke Olthof

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Cognitive Psychology Chapter
Chapter 1: The Science of the Mind
The Scope of Cognitive Psychology
Cognitive psychology: the scientific study of the acquisitions, retentions and use of
Cognitive psychology is roughly 50 years old
“Cognitive revolution” (1950-1960s) represented a striking change in the style of
research and theorizing employed by most psychologists
oIt changed the intellectual map of the field
The Years of Introspection
In the late 19th century, scholars, Wilhelm Wundt and Edward Bradford Titchener
launched research psychology, which defined it for the first time as separate from biology
or philosophy
oAccording to these men, psychology needed to be concerned largely with the
study of conscious mental events—our feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and
The only way to study thoughts is for each of us to introspect: ‘look within’ to observe
and record the content of our mental lives and the sequence of our own experiences
Introspectors had to be trained
oThey were given a vocabulary to describe what they observed
oTrained to be careful and complete as possible
oTrained to simply report on their experiences objectively
Concerns/Problems with introspection:
oSome thoughts are unconscious, and this meant that introspection was limited as a
research tool
oWe have no way of separating correct assertions from false ones
oIt became a matter of opinion, not objective facts
oThe testability of claims are unattainable
For science we need objective observations that we can count on
The Years of Behaviourism
The concerns just raised led many psychologists (especially in the US) to abandon
introspection as a research method
Data concerned with behaviour, stimuli and learning are objective
oThey are measurable, recordable and physical events

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In contrast, beliefs, goals, expectations cannot be directly observed and therefore cannot
be objectively recorded
oThese ‘mentalistic’ notions were discarded
oScientific psychology needed to avoid these invisible internal processes/events
Behaviourist movement: a movement that dominated psychology in America for the
first half of the 20th century
oIt includes a range of broad principles concerned with how behaviour changes in
response to different configurations of stimuli
Bu the late 1950s, psychologists realized that a great deal of our behaviour could not be
explained only with reference to objective, overt events
oThe way people act is also guided by how they understand or interpret the
oWe must consider internal processes/events to understand behaviour
If scientists want to predict people’s behaviour, they need to refer to the stimulus and the
person’s knowledge and understanding of and contribution to this stimulus
oStimuli that are physically different form each other have similar effects
Such as “Salt, please”
oStimuli that are physically similar to each other, have different effects
Such as “Pass the salt” and “Sass the palt”
oVarious stimuli evoke salt-passing do have something in common with each other:
they all mean the same thing
The Roots of the Cognitive Revolution
The solution to how we study the mental world was suggested by the philosopher
Immanuel Kant
oTranscendental model: begin with the observable facts and then work backwards
from these observations
How could these observations have come about
What must the underlying causes be that led to these effects
Sometimes called “Inference to best explanation
To study mental processes, we must study them indirectly
oMental processes are invisible, but they have visible consequences, such as
measurable delays in producing a response, performance that can be assessed for
accuracy etc.
By examining these and other effects produced by mental processes, we can develop and
test hypotheses about what the mental processes must have been
Research in Cognitive Psychology: An Example
Kantian logic
oBeginning with a particular performance, we then hypothesize a series of unseen
mental events that made the performance possible
oWe ask whether some other sequence of events might explain the data, or whether
some other sequence might explain both these data

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oWe do more than ask how the data came about: we are also seeking the best way
to think about the data
The hypothesise is tested by collecting more data
oWe seek to derive new predictions based on our hypothesis
oIf these predictions are confirmed, this is a strong argument that the proposed
hypothesis is correct
oIf they are not, then a new hypothesis is needed
Working Memory: Some Initial Observations
Working memory: the memory you use for information that you are actively working on
oIt holds information in an easily accessible form, so that the information is
instantly available when needed
Working memory is hypothesized to have only a small capacity
oWith only a few items in this store, there will never be a problem locating the item
you want
Measuring working memory’s capacity via a span test
oThe participant reads a list of 4 items and reports these back, immediately, in
sequence, for instance letters
oIf they succeed, another letter is added to the list and this continues until the
person can no longer report back accurately
oPeople start making errors with sequences of 7-8 letters
Working Memory: A Proposal
When measuring people’s memory span, we find that they often make errors, in particular
by reporting letters that they hadn’t heard at all
oThey tend to substitute one letter for another with a similar sound
oWe get similar sound-like confusions if the letters are presented visually
Baddeley and Hitch proposed a model:
oThey assumed that working memory is not an entity, but instead it has several
components known as the working-memory system
oAt the heart of the system is the central executive: this part runs the show and
does the real work
The executive interprets and analyses information, which the assistants
can’t do
Central executive assistants
oIs helped out by a number of low-level ‘assistants’, which aren’t sophisticated but
useful for temporary storage of information
oOne is the articulatory rehearsal loop: repeating information and rehearsing
them with your inner voice, which requires little effort
The executive has initiated the speech, but the chore to hold the
information is passed on to the assistants, freeing the executive
Sub-vocalization produces a representation of the items (such as numbers) in the
phonological buffer: an auditory image is created in the ‘inner ear’
oThis image will fade away after a second or two, but before it does, the executive
‘reads’ the contents of the buffer, in order to remind itself what the numbers were
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