Basic Concepts of Thought:
Concepts: real world objects, activities, etc, that are different from one another but share common
properties (ex: dogs, games, etc)
-Mental representations of concepts help guide correct behaviours even for objects/situations never
-People seem best able to use concepts at a level that is not too general and not too specific.
1. Super-ordinate Level (General): (ex: animal, furniture)
2. Basic Level (Not General, Not Specific): (ex: dog, chair)
3. Subordinate Level (Specific): (ex: cocker-spaniel, beanbag chair)
-members of categories may not share ALL features in common BUT one member of a category shares
features with a number of other members of that category.
Prototype: mental representation of the category average. If something is similar to the Prototype it is
probably part of that category.
-Propositions: representations of how one concept relates to another (ex: birds eat worms) -
Cognitive Schemas: propositions that are linked into more complex sets of knowledge. (ex: things
that happen in restaurants)
Subconscious Processes: can be brought into awareness easily but can occur without conscious
awareness or effort (ex: driving, walking, etc)
Non-conscious Processes: cannot be accessed by consciousness (ex: identifying people, preferences)
Methods of Formal Reasoning:
1) Algorithm: series of steps that lead to an accurate solution.
2) Logical Rules: include deductive and inductive reasoning:
Deductive Reasoning: drawing conclusions from a series of statements, if logical rules are
followed, a conclusion drawn from statements must be true if the statements are true. oSDP
Inductive Reasoning: drawing tentative conclusions from a series of statements, if logical
rules are followed, a conclusion drawn from statements in probably true but may not be.
1) Heuristics: simple rules that can be used to draw conclusions when one has imperfect
knowledge of facts.
2) Dialectical Reasoning: comparing and evaluating both sides of an argument to arrive at the
best conclusion (can form good opinions)
Levels of Thought:
-Pre-Reflective Stage of Reasoning: assumption that there is a correct (and incorrect) answer to any
question that can be arrived at directly through personal experience or from an “expert” opinion. -
Quasi- Reflective Stage of Reasoning: appreciation that sometimes clear answers do not exist, but
people can assume that their OPINIONS are valid.
-Reflective Stage of Reasoning: appreciation that sometimes clear answers do not exist but some
answers are “better” (more logical)
Obstacles in Rational Thinking:
-Confirmation Bias: people are motivated to seek evidence that supports their beliefs and avoid
evidence that contradicts their beliefs.
-Availability Heuristic: people judge an event as likely to occur if examples can easily be brought to mind
(ex: West-Nile Virus, Terrorist Attack) can lead to inaccurate estimate of something occurring.
-Loss Aversion: people’s decisions are often motivated by avoiding loss rather that treating losses and
-Mental Set: tendency to solve new problems by using the same methods that worked on some other
problem. (ex: Functional Fixedness)
-Hindsight Bias: when people know about the outcome of an event, they overestimate the degree to
which they expected that event to occur.
-Cognitive Dissonance: people tend to reduce inconsistencies b/w different personal beliefs that
they hold or b/w a personal belief and their behaviour.
REDUCING INCONSISTENCIES: rationalize, modify beliefs, change behaviour.
1) When you know you made a decision on your own and it turns out bad.
2) When behaviour is inconsistent with how someone perceives themselves
3) When effort is much higher than payoff- Justification of Effort (ex: line ups at nightclubs)
LANGUAGE & THINKING
-words are good for allowing abstract reasoning about complex ideas (ex: justice, good, evil)
*Language can be used to make you think differently.
Aspects of Language:
-Comprehension: accessing the meaning of spoken or written symbols. -
Production: communication through the output of spoken or written symbols.
-Surface Structure: specific ordering of words in a spoken or written language.
-Deep Structure: underlying meaning of those words.
Hierarchy of Language:
PHONEMES (combine to form)→MORPHEMES (either on their own or combined form)→ WORDS (which
combine to form) → PHRASES (which combine to form) SENTENCES.
Creole Language: new language that evolves to allow people that speak different languages to
*Language Development is based on: Biological Maturation/Neural Development, Cognitive
Development and Linguistic Environment.
-Early exposure to language is critical. Children exposed to language in teir first year will have extreme
difficulty acquiring the ability.
Achievement Tests: measure “crystallized” intelligence (success in acquiring knowledge or skill in some
Aptitude Test: measure “fluid” intelligence (ability to acquire knowledge or skills in the
future) IQ TESTS: (Intelligence Quotient)
-People’s ability to do a range of tasks that require intelligence. Score is standardized. Factor Analysis:
suggests that there is some g-factor that determines performance on IQ tests.
-worked with children who had problems with learning.
-Solution: measures MA (mental age) compared to other children in memory, vocabulary and
-IQ=MA/AA (actual age) x100.
-“Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale”- still only for children.
-WAIS (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale) -
WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children)
CONCERNS (IQ Tests):
-performance of middle class, urban, white people is not a fair standard for evaluating IQ of
people from other groups.
Differences could be based on:
1) Mental Ability
2) Differences in Experience
Culture Fair: questions relevant across cultures.
Culture Free: non-verbal questions.