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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Notes

Course Code
George Cree

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Chapter 1 – How Brain Gives rise to the Mind
Mental activity or Cognition is the internal interpretation or transformation of stored
Cognition occurs when you derive implications or associations from an observation, fact
or an event
Brief History
Plato believes that memories are like etching on a wax tablet but people differ in
hardness and purity of wax – which is why some people have better memories [lacks
distinction between the substance and function]
Rene Descartes gave the famous distinction between mind and body [similar to heat and
John Locke argued that thought is a series of mental images
Berkeley argued that not everything can be represented by mental images and human
mind uses multiple ways to store information
Philosophy answered a lot of questions but philosophy is based on argument – and to
produce facts to answer questions, a science was required – Psychology
In the Beginning: The Contents of Consciousness
Birth of scientific study of mental activity occurred with the establishment of the first
modern psychology laboratory in 1879 in Germany
The head of the lab was Wundt who advocated that content of consciousness can be
approached the way chemists approach molecules
i.By characterising basic sensations and feelings
ii.By finding the rules whereby such elements combine to form perception
Wundt showed that mental activity can be broken down into more basic operations
Divide and conquer” technique. And also developed objective methods for assessing
mental activity such as response time
At this time scientists heavily relied on introspection; the process of internal perception
or looking within oneself to assess the mental activity

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People were not always sure about their answers when they introspected and often
disagreed with each other as well. Therefore, Wundt trained people to be sensitive to their
reactions to stimuli when the stimuli changes – No help!
Oswald Kulp advocated that mental images do not always accompany mental activity
A mental image is signalled when you perceive an object while it is absent – seeing with
mind’s eye
(Kinesthetic image – feeling of lifting)
Psychology in the World
William James laboratory was established – Evolution of Functionalist Psychologists
Functionalist psychologists focused not on the nature of mental activity but rather on the
function of specific mental activities – the idea that certain strategies are better suited to
certain tasks than others and as we discover new strategies we should adopt to them to
better adapt to the environment
Behaviourism: Reaction against the Unobservable
Behaviourists avoided the discussion of mental activity. According to them psychology
should not attempt to understand hidden mental events but rather should focus purely on
the immediately observable: Stimuli, responses and the consequences of the responses
However, this left a lot of questions unanswered notably language
Behaviourism failed to provide insights into the nature of perception, memory and
decision making
The Cognitive Revolution
If not for the technological advances to help study mental activity – behaviourists would
have been dominating
The development of computer dominated the field so much that the period of transition
came to be known as cognitive revolution
Researchers used the computer as a model for the way in which human mental activity
takes place – computer was a tool that allowed researchers to specify the internal
mechanisms that produce behaviour.

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Researchers developed new methods to test predictions from computational models that
often specified the order in which specific mental activities take place – this method
allowed mental activity to be studied more objectively than introspection
This method is important because stimuli and response is just the beginning – true
understanding requires looking at internal mechanisms [similar to how driving and fixing
a car are two different things]
Understanding the Mind: The Form of Theories of Cognition
Computers and Brain are not identical. A computer only runs a program whereas a brain
produces activity [a program]. Moreover, a program may run at multiple computers
whereas thoughts are restricted to unique human brains.
Mind and Brain
Mental activity is like software but the brain itself is not quite like hardware
If a computer program is useful, it is converted into a chip and it becomes part of the
hardwareso a software need not be present and we can work just by using the hardware
since it is using the same language
The crucial distinction is between the levels of analysis The degree of abstraction used
to describe an object
Different levels of analysis rely on different vocabularies
We could study the physical structure of a computer or the function. To study the
function, we depend on the accurate description of language of information processing –
that is the storage, manipulation and transformation of information.
Mental activity is described in terms of information processing
A critical idea of levels of analysis is that description at one level cannot be replace by
description at another level the levels are equally valid and reinforce each other but are
not interchangeable.
To fully understand, we need to distinguish between a functional and a physical level of
Mental Representation
Cognitive Psychologists try to specify how information is internally represented
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