Chapter 1- Cognitive psychology: history, methods and paradigms

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9 Feb 2011

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PSYB57 Chapter 1- Cognitive psychology: history, methods and paradigms
Cognitive Psychology (CP) is concerned with how people acquire, store, transform,
use and communicate information; deals with mental life
In the example from book, the cognitive processes include attention, mentally
focusing on some stimulus; perception, interpreting sensory information to yield
meaningful information; and pattern recognition, classifying a stimulus in a
known category
Memory- the storage facilities and retrieval processes of cognition; recognition (the
retrieval of information in which the processor must decide whether the information
presented has been previously presented before) and recall (the retrieval of
information in which the processer must generate most of the information without
aids) are types of memories
Reasoning- used in transforming given information, called premises, into
conclusions; its a special kind of thinking
Problem solving- used in transforming starting information into a goal state, using
specified means of solution
Knowledge representation- the mental depiction, storage, and organization of
Language- a system of communication that is governed by a system of rules and can
express an infinite # of propositions
Decision making- the process by which an individual selects one course of action
from among alternatives
Much of the cognitive processing takes place rapidly and so often that we are
unaware that its occurring
The key challenge for all scientists is to make sure the laboratory tasks they develop
really do preserve the essential workings of the processes under study
Influences on the study of cognition
Several ideas about certain mental abilities date back to at least Aristotle and Plato
Other philosophers involved ini tracing the roots of cognitive psychology were Locke,
Hume, John Stuart Mill, Descartes, George Berkeley, and Kant; they also debated
the nature of the mind and knowledge, with Locke, Hume, Berkeley, and Stuart Mill
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following Aristotle and a more empiricist position, while Descartes and Kant
following Plato with a more nativist position
Empiricism- knowledge comes from an individuals own experience
Empiricists recognize individual differences in genetics but emphasize human
natures changeable aspects
They believe that people are the way they are because of previous learning
One mechanism by which such learning is thought to take place is through the
mental association of 2 ideas
Locke argued that 2 distinct ideas or experiences, having nothing to do with each
other, could become joined because they happened to occur to the individual at the
same time
Empiricists believe that the environment plays a powerful role in determining ones
intellectual abilities
Nativism emphasizes the role of constitutional factors-of native ability- over the role
of learning in the acquisition of abilities and tendencies
They attribute differences in individuals abilities to biologically endowed capacities
and abilities
Nativists believe that some cognitive functions come built in as part of our legacy as
human beings
Wundt wanted to identify the simplest essential units of the mind; he wanted to
create a table of mental elements
Once the set of elements was identified, Wundt believed psychologists could
determine how these units combine to produce complex mental phenomena
James Baldwin created the first experimental psychological laboratory in Canada
He was also the first person to conduct controlled experiments with children
Wundt used a technique of investigation known as introspection- his technique
consisted of presenting highly trained observers and asking them to describe their
conscious experiences
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Wundt thought that any conscious thought or idea resulted from a combination of
sensations that could be defined in terms of exactly 4 properties: mode (ex. Visual,
auditory, tactile, olfactory), quality (colour, shape), intensity and duration
Structuralism- focused on the search for the simplest possible mental elements and
the laws governing the ways in which they could be combined
James regarded psychologys mission to be the explanation of our experience
Like Wundt, James was interested in conscious experience; unlike Wundt, James
was not interested in the elementary units of consciousness
Instead James asked why the mind works the way it does; he assumed the way the
mind works has to do with its function
Functionalists drew heavily on Darwinian evolutionary theory and tried to extend
biological conceptions of adaptation to psychological phenomena
Structuralists and functionalists differed in their methods as well as their focus; the
structuralists were convinced the proper setting for experimental psychology was
the lab, while functionalists disagreed with this, attempting to study mental
phenomena in real life situations
Rejected introspection because of its subjective nature and its inability to resolve
disagreements about theory; objective; its goal is the prediction and control of
Watson regarded all mental phenomena as reducible to behavioural and physiologic
He believed that the scientific study of mental phenomena was not possible
Watson did encourage psychologists to think in terms of measures and research
methods that moved beyond subjective introspection
Skinner argued that mentalistic entities such as images, sensations and thoughts
should not be excluded simply because they are difficult to study
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