Chapter 8 - Thinking and intelligence
-For the most part, our thinking is adaptive. e.g. develop rules for making fast decisions in
-Thoughts guide much of our behaviour
How does the mind represent info?
-Cognition: mental activity such as thinking or representing info
Cognitive psychology was first based on the notion that the brain represents information and
that act of thinking (cognition) is directly associated with manipulating these representations.
Two types of representations (most often corresponding to images and words):
1) Analogical: has some of the physical characteristics of an object; are analogous to
objects (maps, family trees)
2) Symbolic: abstract, does not correspond to physical features of an object or idea
(most often words or ideas, i.e. notice there is little correspondence between what a
violin looks or sounds like and the letters that make up the word).
Mental images are analogical representations (take on picturelike qualities)
-Experiment (Shepard): participants were asked to view letters and numbers and to
determine whether given object was in its normal orientation or mirror image.
oThe length of time subjects took to determine whether an object was normal or
mirror depended on its degree of rotation
-Experiment (Kosslyn): analogical representations activate the primary visual cortex
-Experiment (Farah): patient with damage to temporal cortex was deficient in calling up
mental images but not at spatial tasks. Ability to use spatial info is tied to maturation
of child’s nervous system
-The representation of picture in mind’s eye parallels that which was in our brain the
first time we saw the picture.
Analogical has limits: something too big. Mental maps involve mixture of analogical and
symbolic representations: which is farther north, Seattle or Montreal? Seattle is but even if
have analogical representation of map, symbolic knowledge tells you Canada is north.
Concepts are symbolic
Grouping things together based on shared properties, categorization, reduces the amount of
information we need to store in memory and is an efficient way of thinking. E.g., musical
Concepts: refer to a class or category that includes some number of individuals or subtypes.
Concepts are mental representations of categories or relations. Allow us to organize
representations around common themes, so every instance of an object, relation, or quality is
not stored individually.
Defining attribute model – the idea that each concept is characterized by a list of features
that are necessary to determine if an object is a member of a category.
-Concepts are hierarchically organized, superordinate or subordinate
-Model has shortcomings.
oAll-or-none basis, but often have exceptions
oAssumes all attributes of a category are equally salient in terms of defining the
oAssumes all members of a category are equal in category membership e.g.,
bachelor - 16 year old kid or 20 year old man who goes on dates occasionally.
-To address shortcomings of defining attribute model, use:
Prototype model – approach some members in the category are more representative –
-Closely resembles how we organize our knowledge of objects
- Allows for boundaries to be imprecise (tomato, fruit or veggie).
-BUT not clear indication of what a prototype would be like
-To address shortcomings use:
Exemplar models - concepts are formed from many examples. When encountering a new
dog, compare with all the dogs you’ve encountered to determine that it is a dog.
-Assumes that experience forms fuzzy representations b/c no single representation
Prototypical category members are simply those that we have encountered more
Schemas – enables us to interact with the complex realities of daily environments
-Kind of knowledge regarding situations and social contexts
-Over time, we develop schemas about the different types of real-life situations we
-Scripts - schemas about sequence of events in different situations
o“going to the movies”
oOperate at unconscious level.
Essential elements of schemas:
1) Common situations have consistent attributes (library is quiet with books)
2) People have specific roles within a situational context (librarian or reader)
-Can have unintended consequences, like sexism or racism
-E.g. conductors schemas of women as inferior musicians interfered with ability to rate
auditioners objectively. With screens, number of women has increased fivefold.
Scripts dictate “appropriate” behavior, shaped by culture
Adaptive reason of schemas: reduces the amount of attention needed to recognize and
negotiate within a familiar environment. Also, allow us to recognize and avoid unusual or
How do we make decisions and solve problems?
-Ability to have rational thought and use it to guide decisions is considered a fundamental
characteristic of human cognition.
-Reasoning: evaluating info, arguments, and beliefs in order to draw conclusions.
1) Inductive reasoning:
-We develop general rules after observing specific instances
-reasoning from specific examples to general statement
a. E.g. using scientific method to discover general principles
2) Deductive reasoning:
-Logic is used to draw a specific conclusion from given premises
-General to specific, a conclusion drawn from a set of a more assumptions called initial
a. Presented in form of syllogisms: logical arguments containing premises and
then a conclusion.
b. Conditional syllogism: if A is true, then B is true. Conclusion depends on
whether premises is true.
c. Categorical syllogism: the logical argument contains two premises and a
conclusion (can be valid or invalid)
i. Valid: All A are B, All B are C, therefore all A are C.
ii. Invalid: All A are B, some B are C, therefore all A are C
Normative: humans are optimal decision makers
-Normative model: expected utility theory - computation of utility: overall value of
choice for each possible outcome, always choosing most desirable one.
Descriptive: humans often misinterpret and misrepresent the probabilities underlying many
-Focus on decisions in everyday practice that often fail to comply with “rational”
behavior. Not always choosing most desirable alternative.
Heuristics - mental shortcuts, rules of thumb.
-Typically use in inductive reasoning and decision making
-Occurs at unconscious level
-Take up minimal cognitive resources (can focus conscious mind on other things)
-Adaptiveness: allows for quick decisions rather than weighing all of the evidence
-Can also result in specific biases
Most common heuristics
Availability heuristic: making decision based on the answer that most easily comes to mind.
-e.g. R is much more likely to be third letter of a word than first
-e.g., people choosing not to fly after 9/11, the availability heuristic created a bias in
reasoning that led to more people to drive, resulting in increase in traffic fatalities
Representativeness heuristic: rule for categorization based on how similar the person or
object is to our prototypes for that category
-disregarding other important info, such as base rate (how often the event occurs). e.g.,
Helena is intelligent and ambitious, therefore more likely to be a psychologist. But base
rate for postal workers is higher than that of psychologists. (200 times more)
-The probability of a conjuction (two events happening together) must ALWAYS be less
than the probability of either event
oE.g. engineering majors who minor in English are subset of engineering majors
oRacial stereotypes: seeing black faces as crime suspects in media, alters belief
about black people and criminals
Confirmation bias: tendency to search for and believe evidence that fits our existing views
-disregarding what is inconsistent with one’s beliefs while making faulty arguments
using single case examples to prove their own.
-Critical thinkers try to avoid confirming prior beliefs
Framing: the effect of presentation on how information is perceived
-the way information is presented can alter how people perceive it. Framing a decision
to emphasize the losses or gains when introducing alternatives
-E.g. such as a sale or Program A/B to deal with disease (pg 310)
-People are generally more concerned with cost than with benefits, called loss
aversion (potential losses has bigger impact than gains on perceived value)
oE.g. trial products. “cost” of giving it up at end of trial period greater than
actual monetary cost of purchasing it
Affective Heuristics: how the decision will affect emotional state in the future.
-People are bad at affective forecasting (predicting how they will feel in future).
-People overestimate the extent to which negative events will affect them in future
oFollowing negative event, figure out a way that the event makes sense, which
reduces its negative consequences. So most people adapt and return to their
typical positive outlook.
-Yet people unaware of this capacity, which is why they overestimate the pain and
underestimate how well they will cope
Problem Solving achieves goals
Organization of subgoals
-Each solution broken down into a series of stages or steps