Chapter 8: Thinking and Intelligence
How Does the Mind Represent Information?
Cognition: Mental activity such as thinking or representing information
The challenge for cognitive psychologists is to understand these mental representations
Two basic types of representations:
o Analogical Representations: which have some characteristics of actual object-include
maps, which correspond to geographical layouts, and family trees, which depict
relationship between relatives
o Symbolic Representations: words or ideas are abstract and do not have relationship to
physical qualities of objects in the world. Eg. the word violin stands for a musical
Mental Images are Analogical Representations
We often see things without trying eg: lemon. Evidence support the notion that representations
take on picture like qualities
1970s, participants were shown letters in different orientation and we told to figure out what
the letter was
The farther the object from upright position, the longer the discrimination took. Conclusion:
participants had mentally rotated representations of the objects to “view” the objects in their
Visual imagery is associated with activity in primary visual cortex
Eye inside head – like viewing a picture inside your head
Limits of Analogical representations
Mental maps involve a mixture of analogous and symbolic representations
Symbolic answer can yield a wrong answer because while our general knowledge is correct it
does not take into account the way the Pacific coast near Mexico juts east therefore San Diego is
more east than Jasper , Alberta
Regularization of irregular shapes in memory is a shortcut we use to keep info in memory, such
shortcuts can lead to errors
Concepts Are Symbolic Representations
What you do with a lemon depends on how you think about using it.
Categorization reduces the amount of knowledge we must hold in memory, therefore a better
way of thinking. We have to store unique knowledge for each member of a category
Concept: A mental representation that groups categories objects, events or relations around
Defining Attribute Model: The idea that a concept is characterized by a list of features that is
necessary to determine if an object is a member of the category. 3 flaws to the model o First, the model suggests that membership within a category is an all or none basis, in
reality there are exceptions in categories
o Second, all of a given category’s attributes are equally salient in terms of defining that
category. In reality some things belong more to the category than others, fuzzy
o Third, all members of a category are equal in category membership- no item is better fit
than any other. The bachelor concept
Prototype Model: An approach to object categorization that is based on the premise that within
each category, some members are more representative than others
Exemplar Model: Information stored about the members of a category is used to determine
o Through experience people form a fuzzy representation of a concept because there is
no single representation of any concept
Schemas Organize Useful Information about Environments
Knowledge regarding situations and social contexts differs greatly from the knowledge
associated with object classification
We develop schemas about the different types of real-life situations we encounter; kind of like a
script. E.g. there is a script we follow for going to the movies. We use schemas for 2 reasons
o Common situations have consistent attributes
o People have specific roles within situational contexts
Schemas and scripts, like prototypes sometimes have unintended consequences, such as
reinforcing sexist or racist beliefs
Gender Roles-prescribed behaviors for females and males are a type of schema that operates at
the unconscious level. Leading us to think men are better leaders, or men play instruments
better than females. This lead to the concept of auditioning behind curtains.
Scripts dictate appropriate behaviors, and what we view as appropriate is shaped by culture.
Relational Schemas: influence what people expect from others in their social interactions. E.g.
men pay for the dinner, and drive the car during a date. 1950s black people sit at back of bus
Scripts and schemas can be problematic, but the adaptive value is that they minimize the
amounts of attention required to navigate familiar environments.
Allow us to recognize and avoid unusual or dangerous situations
How do we make decisions and solve problems?
Reasoning: Using information to determine of a conclusion is valid or reasonable
Decision making: Attempting to select the best alternative among several options
Problem Solving: Finding a way around an obstacle to reach a goal
People Use Deductive and Inductive Reasoning Deductive reasoning: Using a belief or rule to determine if a conclusion is valid (follows logically
from the belief or rule). You reason from the general to explain the specific.
Inductive reasoning: Using examples or instances to determine if a rule or conclusion is likely to
be true. You reason from the specific to explain the general.
Use logic to draw specific conclusions under certain assumptions, or premises.
Deductive reasoning tasks are often presented as syllogisms: logical arguments containing
premises (statements) and a conclusion.
Can be conditional: If A is true, then B is true
Can be categorical: All A are B, all B are C, therefore all A are C.
It is important to understand the difference between a valid conclusion and truth. In deductive
reasoning, a conclusion follows logically from its premises, it is valid, but it may or may not be
true. E.g. spinach cake concept
The use of scientific methods to discover general principals is one example of inductive
Decision Making Often Involves Heuristics
Normative Models of Decision Making has viewed humans as optimal decision makers, who
always select the choice that yields the largest gain.
Descriptive Models have tried to account for humans’ tendencies to misinterpret and
misrepresent the probabilities underlying many decision making scenarios and to act irrationally
even when they understand the possibilities.
Expected utility theory is one normative model of how humans should make decisions
The theory views decision making as a computation of utility, the overall value for each possible
outcome in a decision making scenario.
Heuristics: In problem solving, shortcuts used to reduce the amount of thinking that is needed
to move from an initial state to a goal state.
Algorithmic thinking is done consciously e.g. calculations
Heuristic thinking is done unconsciously/ requires minimal cognitive resources. Can be adaptive
in that it allows us to decide quickly rather than weigh all the evidence each time we have to
Heuristics can result in biases, leading to errors or faulty decisions.
Availability Heuristics: Making a decision based on the answer that most easily comes to mind.
E.g. false fame experiment
Representative Heuristics: A rule for categorization based on how similar the person or object is
to our prototypes for that category Representative heuristics can lead to faulty reasoning if you fail to take other information into
account, such as the base rate, or the frequency of an events occurring.
Framing: the effect of presentation on how information is perceived
Prospect theory accounts for framing’s effects, has two main components:
o 1. the need to take into account people’s wealth in predicting their choices
o 2. the fact that because losses feel much worse than gains feel good, people try to avoid
situations that involve losses. Losing is much worse than gaining is good.
People overestimate the extent to which negative events will affect them in the future.
When we think of tragic loss, we consider only the immediate, intense pain. Overtime, however
life continues, with its daily joys and sorrows, so the pain of the loss become less salient against
the backdrop of everyday events.
Affective forecasting can also influence our perceptions of positive events. E.g. for an Olympian
it is worse to win a silver (1 loser) than it is to win bronze (2 loser). For a normal person we
compare winning a medal to not winning a medal.
Good Decision Makers
People who make good decisions have better lives
Participants who performed better on the decision making test reported fewer negative life
events than those who performed poorly on the test.
Applying critical thinking skills can positively affect multiple areas of a person’s life.
Problem Solving Achieves Goals
How a person thinks about the problem can help or hinder that person’s ability to find solutions
Organization of Sub goals
Solving problems requires breaking the task down into sub goals
Insight: The sudden realization of a solution to a problem
Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Kohler conducted an experiment on chimps by placing the
banana out of reach and providing them sticks.
Having solved that problem, the chimp transferred its insight to other, similar problems and
solved them quickly Changing Representations to Overcome Obstacles
Reconstructing: A new way of thinking about a problem that aids its solution
Mental Set: A problem solving strategy that has worked in the past
Overcoming functional fixedness requires the problem solver to reinterpret an object’s potential