Chapter 8: Thinking and Intelligence
Dead risks are fears that can profoundly affect reasoning and decision-making.
Gerd Gigerenzer (2004) believes the biases that typically affect decision-making
after highly unlikely tragic events should be publicized, so that education about
dread risks might prompt people to reconsider choices that could result in
additional negative consequences. The way we think about information makes
important differences in the quality of our lives – both individually and collectively.
Cognition = mental activity such as thinking or representing information. The field
of cognitive psychology was originally based on the notions that the brain
represents information and that the act of thinking is directly associated with
manipulating these representations.
Two basic types of representations:
1) Analogical = a mental representation that has some of the physical
characteristics of an object; it is analogous to the object. E.g. maps and family
2) Symbolic = an abstract mental representation that does not correspond to
the physical features of an object or idea. I.e. names of objects that do not
look like the object itself.
Scientific Method: The “R” studies and analogical mental images
Hypothesis: The time it takes to say whether a stimulus is a mirror image will
increase as a function of how far the stimulus is rotated from its upright position.
1) Participants were shown rotated objects – letters and numbers.
2) Participants were asked whether each object was in its normal orientation or
was its mirror image.
3) Researchers timed how long it took the participants to respond.
Results: The farther the object was rotated from its upright position, the longer
participants took to determine whether the object was in its normal orientation or a
mirror images. Participants were fastest when an object was at or close to upright;
they were slowest when it was rotated 180 degrees.
Conclusion: Participants developed mental images of the objects and rotated these
images to view the objects in their upright positions. Presumably, the farther an
object was from upright, the longer this process took. Mental maps involve a mixture of analogical and symbolic representations. E.g. most
of us can pull up a visual image, a map, of Africa’s contours even if we have never
seen the actual contours with our own eyes.
Our symbolic representations consist of words, which can represent abstract ideas
in a succinct verbal form.
Concept = a mental representation that groups or categorizes objects, events or
relations around common themes.; a category or class, that includes subtypes
and/or individual items. It consists of mental representations, of a relation between
representations, or of quality or dimension, such as brightness or width. It ensures
that we do not store every instance of an object, a relation or a quality or dimension
individually by allowing us to organize mental representations around a common
theme. Instead, we store an abstract representation based on the properties that
particular items or particular ideas share.
Defining attribute model = the idea that a concept is characterized by a list of
features that are necessary to determine if an object is a member of the category.
- It suggests that membership in a category is on an all-or-nothing basis, but in
reality we often make exceptions in our categorizations, allowing members
into groups even if they do not have all the attributes or excluding them even
if they have all the attributes. E.g. saying that “birds fly”, but penguins and
- It suggests that all of a given category’s attributions are equally salient in
terms of defining that category. However, research demonstrates not only
that some attributes are more important for defining membership than
others but that the boundaries between categories are much fuzzier that the
defining attribute model suggests. E.g. has wings is generally considered a
clear attribute of bird, whereas is warm-blooded does not as readily come
into mind when we think of birds, so being warm-blooded is not salient in
how we think of birds.
- The model posits that all members of a category are equal in category
membership – no one item is a better fit than any other.
Prototype model = an approach to object categorizations that is based on the
premise that within each category, some members are more representative than
- It allows for flexibility in the representation of concepts.
- A particular prototype can be chosen for different reasons: Is it the most
common example of that particular category? Is it a representation that all
members of that category resemble? Or does it represent a combination of
Exemplar model = information stored about the members of a category is used to
determine category membership. It proposes that any concept has no single best representation – instead, all the exemplars of category members form the concept.
E.g. your representation of dogs is made up of all the dogs you have encountered in
your lifetime. If you see a dog, you compare it with your memories of dogs. It is
closely resembles these memories, you conclude that it is a dog.
Schemas help us perceive, organize and process information. Unfortunately they
reinforce sexist beliefs.
Roger Schank and Robert Abelson (1977) have referred to schemas about sequences
as scripts (dictate appropriate behaviors, and what we view as appropriate is
shaped by culture). E.g. going to the movies is a script most of us are familiar with.
We can employ schemas because:
1) Common situations have consistent attributes
2) People have specific roles within situational contexts
Relational schemas = influence what people expect from others in their social
Even though scripts and schemas are potentially problematic, their adaptive value is
that they minimize the amounts of attention required to navigate familiar
environments. They also allow us to recognize and avoid unusual or dangerous
Reasoning = using information to determine if a conclusion is valid or reasonable.
Decision-making = attempting to select the better alternative among several
Problem solving = finding a way around an obstacle to reach a goal.
>> Using a belief or a rule to determine if a conclusion is valid; from general to
Deductive reasoning tasks are often presented as syllogisms (logical arguments
containing premises and a conclusion)
- Conditional syllogisms – the argument takes the form “if A is true, then B is