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Chapter 1

PSY342 - chapter 1 notes

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Ari Silburt

Chapter 1 How Brain Gives rise to the Mind Mental activity or Cognition is the internal interpretation or transformation of stored information. 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 light] 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 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 minds eye (Kinesthetic image feeling of lifting) 1 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. 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 2 If a computer program is useful, it is converted into a chip and it becomes part of the hardware so 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 analysis. Mental Representation Cognitive Psychologists try to specify how information is internally represented A representation is a physical state that conveys information, specifies an object, event or category of its characteristics. Representation involves: i. Format: Form of representation; the means by which it conveys the information e.g. drawing (depiction) or verbally (description) ii. Content: The meaning conveyed by a particular representation Mental Processing Sound is a psychological quality The neural impulses in the brain give rise to our experience of sound To understand the representations work, we need to consider the processes that operate on them. [or interpret them] A process is a transformation of information that obeys well-defined principles to produce a specific output when given a specific input A mental representation is a representation that conveys meaning within a processing system A processing system is a system that includes various processes that interpret and operate on representations. It includes a set of processes that work together to accomplish a type of task, using and producing representations as appropriate. The idea is that a complex activity cannot be accomplished by a single process but rather requires that integration of set of processes 3
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