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Cognitive Psychology: History, Methods and Paradigms.docx

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University of Winnipeg

Cognitive Psychology: the branch of psychology concerned with how people acquire, store, transform, use, and communicate information. Influences on the Study of Cognition  Plato and Aristotle wrote extensively on the nature of memory Definition/Ideas it Rests On Influences Empiricism knowledge comes from an individual's own experience John Locke, David (what empirical information people collect from their sense Hume, John Stuart and experiences). Mill Nativism Emphasizes constitutional factors over the role of learning Rene Descartes, in the acquisition of abilities and tendencies. Attribute George Berkeley, difference in individuals to original, biologically endowed Immanual Kant capacities and abilities. Nativists often suggest that some cognitive functions come built in, as part of our legacy as human beings. Structuralism  Founded in 1879 by Wilhelm Wundt.  Carried out hundreds of studies relying on students highly trained in introspection.  Wundt believed that any conscious thought or idea resulted from a combination of sensations that could be defined in terms of exactly four properties: 1. Mode (ex. Visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory) 2. Quality (ex. Colour, shape, or texture) 3. Intensity 4. Duration  Edward B. Titchener, one of his students, applied the term Structuralism to convey their focus on the elemental components of the mind rather than why it works the way it does.  Convinced that the proper setting for experiments was the laboratory. Functionalism  William James established this new discipline of psychology in the U.S. with the goal of using psychology to explain our experiences. He asked why the brain works as it does.  He assumed that the function on the mind had a great deal of influence over why it works the why it does.  John Dewey and Edward Thorndike shared James's conviction that the most important thing the mind did was to let the individual adapt to his/her environment.  Draws heavily on Darwinian evolutionary theory.  Believed that studies should be done on whole organisms in real-life situations. Behaviorism  1930s-1960s, this was the dominating academic psychology.  Believed that practices such as introspection was useless because it was untestable; the internal processes of the mind were unobservable.  The goal is the prediction and control of behaviour.  John Watson regarded all "mental" phenomena as reducible to behavioural and physiological responses.  B.F. Skinner (1984) believed that mental representations shouldn't be disregarded just because they were hard to study. However, he didn't believe that mental processes should be regarded as fundamentally different from behavioral events and activities.  Edward Tolman believed even rats have some goals and expectations. A rat learning to run a maze must have the foal of attaining food and must acquire an internal representation such as a cognitive map to locate the end of the maze. His work centered around the idea that animals had both expectations and internal representations that guide their behaviour. Gestalt Psychology  Founded by Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Kohler in 1911.  Gestalt is a German word which loosely translates to "configuration".  Psychological phenomena can't be reduced to simple elements as people construct coherent perception by taking in a total experience, not all of its parts.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Genetic Epistemology  Seeks to describe the intellectual structures underlying cognitive experience at different developmental points.  Jean Piaget conducted studies of the cognitive development of infants, children, and adolescents. He agreed with the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. o Noticed that children of different ages differ significantly. For example, a young child may believe five buttons become more numerous if spread out or they may have trouble understanding the amount of liquid in different width glasses. o He believed children in different stages of cognitive development used different mental structures to perceive, remember, and think about the world. The Study of Individual Differences  Led by Sir Francis Galton who wondered if intellectual abilities could be inherited as other traits described by his cousin Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution.  He studied the individual differences in various cognitive abilities such as mental imagery by using tests and questionnaires. The Cognition Revolution  Came with the end of WWII  It was a new series of psychological investigations, was mainly a rejection of the behaviorist assumption that mental events and states were beyond the realm of study.  The field of human factors engineering in which engineers had to design equipment that was suitable for the capacities of the people operating it (ex. Planes crashing because the brake level was next to the landing gear and they couldn't look away from the runway).  The Person-Machine System: the idea that machinery operated by a person must be designed to interact with the operator's physical, cognitive, and motivational capacities and limitations.  Humans began to be associated with communication channels and came to be described as limited-capacity processors, meaning they could only process so many things at once. o George Miller- Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two  Developments in the field of linguistics made it clear that people regularly process enormously complex information. o Noam Chomsky- showed that behaviourism couldn't accurately explain the acquisition, understanding, and production of language. He noticed that parents tend to respond to the content rather than the form of what a child says, which wouldn't result in the behaviour reinforcement behaviourists would suggest. Moreover, at certain stages a child is prone to making certain kinds of mistakes regardless of persistent correction by adults. o Noam Chomsky argued that underlying people's language abilities is an implicit system of rules, collectively known as a generative grammar.  With the developments of neuroscience, the idea of localization of function meaning function is localized in particular regions of the brain came about. o Karl Lashley believed there was no reason to believe such. o Donald Hebb suggested some kinds of functions (such as visual perception) were constructed over time by the building of cell assemblies which are connections among sets of cells in the brain. o David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel- specific cells in the visual cortex of cats were specialized to respond to specific kinds of stimuli (such as orientation of lines and shapes). They also demonstrated the importance of early experience in NS development. Kittens that were restricted to environments lacking vertical lines were unable to perceive them later in life.  The computer metaphor had begun to be used to describe people's cognitive activities. Current Trends in the Study of Cognition  Gardner (1985) pointed out the common assumptions that cognitive psychology rests upon.  It must be analyzed at what is called the level of representation: theories incorporate symbols, rules, images, or ideas.  Cognitive Neuropsychology- these practitioners study cognitive deficits in brain-damaged individuals to be able to help certain people and be able to understand how everyone's cognitive processes operate. General Points  Structuralism asked "What are the elementary units and processes of the mind?"  Functionalists reminded psychologists to focus on the larger purposes and contexts that cognitive processes serve.  Behaviourists challenged psychologists to develop testable hypotheses and to avoid unresolvable debates.  Gestalt psychologists pointed out that an understanding of individua
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