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
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Seeks to describe the intellectual structures underlying cognitive experience at different
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Gestalt psychologists pointed out that an understanding of individua