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Psychology 3229A/B
Scott Mac Dougall- Shackleton

Chapter 9: Evolution, Thought and Cognition Cognition and The Evolution of Thought • First, a powerful mind is the result of a powerful brain gobbling up some 2-% of the body’s energy while accounting for only 3% of its mass • Second, it increases the weight of the head, making death from a broken neck more likely • Third, the larger head required to accommodate the human brain means that birth is difficult for both mother and baby • There must have been advantages in order to outweigh these costs • Assumption of cognitive science is substrate neutrality: the nature of the hardware makes no difference to the computation being carried out • An evolutionary explanation attempts to understand the mind/brain by asking what it is for, or more correctly what problems particular components of the mind might have been designed to solve in our ancestral past Vision • Marr’s position is that illusions are not exceptional, nor are they design faults; on the contrary, they show how well designed the visual system is • Marr argues that the visual system is not merely designed to represent the way things are in the world, rather vision ‘is a process that produces from images of the external world a description that is useful to the viewer and not cluttered with irrelevant information’ • The primary goal of perception is action and visual illusions do not reveal bugs but features Evolution and Memory • The principal function of memory - to use the past to predict the future • Ebbinghaus studied memory by stripping his experimental stimuli of all meaning and emotional content by using visually presented nonsense syllables • By doing this, Ebbinghaus believed that he would be able to test the basic processes of memory free from other systems such as those responsible for processing meaning and emotion • There is a real danger that one ends up merely testing the capability of a system rather than its function • Sir Frederick Bartlett rather than using meaningless symbols presented his participants with meaningful materials such as pictures and passages of text and tested their recall sometime after • He found that people’s recall of textual information is prone not just to omissions but also to intrusions where culturally specific information would be falsely recalled What is the Function of Memory? • Memory did not evolve simply to store and retrieve information, it evolved to store and retrieve information for some purpose, that purpose being to support complex behaviour • JohnAnderson proposes that human memory is optimally adapted to the structure of the information retrieval environments • Memory uses knowledge about the past in order to maximize future gain • Anderson and Milson provide a similar account for priming Chapter 9: Evolution, Thought and Cognition • If a person encounters a particular word then he or she will be able to access that same word much faster next time they encounter it • Not only is the word itself primed, but words that are semantically related are also primed • Throughout or lives human beings make many decisions, most if not all, of these decisions will require more information than is available in the environment • Different Types of Memory Support Different Types of Decision • Many psychologists prefer to think of memory as consisting of a number of separate sub- systems all of which might have their own particular function • Distinction between inceptive and derived memories • Inceptive memories are true episodic memories in that they represent information stored at its inception with no further processing • These inceptive memories may undergo further processing and interference to produce derived memories, which can be thought of as summaries of concrete experiences • Klein argues that certain decisions might require information to be in such a distilled and abstracted form to enable rapid processing • The memory sub-systems responsible for producing and storing derived memories might have evolved to maximize speed at the cost of accuracy • Inceptive memories, on the other hand, are preserved because although they are slow and costly to process they might be beneficial in situations where accuracy rather than speed is of the essence Memory, Stereotypes and Categorization • Stereotypes referred to as prototypes, reflect the properties of frequently encountered members of that category • Such prototypes, it is argued, are formed because they permit rapid processing and work in the majority of cases • More controversial are categories for particular groups of human being • Society frown upon these types of category for two reasons: first, because they do not properly capture the diversity of people within these groups, and second, they are thought to cause prejudice When our Memories are Fallible:AnAdaptiveAccount • Daniel Schacter proposes an adaptive explanation for why memories are fallible by listing wheat he calls the seven sins of memory Chapter 9: Evolution, Thought and Cognition Memory Problem Description Example Transience The gradual weakening or Not being able to remember loss of memory over time in detail what you did years or weeks ago Absent-Mindedness Abreakdown at the interface Forgetting where you left between attention and your keys memory. It is not a failure of memory per se because we never actually adequately stored the appropriate information Blocking Failing to retrieve Not being able to remember information that we know we the name of a familiar person know, For example, the or song infuriating ‘tip of the tongue’ phenomenon Misattribution Forgetting the source of Incorrectly remembering that information someone told you a story when in fact you read it in a book Suggestibility Incorrect memories as a result After viewing a tape of a car of leading questions or crash and being asked ‘how comments when we’re trying fast was the car going when it to recall a past event smashed into the tree?’Use of the word smashed often leads to higher estimates of speed Bias Unconsciously editing or re- Recalling the break-up of a writing p
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