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Cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychology is the study of mental processes such as "attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, creativity, and thinking"



the mental processes of acquiring and retaining information for later retrieval; the mental storage system that enables these processes.



the collection of mental processes and activities used in perceiving, remembering, thinking and understanding , and the act of using those processes.


Ecological validity

principle the research must resemble the situations and task demands that are characteristic of the real world rather than rely on artificial laboratory settings



scientific approach in which a complex event or behaviour is broken down into its constituents; the individual constituents are then studied independently


Why do we use reductionism in the study of cognitive psychology?

Because human cognition is highly complex and we would be overwhelmed attempting to study it in its entirety; its more effective to study the particular cognitive mechanisms independently


• Structure/Representation

the knowledge you possess; the information in your memory



an operation on an external stimulus or on an internal representation
-executing a process can use an existing memory representation, update or reinterpret an existing representation, or create a new representation


Cognition vs Performance

• cognition = what is actually going on in the mind
• performance = the observable behaviour that we must use as evidence of cognition


Kant’s “transcendental method”

work backward from observed effects to infer their causes
– Factory analogy
• We derive inferences based on observations
in order to construct theories
• Theory: system of explanatory ideas that helps us to describe and understand a complex domain
• Model: a metaphor, a suggestion of how some part of the system might work by likening it to some physical system


What did Diogenes of Apollonia add to cognitive thinking?

shifts emphasis (around 500bc) from sensation/perception to the integration of sensory information
• “common sense”
• theory of air as the vehicle for cognition


Platos contribution

-around 380BC
-the object of mind
-universals as separate from particulars
-"wax tablet metaphor" plus innate knowledge



around 350BC
-'Tabula Rasa' -blank slate
-universals as components of particulars


Aristotle doctrine of association



St Augustines thoughts

around 500BC
-memory is the stomach of the mind
(digest, ruminate, store, forget)


Great cognitive thinkers from Germany?




the systematic study of the relation between the physical characteristics of stimuli and the sensations that they produce


Who had the first psychological laboratory? what did they study

Wilhelm Wundt, in Leipzig Germany (1879)
-interested in simple (sensation, perception, attention) physical processes
-not interested in higher (e.g., memory) process


What is Structuralism and who created it?

-it is the goal to find the structural elements of the mind, using introspection
-Edward Titchener invented it and studied it in Cornell (1892)


What did Hermann Von Ebbinghaus contribute?

-1885 Germany
-contributed association formation
-forgetting curves
-nonsense syllables-CVC's
Ebbinghaus would learn a list (e.g., of 16 items) to a criterion of mastery (e.g., two perfect recitations), then set the list aside. Later, he would relearn the same list, noting how many fewer trials he needed to relearn it


Who is the father of Functionalism and what is it?

-William James (Harvard 1890)
-focuses on the functions of consciousness rather than its structure
-memory has two parts- short (immediate) and long term (repository)
-his work with James Lange: we are afraid because we run, not we run because we are afraid. emotions arise from actions


Two fathers of Behaviourism? what is it?

John B. Watson & B.F. Skinner
-the objective 'reaction' to Wundt and introspection, only stimuli and response matter
-goal is to catalogue connections between still and responses
-avoid "mentalism"


What other events/theories helped give rise to Cognitive Psychology

-WWII effect on Behaviourism (rats in cages didn't describe soldiers behaviour in war)
-Information/communication theory (Shannon & Weaver 1948)
-Linguistics and psycholinguistics (Noam Chomsky 1959)
-Computers and computer models (Newell, Shaw, & Simon 1958)



-philosophical position originating from Aristotle, that advances observation & observation based data as the basis for all science


Verbal Learning

the experimental branch pf psychology that dealt with how humans learned verbal material composed of letters, nonsense syllables, or words. The groundbreaking research by Ebbinghaus started the verbal learning tradition.