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Cognitive Psychology


Cognitive Psychology History of Cognitive Psychology History of Cognitive Psychology Historical roots Every epoch of human culture has wrestled with questions about ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive Psychology
  • History of Cognitive Psychology

History of Cognitive Psychology
  • Historical roots
  • Every epoch of human culture has wrestled with
    questions about human thought
  • Cognitive psych can be seen as specifically
    stemming from two different approaches to the
    study of human nature
  • Philosophy
  • Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Kant but also
    elsewhere around the world
  • Physiology
  • Hippocrates, Helmholtz
  • Its background within psychology goes back to the
    foundation of psychology itself
  • Wundt, James, later Gestalt psych
  • As such, the history of cognitive psychology is
    much the history of psychology itself

Historical roots
  • The logical progression of ideas
  • Hegelian dialectic
  • Thesis
  • Antithesis
  • Synthesis
  • Current beliefs are challenged by alternatives,
    leading to new theories that stem from the old

Historical Roots
  • Plato
  • Reality in abstract forms, physical world
    composed of imperfect copies
  • Rationalist approach to understanding
  • Using logic to understand the world
  • Aristotle
  • Knowledge can be obtained through experience and
  • Set the stage early on for a physiological
  • Hippocrates
  • Lets open it up and see inside!
  • Disease not the result of divine musings

Historical roots
  • Key concepts arising early on
  • The mind-body connection
  • Monism vs. Dualism
  • Innate vs. Acquired abilities
  • Rationalism vs. empiricism

Historical roots
  • After a strong start the study of human behavior
    and thought did not progress much
  • Up through the middle ages it could be said most
    were much more interested in the afterlife than
    life itself
  • Basis for understanding were the scriptural
    accounts of phenomena
  • Arguments had to support what was already
    accepted in terms of faith, contradictions to
    established ideas were unacceptable

Historical roots
  • The Renaissance
  • Renewed interest in humankind (specifically its
    abilities, not in the sense of helping our fellow
    man) and the here and now
  • Birth of science
  • Observation and measurement key in understanding

Historical roots
  • Beginnings of the modern period
  • Descartes
  • Poster child for dualism
  • Mind and body are separate but do interact
    (pineal gland)
  • Locke
  • Mind as a Tabula rasa on which experience writes

Historical roots
  • James Mill
  • Associationism
  • Reductionism
  • Laws of physical universe explain what we see
  • Complex ideas can be seen as associations of much
    simpler ones
  • Kant
  • Synthesis of empiricist and rationalist
  • Some knowledge is innate and independent of
    experience while other knowledge requires it
  • Understanding may be had from a synthesis of the

Modern Foundations
  • Important aspects of 19th century psychology
  • Beginnings of scientific investigation
  • Fechners Elemente der Psychophysik 1860
  • Focus on mental processes
  • Structure, function, purpose (adaptive value)
  • Helmholtz
  • Considered to be one of the greatest scientists
    of the 19th century because of his contributions
    to the fields of physics, physiology, and
    eventually psychology
  • Among many of his contributions was that he
    showed that measuring the speed of nerve
    conduction was possible
  • Previously thought that the nonmaterial agent
    moved instantaneously
  • Paved the way for the emergence of experimental
  • Thus it is only in the last 150 years was it
    believed that human cognition could even be
    studied, though the research could have begun
    much sooner, even hundreds of years earlier
  • E.g. simple recall studies under various

Wundt and the founding of scientific psychology
  • Late 1800s Wundt establishes first experimental
    psychology lab
  • Introspection as main tool of psychology early on
  • In many cases highly trained observers reported
    the contents of their own consciousness
  • Focus primarily on elements of sensation and
  • The immediate experience, study human
    consciousness as it occurs
  • Not simply breaking aspects of experience down
    into its constituent parts, but rather a study of
    processes and the dynamical nature of cognition
  • Full circle? Dynamical Cognitive Science
  • Wundt was not a structuralist in the sense his
    student Titchener was. Cognition was more than
    the sum of its parts.

Wundt and the founding of scientific psychology
  • His experimental introspection was not the
    unstructured self-observation used by earlier
    (and some later) philosophers/psychologists
  • Pure introspection
  • Wundts introspection used laboratory instruments
    to present stimuli, in most instances the subject
    was to respond with a simple response such as
    saying yes or no, pressing a key
  • Experimental introspection

Wundt and the founding of scientific psychology
  • Some of Wundts students
  • Cattell
  • Titchener
  • Witmer
  • Munsterberg
  • Spearman
  • Hall

Modern Foundations
  • James pragmatism and the beginnings of
    functionalism (Darwin, Cattell, Galton, Hall)
  • Reaction to Wundt (or rather, Titcheners
    interpretation of him)
  • How do cognitive processes work and what might be
    their purpose?
  • Stress the function of mental process rather than
    contents (elements)
  • Concern for practicality, emphasis on the
    individual, and evolutionary theory

James and the stream of consciousness
  • The traditional psychologist talks like one who
    would say a river consists of nothing but
    pailsful, spoonsful, quartpotsful, barrelsful and
    other molded forms of water. Even were the pails
    and pots all actually standing in the same
    stream, still between them the free water would
    continue to flow.
  • In opposition to those searching for mental
    elements, he believed that
  • Consciousness is personal, reflected the
    experience of the individual.
  • It is continuous
  • It is constantly changing, therefore we can never
    have the exact same idea twice (Heraclitus)
  • It also cannot be divided up for analysis
  • Finally it is selective, and most importantly

Modern Foundations
  • James approach was mostly philosophical and
    incorporated armchair introspection
  • Other labs were established here and abroad and
    had different varieties of introspection such
    that, at the turn of the century, we had several
    groups reporting findings mostly a reflection of
    their method than of substance

Modern foundations
  • Backlash to introspectionism
  • Not everything is available to consciousness
  • How can you describe the experience while still
    engaged in it?
  • Even if one could describe accurately what you
    are experiencing, how did one come to that
  • Enter Behaviorism
  • I got your science right here! (Pavlov, Watson,
  • Cut the fluff! Stick to the observables!

  • The shift in American psychology from the
    essentially German emphasis on the study of the
    processes and elements of cognition to a primary
    focus on behavior was initiated by John Watson
  • Let us limit ourselves to things that can be
    observed,and formulate laws concerning only
    those things.Now what can we observe? We can
    observe behavior- what the organism does or
  • The immediate predecessors of behaviorism,
    however, were Russian physiologists and
    reflexologists (Pavlov etc.)

  • Classical Conditioning
  • Conditioned reflex
  • Operant Conditioning
  • Pos/Neg reinforcement
  • Punishment
  • Changed the perspective to that of prediction and
    control of behavior rather than states of
  • No reference to mental events, though the less
    radical types would at least acknowledge them

Problems with behaviorism
  • Difficulty in explaining complex learning
  • Nomothetic application too simplistic and
  • Assumed that learning was the same for all
    individuals (relatively the same across species)

Problems with behaviorism
  • Even early on cognition was acknowledged by some,
    and problems were present
  • Rats that had no prior reinforcement performed
    just as well as those that had once they received
    it themselves (Blodgett 1929)
  • Learning had occurred in the absence of
  • Tolman
  • Cognitive maps of Rats and Men
  • Understood that cognitive process did exist and
    influenced behavior referred to them as
    intervening variables variables that intervene
    between environmental events and behavior

Problems with behaviorism
  • Later on, the inefficiency of behaviorisms
    account of language processing proved to be a
    major shortcoming
  • Chomskys critique of Skinners Verbal Behavior
  • Picture is worth 10,000 responses
  • Mouses (overgeneralization of internal
    grammatical rules) after initial correct
    learning, even if never heard before
  • Appropriate responses to novel stimuli
  • Gist language cannot be explained sufficiently
    without reference to mental events.

Other perspectives Psychoanalysis
  • Freud
  • Existed
  • Now he doesnt
  • Moving on

Psychodynamic Theory
  • Motivation, unconscious, wish-fulfillment etc.
  • The primary stimulus of interest is thus a hidden
    one for the most part
  • Contrast with behaviorists and cog psych
  • Relied more on speculation rather than
    observation (others on the other hand must be
    able to explain results in light of previous

Other perspectives Gestalt Psychology
  • Gestalt psychology was a German movement that
    directly challenged Wundts structural
  • Though again Wundt was not a structuralist in the
    sense that Titchener was
  • The goals of Gestalt psychology were to
    investigate the organization of mental activity
    and to determine the exact nature of the
    person-environment interactions
  • Gestalt psychology emphasized the how of mental
    processing, rather than the what

Gestalt Psychology
  • Cognitive processes not so easily reduced to
  • Active perception
  • Example where is the square coming from?

Gestalt Psychology
  • Wertheimer, Koffka, Köhler
  • Wertheimer
  • Phi phenomenon (apparent movement)
  • Illusion that a light is moving from one location
    to another
  • Phi phenomena cannot be reduced to the stimulus
    elements presented to the subjects the
    subjective experience of motion is the result of
    a dynamic interaction between an observer and the
  • Köhler
  • Insightful chimpanzees
  • Koffka
  • Perhaps most vocal and prolific proponent of
    gestalt principles

Gestalt Psychology
  • Major aspects of perception
  • Similarity
  • Proximity
  • Closure

Gestalt Psychology
  • Gestalt psychology grew out of the research on
    sensory and perceptual processes, providing also
    an alternative to early behaviorism
  • Seeing the salient features of shapes and forms
    on a background within a perceptual field is an
    innate activity and not an acquired skill
  • Organization leading to meaning, then, is the key
    to our perceptual structure
  • Learning takes place as a result of
    psychological disequilibrium or tension that
    persists until the problem is solved insights
    are swift and free of errors
  • The Gestalt movement played a major role in
    providing a contrast to behaviorism by broadening
    its basis to foster a more complete view of the
    learning process.

Modern Foundations
  • But
  • How do we study it scientifically?
  • Powerful demonstrations, but not too much in the
    way of theory
  • Also
  • A little too nativistic focus on perception
    primarily based on what we bring to the table
  • Experience, expectation can affect perception
  • And
  • Who is that short guy over there with the funny

  • Behaviorism had been dominating American
    psychological study for decades
  • While there were pockets of resistance much of
    the work as far as cognition was concerned was
  • By the 1950s however, the scientific climate in
    psychology had changed

  • (Re)Enter cognitive psychology
  • From Neisser 1967
  • Cognition refers to all the processes by which
    the sensory input is transformed, elaborated,
    stored, recovered, and used sensation,
    perception, imagery, retention, recall,
    problem-solving and thinking, among many others,
    refer to hypothetical stages or aspects of
  • Cognitive Psychology is the domain of psychology
    involved in the scientific analysis of mental
    processes in order to better understand behavior

Information processing approach
  • With the advent of computing technology, a ready
    analogy was available to help understand how
    humans deal with and interact with their
  • Key work ushering in the information processing
  • Broadbent, Perception and Communication, (1958)
  • Current incarnations Computational mind (Daniel
    Dennett), Computational Universe (Seth Lloyd)
  • Obviously the brain does not work like a
    computer, however both are involved in the
    processing and storage of information

Information processing approach
  • Neisser (1967)
  • Provided a summary of the approach up to that
  • Also provided a blueprint for research
  • Indirect studies of cognitive processing
  • Example Reaction time studies
  • A central tenet of this approach is that
    information is processed and stored in stages
  • Atkinson Shiffrin (1968)
  • Short-term, Long-term memory
  • Craik Lockhart (1972)
  • Levels of processing

Current information processing models
  • Connectionism
  • Later models de-emphasized the serial nature of
    the original information processing model
  • Information processed in parallel across regions
    of the brain
  • Flexible, able to adapt to experience
  • Models were provided that simulated performance
    though might not have explicit physiological
  • Rummelhart McClelland (1986)

  • Info processing takes place through the
    interaction of a large number of simple
    processing elements (units) sending excitatory
    and inhibitory information

Other areas Artificial Intelligence
  • Further development of the computer brought on
    attempts to mimic the way the mind thinks
  • Newell Simon The logic theorist
  • Turing test (as yet, not passed)

Information processing approach
  • Although the information processing approach and
    computer analogy has been extremely enlightening,
    it does have problems
  • Although computers can place chess and perform
    other tasks similar to or even better than
    humans, still pale in comparison to typical brain
  • Quantum computing?
  • No real physiological correspondence to computer
  • Memory as a function also (not just a storage
  • However the information processing perspective
    remains the heart of cognitive psychology

Levels of explanation
  • From Marr (1982)
  • Functional
  • What is the goal and purpose of the processing?
  • Representational
  • How is the information represented within the
  • Physical
  • How is the processing physically realized?
  • One can perhaps add to or rephrase (the
    demarcation in actual research may blur), but the
    levels are particular to the info-processing

Cognitive Psychology Today
  • Today cognitive psychology encompasses myriad
    approaches to studying a wide variety of mental
  • The term cognitive science is often used to note
    the interdisciplinary study of cognition

Millers conceptualization (late 70s), though
now would suggest links among all of them
Complexity is key
  • The amazing thing about thought is that
    everything is too complicated for us to do
  • Yet, we manage to get around the world.
  • What do we mean by complexity?
  • There are always many possibilities
  • Only a few of them are relevant
  • How do we decide which ones are correct?

  • Somehow we manage to solve these problems, so
    what must happen?
  • We must limit the options we consider
  • We must think quickly enough to consider a
    reasonable number of options
  • How does this happen?
  • The cognitive system has many ways of focusing on
    what is relevant
  • Constraints promote information likely to be
  • Some possibilities may be missed
  • Constraints determine what is easy or hard to do
  • Theories suggest possible sets of constraints
  • Experiments test whether people use those
  • Return to levels of explanation
  • Theories may describe constraints at different
    levels of explanation
  • Computational level
  • Algorithmic level
  • Implementational level
  • Different kinds of data will be relevant to each
    type of explanation

Basic Mechanisms and Issues
  • The cognitive system is the primary survival
    mechanism for the human species.
  • And as we have been discussing we could say the
    cognitive system works mainly on two principles
  • Meaning
  • Extract a mental model of environment
  • Cognitive Economy

Basic Mechanisms and Issues
  • Association
  • Contiguity in space and time
  • Functional (causal) associations
  • Organization of knowledge
  • Skill/ acquisition
  • Learning
  • Power law of practice

Basic Mechanisms and Issues
  • Judgment/Decision making
  • Cognitive development
  • Attention/perception
  • How do we take info from the outside in mangled
    form, and put it back together for conscious
    experience and behavior?

Methods of Investigation
  • Behavioral
  • Neuropsychological
  • Brain Imaging
  • Event-related Potentials
  • Positron Emission Tomography
  • Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Methods of Investigation
  • Behavioral data
  • Simple observation
  • Reaction time, paired-associate learning,
    accuracy measures, free recall etc.
  • Indirect measure of cognition, but most widely

Methods of Investigation
  • Lesion Studies
  • Studying brain damage can tell us something about
    what areas of the brain affect particular
  • If an area has a lesion, and the person shows a
    specific deficit, then that area probably has
    something to do with that function.
  • Example Memory disorders
  • Lesions of the hippocampus and memory

Methods of Investigation
  • Brain Imaging
  • ERP
  • Bad spatial/Good temporal resolution
  • Look at polarity, amplitude, latency and

Methods of Investigation
  • PET and fMRI
  • Pretty pictures
  • Good localization
  • Not as good temporal resolution, very expensive
  • fMRI
  • Face processing (head on view)
  • PET scan
  • Normal left, Alzheimers right

Methods of Investigation
The Future
  • Still a long way from fully understanding even
    some of the fundamental issues
  • As technology and knowledge advances in cog psych
    and other fields (e.g. neuroscience), further
    understanding will be gained about old issues and
    new problems will present themselves for further