Chapter 6
Cognition
Language
• Communication: the sending and
receiving of information
– Language: the primary mode of
communication among humans
• A systematic way of communicating
information using symbols and rules for
combining them
• Speech: oral expression of language
– Approximately 5,000 spoken languages exist today.
Infants Born Prepared
to Learn Language
• Language acquisition – learning vs. inborn
capacities
– Behaviorism’s language theory
• People speak as they do because they have been
reinforced for doing so.
• Behaviorists assumed children were relatively
passive.
• The problem with this theory is that it does not fit the
evidence.
• Operant conditioning principles do not play the
primary role in language development.
Infants Born Prepared
to Learn Language
– The nativist perspective:
• Language development proceeds according to an inborn
program.
• Language Acquisition Device (Noam Chomsky): humans are
born with specialized brain structures (Language Acquisition
Device) that facilitates the learning of language.
– Interactionist perspectives:
• Propose environmental and biological factors interact together
to affect the course of language development.
• Social interactionist perspective strongly influenced by Lev
Vygotsky’s writings
Infants Born Prepared
to Learn Language
• Assessing the three perspectives on
language acquisition:
– General consensus:
• Behaviorists place too much emphasis on
conditioning principles.
• Nativists don’t give enough credit to environmental
influences.
• Interactionist approaches may offer best possible
solution.
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive
Development - Four Stages
• Jean Piaget contended that cognitive development
occurs as children organize their structures of
knowledge to adapt to their environment.
• A schema is an organized cluster of knowledge that
people use to understand and interpret information.
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive
Development - Four Stages
• Acquisition of knowledge occurs through
the complementary processes of
assimilation and accommodation.
– Assimilation: the process of absorbing new
information into existing schemas
– Accommodation: the process of changing
existing schemas to absorb new
information
Piaget’s Stages
• Sensorimotor stage (birth–2 years):
– experience the world through actions (grasping,
looking, touching, and sucking)
• One of the major accomplishments at this stage is the
development of object permanence.
• Preoperational stage (2–6 years):
– represent things with words and images but
having no logical reasoning
Piaget’s Stages
• Concrete operational stage (7–11 years):
– think logically about concrete events;
understanding concrete analogies and
performing arithmetic operations
• Formal operational stage (12 years–
adulthood):
– develop abstract reasoning
The Three-Mountains
Problem
Conservation
Conservation of
Mass
Conservation of
Number
Piaget’s Conclusions Have
Been Questioned
• Development may be less “stagelike”
than he proposed.
• Children may achieve capabilities earlier
than he thought.
• All adults may not reach formal
operational thought.
Evaluating Piaget
• Despite criticisms, most developmental
psychologists agree that Piaget has
generally outlined:
– An accurate view of many of the significant changes that
occur in mental functioning with increasing childhood
maturation; and
– That children are not passive creatures merely being
molded by environmental forces, but that they are
actively involved in their own cognitive growth.
The Linguistic Relativity
Hypothesis
• Does language determine thought?
• Benjamin Lee Whorf’s linguistic relativity hypothesis
– Proposed that the structure of language determines the
structure of thought (without a word to describe an experience,
you cannot think about it).
– However, research indicates that just because a language
lacks terms for stimuli does not mean that language users
cannot perceive features of the stimuli.
– The answer is no. Most psychologists believe in a weaker
version of Whorf’s hypothesis—that language can influence
thinking.
Thinking
• Thinking—cognition
– The mental activity of knowing
– The processes through which knowledge is
acquired
– The processes through which problems
are solved
Concept Formation
• Concept: a mental grouping of objects, ideas,
or events that share common properties
– Concepts enable people to store memories in an
organized fashion.
• Categorization is the process of forming
concepts.
– We form some concepts by identifying defining
features.
– Problem with forming concepts by definition is that
many familiar concepts have uncertain or fuzzy
boundaries.
Concept Formation
• Thus, categorizing has less to do with features that
define all members of a concept and has more to do
with features that characterize the typical member of
a concept.
• The most representative members of a concept
are known as prototypes.
When Is It a “Cup,” and
When Is It a “Bowl”?
Fuzzy Boundaries
• Determine whether something belongs to a
group by comparing it with the prototype.
• Objects accepted and rejected define the
boundaries of the group or concept.
• This is different for different people.
Problem-Solving
Strategies
• Common problem-solving strategies:
– Trial and error: trying one possible solution
after another until one works
– Algorithm: following a specific rule or stepby-step procedure that inevitably produces
the correct solution
– Heuristic: following a general rule of thumb
to reduce the number of possible solutions
– Insight: sudden realization of how a
problem can be solved
“Internal” Obstacles Can
Impede Problem Solving
• Confirmation bias: the tendency to seek information that
supports our beliefs, while ignoring disconfirming
information
• Mental set: the tendency to continue using solutions that
have worked in the past, even though a better alternative
may exist
• Functional fixedness: the tendency to think of objects as
functioning in fixed and unchanging ways and ignoring
other less obvious ways in which they might be used
The Candle Problem
Decision-Making
Heuristics
• Representativeness heuristic:
– the tendency to make decisions based on how closely
an alternative matches (or represents) a particular
prototype
– Availability heuristic:
• the tendency to judge the frequency or probability of
an event in terms of how easy it is to think of
examples of that event
Decision-Making
Heuristics
Five conditions most likely to lead to heuristic use:
• People don’t have time to engage in systematic
analysis.
• People are overloaded with information.
• People consider issues to be not very important.
• People have little information to use in making a
decision.
• Something about the situation primes a given
heuristic.
Intelligence
• Intelligence consists of the mental
abilities necessary to adapt to and
shape the environment.
– Intelligence involves not only reacting to
one’s surroundings but also actively
forming them.
Early IQ Testing Shaped by
Racial/Cultural Stereotypes
British Sir Francis Galton founded the eugenics
movement to improve the hereditary characteristics
of society.
• Eugenics proposed that:
– White and upper-middle-class individuals—who were assumed to
have high mental ability—should marry and have children.
– Lower-class Whites and members of other races —who were
assumed to have low mental ability—should not reproduce.
Early IQ Testing Shaped by
Racial/Cultural Stereotypes
• Unlike Galton, French psychologist Alfred Binet:
– Made no assumptions about why intelligence differences exist.
Believed intellectual ability could be increased through education.
• Over Binet’s objections, American Henry Goddard used
Binet’s intelligence test to identify the feebleminded so
they could be segregated and prevented from having
children.
Aptitude &
Achievement Tests
• Two categories of mental abilities
measures:
– Aptitude tests: measure capacity to learn new skill
– Achievement tests: measure what is already learned
•
Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT): measures learned
verbal and mathematical skills
–
SAT scores influenced by quality of test takers’ schools
• Difference in intent/use of the test
Aptitude &
Achievement Tests
– Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test: the widely used
American revision of the original French intelligence
test.
•
Intelligence quotient (IQ): originally, the ratio of mental age
to chronological age multiplied by 100 (MA/CA  100).
•
Today, IQ is calculated by comparing how a person’s
performance deviates from the average score of her or his
same-age peers, which is 100.
– Wechsler Intelligence Scales: the most widely used set
of intelligence tests, containing both verbal and
performance (nonverbal) subscales
Test Standardization
• Process of establishing uniform procedures for
administering a test and interpreting its scores
– Reliability: the degree to which it yields consistent results
– Validity: the degree to which a test measures what it is
designed to measure
Content validity
Predictive validity: degree to which test results predict other
behaviors or measures
The Normal
Distribution
Are intelligence tests
culturally biased?
– Critics claim that Whites and higher SES
individuals have had greater exposure than
ethnic minority and lower-class individuals to
topics on most commonly used IQ tests.
– Supporters of IQ tests respond that although IQ
tests do not provide an unbiased measure of
cognitive abilities, they do provide a fairly
accurate measure of academic and occupational
success.
What is Intelligence? One or
Several Distinct Abilities?
• One of the primary questions about the
nature of intelligence is whether it is best
conceptualized as:
– A general, unifying capacity or
– Many separate and relatively independent
abilities.
What is Intelligence? One or
Several Distinct Abilities?
• British psychologist Charles Spearman
concluded there was a general intelligence,
or g, factor underlying all mental abilities.
• Louis Thurstone argued there were seven
primary mental abilities:
– Reasoning, verbal fluency, verbal
comprehension, perceptual speed, spatial skills,
numerical computation, and memory
What is Intelligence? One or
Several Distinct Abilities?
– Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple
intelligences contends that intelligence
consists of at least eight independent
intelligences:
• Linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical,
bodily-kinesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal, and
intrapersonal
What is Intelligence? One or
Several Distinct Abilities?
• Robert Sternberg’s triarchic theory of
intelligence proposes that intelligence consists
of analytical, creative, and practical abilities.
• Research still supports both perspectives:
– There is evidence that we have distinct mental
abilities and a general intelligence factor.
Sternberg’s Triarchic
Theory of Intelligence
People Differ in Their Neural
Complexity & Quickness
– Intelligence is partly based on neural
complexity, quickness, and efficiency.
– Additional studies suggest that smarter
brains become more efficient with practice.
– These findings suggest that intelligence is a
product of both our biology (nature) and our
experience (nurture).
People Differ in Their Neural
Complexity & Quickness
• Extremes of intelligence
– Diagnosis of mental retardation given to people
who:
• Have an IQ score below 70 and also have difficulty adapting
to the routine demands of independent living.
• Only 1-2 percent of the population meets both criteria.
• Males outnumber females by 50 percent
People Differ in Their Neural
Complexity & Quickness
• Extremes of intelligence
– About 75 percent of mental retardation cases
thought to result from unfavorable social
conditions or subtle and difficult-to-detect
physiological effects
– Remaining 25 percent of cases considered to
have a specific organic cause, such as fetus or
infant exposed to harmful substances
• Down syndrome caused by an extra chromosome coming
from either the mother’s egg (the primary source) or the
father’s sperm.
People Differ in Their Neural
Complexity & Quickness
• The gifted category used for IQs above 130 or 135
• U.S. federal law designates that giftedness should
be based on superior potential in any of six areas:
• General intelligence, specific aptitudes (for example, math and
writing), performing arts, athletics, creativity, and leadership
Twin and Adoption
Studies of Intelligence
• Twin studies indicate that the average correlation
of identical twins’ IQ scores is .86, while fraternal
twins’ correlation is .60.
– Fraternal twins—who are genetically no more similar than
regular siblings, but who are exposed to more similar
experiences due to their identical ages—have more similar
IQ scores than other siblings.
– In addition, nontwin siblings raised together have more
similar IQs (r = .47) than siblings raised apart (r = .24).
The Nature-Nurture
Debate
Racial Differences
in IQ Scores
Sources: Data from N. J. Mackintosh. (1998). IQ and human intelligence. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. Neisser, U. (1998). The rising curve: Long-term gains in IQ and related
measures. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Plant-Pot Analogy
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Language, Thinking, and Intelligence