The History and
Methods of Cognitive
Psychology
What is Cognitive Psychology?

The branch of psychology that studies how
we perceive, attend, recognize,
remember…
what happens in our minds
Cognitive activities
Perception
 Attention
 Memory
 Language
 Reasoning/decision making

Some elements of cognitions…
Often complex
 Occur rapidly
 Occur automatically (unconsciously)
 May occur with other cognitions

What is the “mind” ?

How can we study the inner workings of the
mind when we can’t “see” the mind?
Variables that could change a
cognition
Age
 How well rested the subject is
 Cultural background
…

Experimental Design
Hypothesis
Test
or Experiment
Independent
Variable
Dependent
Variable
Methods of Experimentation
Introspection
 Naturalistic observation
 Controlled observation
 Clinical interviews
 Experiments (and quasi-experiments)
 Brain imaging

Methods

Introspection
 Insight
 Ecological
validity
 Experimenter
 Observer
control
bias
 Can you really do something while doing it?
Types of Experiments

Naturalistic observation
 Ecological
 Little
validity
experimenter control
 Observer bias
Methods

Experiments
 Experimenter
control
 Isolate causal factors
 May
not be ecologically valid
Methods

Controlled observation /
Clinical interviews
 Ecological
 Only
validity
some experimenter
control
 Observer bias
Methods

Brain Imaging
Methods

Brain Imaging
 CAT/MRI – shows anatomy
 Magnetic fields, not usable on some subjects
 Small, noisy location for subject
 Does not show function
 PET - shows function
 Brain activity averaged over time
 fMRI – shows anatomy
 Similar to MRI
 EEG/ERP
and function
– overall general electrical activity of brain
The history of studying cognitions


Greeks
17-19 c.
 Empiricism
 Schools
of psychology
 Nativism
Schools of psychology
Structuralism
 Functionalism
 Behaviorism
 Gestalt psychology
 Genetic epistemology
 Individual differences
 Cognitive psychology (cognitive revolution)

Schools of psychology

Structuralism
 Attempted
to find simplest units of the mind
(like a period table of elements)
 More complex behaviors explained by
combining different elements (research never
really got this far)
 Method: Introspection
Schools of psychology

Functionalism
 Asked
the question “Why?”
Why does the mind work the way it does?
 Why does this behavior help a person adapt to
their environment?

 Method:
Observations in “real life”
Schools of psychology

Behaviorism
 Goal:
to predict and control behavior
 Method:
Observation of only visible,
measurable behaviors
(mental states cannot
be studied)
Schools of psychology

Gestalt psychology
 The
mind is not divisible
 The mind is a whole entity, and imposes its
own structure on how to interpret stimuli
 It is the relationship between elements that
matters
 Method:
Experimentation with perception,
problem solving
Gestalt psychology
Figure 1-1 (p. 11)
Examples of Gestalt figures.
Schools of psychology

Genetic epistemology – the “mind”
changes over time
 The
mind goes through different stages, which
can be separated from each other by the
different cognitive abilities present at each
stage (Piaget)
Schools of psychology

Individual differences
 Tried
to determine if a mental characteristic
(eg., intelligence) was inherited or acquired
later from the environment
 Type of statistics typical used in cognitive
psychology developed
Schools of psychology

Cognitive psychology
 Proposed
that mental states could be studied
(reaction to behaviorists)

Some results…
 Human
factors engineering
 Limited-capacity processors

The magical number seven, plus or minus two
 Linguistics

More results…
 Localization
of function / plasticity of nervous
system
 Computer metaphor / artificial intelligence
 Cognitive neuroscience
Paradigms of Cognitive Psychology
Information Processing
 Connectionism
 Evolution
 Ecology

Figure 1-4 (p. 29)
A typical information-processing model.
Figure 1-5 (p. 31)
A typical connectionist model.
Paradigms of Cognitive Psychology

Evolution
 Our
minds are biological systems which evolve and
adapt to our environment, and is subject to the laws
of natural selection
 For each type of problem, we therefore have specialpurpose programs to solve them

Ecology
 Cognition
vacuum
occurs in the context of culture, not in a
Outline
Syllabus
 What is cognitive psychology?
 Elements of cognition
 What are experiments?
 History of cognitive psychology
 Current methods of study
 Paradigms of cognitive psychology

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The History and Methods of Cognitive Psychology