Post your personal definition of cognitive psychology. Then describe two important developments in the field of cognitive psychology beyond the use of neuroimaging. Finally, explain how the developments contribute to the field of psychology. Support your response using the Learning Resources and current research.

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Phrenologists in nineteenth-century Victorian England believed that aspects of a person—such as weight, temperament, and organ function—represented themselves as bumps on the head. By fingering the ridges on the skulls of individuals, practitioners believed that they could make determinations about any number of somatic and psychological qualities. Humans have long sought to understand how the brain functions to create the self—how it “knows.” This search has evolved into today’s study of cognition.

Long dismissed by the scientific community, the pseudoscience of phrenology gave way to a twentieth-century understanding of neurological function as a general mystery that science had yet to solve. This belief persisted into the 1990s, until advances in technology and theory development brought about an exponential increase in neurologists’ understanding of cognitive processes.

With the advent of imaging technology, neurologists, psychologists, and even laypersons have access to “pictures of the mind.” When bolstered by theory and research, these images expand our awareness of the ways in which the brain helps us to think, feel, and act (Cacioppo, Berntson, & Nusbaum, 2008).

For this Discussion, consider your definition of cognitive psychology. Think about developments in the field, and contributions that they have made.

Cacioppo, J. T., Berntson, C. G., & Nusbaum, H. C. (2008). Neuroimaging as a new tool in the toolbox of psychological science. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(2), 62–67.

With these thoughts in mind:


Post your personal definition of cognitive psychology. Then describe two important developments in the field of cognitive psychology beyond the use of neuroimaging. Finally, explain how the developments contribute to the field of psychology. Support your response using the Learning Resources and current research.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.



PSYC 6238 Cognitive and Affective Bases of Behavior “Cognitive Psychology/Neuroscience” Program Transcript [MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: Dr. Bob Sternberg, Sternberg one of the preeminent cognitive psychologists here and abroad, introduces this course in cognitive psychology. In doing so, he touches on a variety of topics, the history of the field, and the relevance of cognitive psychology to everyday life. BOB STERNBERG: First of all, I would like to welcome you all to the study of cognitive psychology. We all study cognitive psychology for different reasons. In my own case, I got interested in cognitive psychology when I was a young child and I did poorly on IQ tests and decided I really want to understand why I do so poorly on IQ tests. And as a result of that, I’ve spend much of my life studying human thinking and intelligence. Cognitive psychology is the study of the mental processes and representations people use when they think. So it looks into things like how do people visualize, how do people understand information, how do people perceive. Cognitive psychology uses different kinds of techniques in order to address these questions. So for example, it uses experiments, it uses interviews, it uses biological analyses where people study the brain, and questionnaires. And the basic idea is that by using different methods, you can converge on a single research question. So that ideally what you want to find is that all of these different methods give you the same answers. And you get more confidence in your answers because the different methods all led to the same ones. So an example would be in our own studies of intelligence, what we try to understand is what intelligence is. But how do you really know what intelligence is? So what we’ll do for example, is we’ll give people psychometric tests that measure different kinds of skills. And then we’ll do statistical analysis of the individual differences on those tests in order to understand what the underlying mental abilities are. But we’ll also do reaction time experiments where we try to identify abilities by having people solve cognitive problems. And then we time them for how quickly they can answer different kinds of problems. But at the same time, we’ll also go into a variety of countries and cultures. We’ve studied intelligence in five continents around the world. And we’ll look at the ©2012 Laureate Education, Inc. 1 performance of people in different cultures to see whether they all seem to use the same kinds of abilities. And at the same time, we’ll ask people around the world what do you think intelligence is? In other words, we’re looking through questionnaires at their implicit theories to see whether what they believe corresponds to what the test results show. And at the same time, collaborators will do studies of the brain and try to understand whether we can actually identify parts of the brain that correspond in function to the same processes we isolated with these other methods. So the idea in cognitive psychology is you can take a set of questions and use a variety of methods in order to converge on a single solution. In early times, there was no cognitive psychology. There were two fields, philosophy and biology. And philosophers like Aristotle and biologists like Helmholtz studied cognitive questions. So when then did cognitive psychology begins as a field? Most people trace the origins of the field back to the late 1950s or early 1960s when it was a result of you might say rebellion against behaviorism. In the 1930s, 1940s, and even 1950s, many psychologists were very much under the sway of people like John Watson and BF Skinner, who believed that you should not study internal mental processes. But you should only study external behavior and how its related to or controlled by situations. So for example, you might actually study rats and look at how they respond to different kinds of rewards. In the 1950s and ’60s, people like Herbert Simon and Allen Newell at Carnegie Mellon University and George Miller at Harvard University more or less independently said the problem with this is we’re not really learning anything about how people think, how they process information. So they effected a revolution in psychology and became the first psychologists to study these internal mental processes. Today, many psychologists all over the world are studying the same kinds of things that George Miller, Herbert and an Allen Newell started studying in the late ’50s and ’60s. There’s one other thing I might add about the history of cognitive psychology. And that is that much of our history can actually be traced to the work of a linguist, namely Noam Chomsky. Noam Chomsky wrote a review of BF Skinner’s book, Verbal Behavior. And in it he showed that little children could not possibly learn language simply by imitating the language of their parents. And the reason was that they came up with original language that they’d heard. So they weren’t just imitating. This realization by Chomsky prompted much of the later work of cognitive ©2012 Laureate Education, Inc. 2 psychologists in trying to understand how infants and children could generate creative language processes. So one question people ask is how and why are cognitive psychology relevant in people’s everyday lives? Elizabeth Loftus, when she was at the University of Washington, would show people films. For example, they might see a red Datsun going along. And then it reaches say a yield sign. And maybe something happens. Maybe there’s an accident or it doesn’t yield. It doesn’t really matter what. But then later, they’re tested. And they’re asked the question for example, what happened when that red Datsun reached the stop sign? And then they answer the question. And after the prime with stop sign, which is not what they saw, they saw a yield sign, they come to believe that they saw the red Datsun at a stop sign. So it’s very easy to change people’s memories. And Loftus now has testified in many trials, pointing out that what we used to believe, which is that eyewitness testimony is an extremely reliable source of information. At one, time the courts would believe that eyewitness testimony was the acid test of what really happened. She shows that in fact, eyewitness testimony isn’t very reliable at all. So let’s consider a related example, which is work by Henry Roediger at the University of Washington. And this builds on earlier work by James Deese. And the idea here is that you give people lists of words to remember. And some of these lists, they contain a number of terms pertaining to sleep. They might be words like dream, nightime rest, quiet, nightmare. So there are a lot of sleep-based words. And then later, you’re given a recognition test. And you’re asked, which of these words did you see and which ones didn’t you see? An interesting finding is that when they see the word “sleep,” they’re very likely to say they saw it. The problem is they never saw the word sleep. They saw the words that were related to sleep. And interestingly, they are more likely to say, these are the word sleep which is sort of a prototype or central concept of what they saw, than they are to say that they saw the words they actually saw. So simply being primed and reminded of related words can make you believe you saw or heard something that in fact you were never exposed to. These are two examples of how cognitive psychology is relevant in our everyday lives and has made a major difference to the court system in the United States. Today in many trials, you’ll find psychologists testifying in terms of just how good memory is in eyewitness testimony. ©2012 Laureate Education, Inc. 3 I want to just give one other example that might be relevant to every student’s life. And that is often when we study for tests, what we do is we just keep repeating material to ourselves in the hope that if we say it enough times, then we’ll remember it. I know I’ve done that many times when I’m trying to remember facts Endel Tulving, a great cognitive psychologist, when he was at the University of Toronto, did some very interesting work where he showed that if you have people just repeat things rather mindlessly, in fact they don’t learn it. So that what we would think would work, mindlessly repeating, doesn’t work at all. What you need to do to learn the material is to process or encode it more deeply so that you understand it. A key concept in cognitive psychology is the concept of learning. And the reason is that so much of our cognitive behavior is learned. Now, learning doesn’t always work the way you might think it does. So for example, let’s say you take an IQ test and there’s a test on learning on it. So for example, you might, on one of the tests, have to learn lists of numbers and then repeat them back. What psychologists have found is that most people will have a digit span, the number of digits they can remember, of maybe six, seven digits. And that would be fairly typical. So we might say, well our ability to learn is perhaps six or seven digits. Now Anders Ericsson and his colleagues, when they were at the University of Colorado, showed that in fact people’s ability to learn can be much greater than we think. So what they did is they took one college student who was studying at the University of Colorado and they asked the question, could we teach the student to learn much better? And so what they did is they gave a student a great deal of what’s sometimes called deliberate practice in digit span tasks. And as the college student spent more and more time learning how to learn, he realized, he was a runner, that he could chunk the numbers, and chunk is a term that goes back to George Miller early in the 1960s, he could check those numbers to be running times. And when he started chunking the numbers to be running times, he then could remember large, large numbers of digits, 70, 80, or whatever, so that his performance was increased easily ten-fold. The point is for all of us that we may think that we have trouble learning certain types of material. But using techniques from cognitive psychology, we often can greatly improve our learning. And this technique of chunking is one of the socalled mnemonic techniques that can help us. Another example that can help us is what’s called interactive visual imagery. So for example, if you’re trying to learn a set of words or a set of concepts, visualize, ©2012 Laureate Education, Inc. 4 imagine something about them. So for example, if you had to learn all oh, the words Kansas, lightning, boy, umbrella, you just might imagine a boy holding an umbrella while there’s lightning overhead, and all of this takes place on a map of Kansas. But the idea is that by combining the terms into an exciting visual interactive image, you can greatly increase your learning. So the point here is that learning is a key to cognitive psychology and practically speaking, we can very substantially increase our own ability to learn. Cognitive psychologists often collaborate with different kinds of psychologists or even people in other fields in order to study the phenomenon in which they’re interested. And that has become more and more true in recent years. An interesting example is a concept called emotional intelligence, which is essentially your ability to understand and regulate your emotions. In the past, there would have been people studying emotions, who would have been emotion or personality researchers, and then there would be a different group of people studying cognition or intelligence and those might be cognitive psychologists, and that rarely worked together. But what this example shows is how much more productive it was when the cognition people combined with the personality and emotions people in order jointly, to study this concept. So today, many people use this construct of emotional intelligence, which was introduced by John Mayer and Peter Salovey, and later popularized by Dan Goleman. And the idea here is that you can actually test emotional intelligence using techniques that draw both upon cognitive psychology and emotion psychology. So for example, you might show people faces is like [FACIAL GESTURE] or [FACIAL GESTURE]. And when they see the faces, they would be asked what emotion this expressed. Or they might hear a tone of voice like this. And then they would have to describe what kind of emotion that tone of voice expresses. But the interesting thing here is that if you didn’t have the combination of approaches, you would never even think to ask and answer such an interesting question about how cognition and emotion interact. An example of a collaboration among cognitive psychologists with others is a study we did in the island of Jamaica. And we worked with biologists, medical doctors, anthropologists, and local educators on the question of what is the effect of parasitic illnesses on people’s cognitive functioning? And what motivated this research was a finding, the kids who were ill with things like, we were studying whipworm, but it could be malaria or it could be another disease. Why is it that they do worse in school than kids who don’t have these diseases? ©2012 Laureate Education, Inc. 5 And our suspicion was that if you have a parasitic illness, in the long run it can impair not only your physical functioning, but your cognitive functioning. And in the end, physical and cognitive functioning are very related, so you would have expected as much. So what we did is we worked with this whole team of people. And we collected samples from the individuals so that we could determine the extent to which they were parasitically infected. And what we found is that children with high loads of parasites, these are intestinal parasites that can cause serious health problems, performed more poorly on tests of cognitive functioning. And there’s an important implication for us all to understand. And that is, when we give cognitive tests, including tests in school, it could be SATs or achievement tests, we often don’t even bother to ask someone how well do you feel today? Are you sick? And what our study, and other studies as well show, is that when people are ill, their cognitive functioning decreases. I remember that the very first time I took the SAT, it was my first day out after six weeks at home for mononucleosis. And unsurprisingly, I didn’t do all that great on the first time I take the SAT. So it’s really important for us to understand people’s physical health before we draw conclusions about their cognitive functioning. Another example of collaboration is cognition in older people. Many studies show that as people grow older, certain aspects of cognitive functioning decline. And so the question some psychologists have asked is how much does your cognitive functioning decline with age? But it turns out that that’s not the best question to ask. The best question to ask is how does your cognitive functioning decline as a function to how near you are to death? And the reason for that is when people get nearer to death, what studies show, their cognitive functioning starts to decline because the physical illness affects their cognitive functioning, just as happened in Jamaica. So by studying physical health and its relation to cognition, we have a much better idea of what goes on in a person’s brain, than if we just asked the question, what is the relation of age to cognition. To summarize, cognitive psychology is the study of mental representation and the processes that act on those representations. As you go through your study of cognitive psychology, you’ll be studying a wide range of kinds of processes and representations. You’ll be studying things like perception and learning and memory and concept formation. But the main thing I’d like you to remember is that as you delve into the theory and research, very much of what you study can be immediately applied to your ©2012 Laureate Education, Inc. 6 life and the lives of others. So constantly asking yourself the question, how can I use this information to make a difference to my life and the lives of other people about whom I care? © 2012 Laureate Education, Inc. ©2012 Laureate Education, Inc. 7 Introduction Welcome to the Interactive Brain! Throughout this course, you access the interactive diagram as a means to explore new concepts in a concrete manner. The diagram illustrates physical aspects of perception, attention, memory, decision-making, problem solving, and other cognitive processes examined in this course. Explore the brain with your mouse for a deeper look at the inner workings of the brain Week 1: Lobes of the Brain Occipital Lobe The occipital lobe is specialized for vision. Cortical areas involved in the processing and recognition of visual images are located here. Parietal Lobe The parietal lobe contains the somatosensory cortex as well as cortical areas involved in visualspatial processing and visual attention. Temporal Lobe The temporal lobe includes cortical areas essential for visual object recognition and categorization, as well as the auditory cortex, and areas related to language comprehension. Frontal Lobe The frontal lobe is the seat of the motor cortex as well as higher cognitive functions such as working memory, language production, decision making, and planning. Week 2: Perception & Attention Primary Visual Cortex Neurons in the primary visual cortex represent the features of visual images. Individual neurons are activated by specific colors, stimulus edges of a particular orientation, or direction of motion. The visual cortex represents a map of the visual scene. Primary Somatosensory Cortex The primary somatosensory cortex is activated by touch. It contains a precise map of the body laid across the surface of the cortex with the legs at the midline (top of the picture) and the face in the ventral surface of the brain (bottom part in the picture). Primary Auditory Cortex Neurons in the primary auditory cortex decompose sounds based on their frequencies; individual neurons are activated by high or low tones. Posterior Parietal Cortex The posterior parietal cortex, particularly of the right brain hemisphere, is specialized for the guidance of attention. Visual Association Cortex Activity of neurons in the visual association cortex is powerfully modulated depending on where attention is focused, the object being attended, or features being attended. Multimodal Association Cortex Neurons in the multimodal association cortex extract and represent more complex features of stimuli, including combined information from multiple senses. Week 3: Short-Term Memory Posterior Parietal Cortex Neurons in the posterior parietal cortex are active during the maintenance of spatial information in working memory. Inferior Temporal Cortex Neurons in the inferior temporal cortex are active during the maintenance of object information in working memory. Prefrontal Cortex The prefrontal cortex is the most critical area in working memory. Damage to this area of the brain (or its connections with the posterior parietal and inferior temporal cortex) produces devastating deficits in working memory. Week 4: Long-Term Memory Hippocampus The hippocampus and adjacent cortical areas making up the medial temporal lobe are essential for the storage of new long-term, declarative memories. Damage to this area can cause anterograde amnesia, preserving already stored memories but making it impossible to store new ones. Association Cortex Once successfully stored, long-term declarative memories remain stored in a distributed fashion, throughout the association cortex. Week 5: Long-Term Memory Hippocampus The hippocampus and adjacent cortical areas making up the medial temporal lobe are essential for the storage of new long-term, declarative memories. Damage to this area can cause anterograde a …
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