Contemporary Issues The Cognitive Approach www.psychlotron.org.uk Aidan Sammons
‘Students should be able to…explain one contemporary issue or debate using terminology or ideas drawn from the cognitive approach’. Edexcel AS Psychology Specification Identify key concepts from the approach Be able to explain them Be able to apply them to real world situations or problems Contemporary Issues
Cognitive Concepts • Information processing • Schema driven processing • Reconstructive memory • False memory syndrome
Input Processing Storage Information Processing Output
Keyboard Mouse Scanner Camera Microphone Vision Hearing Touch Smell Taste Input Processes Computer Mind
Output Processes Computer Mind • Screen • Projector • Printer • Loudspeaker • Behaviour • Speech
Senses Cognition Memory Human Information Processing Behaviour
Memory Cognitive Processes Perception: interpreting incoming sensory information Attention: selecting information for further processing Thinking: sorting, combining, modifying information
The Importance of Memory • Not just a store for information • Influences what is selected • How it is interpreted • Actively involved in all aspects of cognition
Processes information passively Nonsense in, nonsense out Processes information actively Tries to make sense of information Nonsense in, sense out Limits of the Computer Metaphor Computer Mind
Computer Information Processing BANG! Can you wreck a nice beach?
Can you wreck a nice beach? Human Information Processing Yes. I can recognise speech.
Schema Driven Processing • Knowledge is organised into schemas • Schemas allow us to make sense of information • Making sense of information can distort it
Input Schema Output ‘Pickaxe’ ‘Turf cutter’ Schema Driven Processing Bartlett (1932)
Reconstructive Memories • Schemas are used to reconstruct memories • We attempt to recall things so they make as much sense as possible • Biases, errors and alterations in schemas can result in distortions of memory
Reconstructive Errors • Loftus conducted research in which people were deliberately misinformed about what they had seen • She showed that it was possible to alter people’s memories
Key Cognitive Ideas • The mind is compared to a computer, with inputs, processes and outputs • Unlike a computer, the mind is both active and selective in the way it processes information • Schemas are used to interpret experiences and reconstruct memories • Alterations and biases in schemas can affect the accuracy of memory
Alien Abduction The Truth Is In There
Alien Abduction Experiences • Abduction occurs at night • Abductee is conscious but immobilised • Aliens carry out medical investigation • Elements of sexual molestation
Three Possibilities • ‘Abductees’ have really been kidnapped by aliens. • ‘Abductees’ are lying. • ‘Abductees’ believe themselves to have been kidnapped by aliens when they actually haven’t.
Occam’s Razor ‘When two competing theories purport to explain the same phenomenon, in the absence of evidence, prefer the simpler one’
McNally (2003) • Tested abductees’ physiological responses to hearing about trauma. • Increased heart rate, sweating etc. • Same responses as combat veterans, car crash survivors victims of violent crime. • Abductees are genuinely traumatised.
Abductee Stories • Abductees have probably not been kidnapped by aliens • They do not appear to be lying • Therefore, it is possible that they have constructed false memories of alien abduction
Creating False Memories • Requires a person to believe that something happened, when it did not. • This understanding becomes part of that person’s schematic understanding. • As a result, they may spontaneously ‘recall’ a memory that is actually false.
Loftus & Pickrell (1995) • PPs’ relatives interviewed to help construct a plausible story about getting lost on a shopping trip • PPs interviewed (twice) and asked to recall additional information about the event
Loftus & Pickrell (1995) • With repeated discussion, the ‘memory’ was accepted as true by some of the PPs • 7 out of 24 accepted the memory and were able to ‘recall’ additional information
Loftus (2001) • PPs shown fake advert of Bugs Bunny at Disneyland • Asked if they remembered meeting ‘Bugs’ on childhood visits to Disneyland • 35% reported doing so • Impossible, because Bugs Bunny is a Warner Bros character
Characteristics of Abductees • Pre-existing ‘New Age’ beliefs (astral projection, tarot cards etc.) • Score highly on measures of fantasy/absorption • Episodes of sleep paralysis McNally (2003)
Sleep Paralysis • Occurs on waking from REM sleep • Body remains paralysed after waking • 30% of population experience it at some time • 5% of people also experience hypnopopic hallucinations • They continue dreaming, despite being awake
Frightening experience of sleep paralysis Attempt to make sense of experience Prior belief in alien abduction (schemas) Input from other believers & ‘abductees’ Alien Abduction Memories Construction of alien abduction memory McNally (2003)
Alien Abduction Memories • The person experiences sleep paralysis • They also experience hypnopopic hallucinations • They are motivated to make sense of a frightening experience • To do so, they draw on schematic ideas of alien abductions
Alien Abduction Memories Or are they? • Contact with other ‘abductees’ reinforces their belief in the experience and encourages the development of detail in the memory • In some cases, therapists facilitate this process. • The resulting memory is real enough to cause trauma, even though it does not correspond to real events. • Alien abduction experiences are an example of false memory syndrome