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Chapter 7. ~Cognitive Psychology~ Information processing Amber Gilewski Tompkins Cortland Community College. Cognitive Psychology: the study of mental processes

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chapter 7

Chapter 7

~Cognitive Psychology~

Information processingAmber GilewskiTompkins Cortland Community College


Cognitive Psychology:the study of mental processes

  • Understanding the way people process information about environmental problems is crucial for understanding their responses to them
  • Cognitive and perceptual biases, errors, and shortcuts, cause us to overact to some hazards and under-react to others

Humans are visual-dependent

  • Sight uses a greater part of the human brain cortex
  • Leads people to rely heavily on visual information
    • Seeing is believing
    • Out of sight, out of mind
  • Visual dependency has been exploited by all sides of the environmental debates

Change blindness

  • Visual scenes can change radically without being noticed because of constraints on the ability to:
    • Process
    • Retain
    • Compare information, from one moment to the next

PBS – Change Blindness


Irrelevant information

  • Too much information can produce GIGO (garbage in-garbage out) if the information is confusing
  • Many reasoning difficulties come from being distracted by or using irrelevant information


  • Inaccurate and irrelevant information is displayed in an attempt to make companies appear environmentally conscious

Planet 100: Top 5 Eco-Contradictions


One way that people actively pursue irrelevant information:

Confirmation bias - When testing hunches against incoming data, most people make the mistake of looking for confirming rather than disconfirming information


Representativeness heuristic:

    • The tendency to judge an event as likelyif it represents the typical features of its category
  • Availability heuristic:

----The tendency to form a judgment based on that which is readily brought to mind

  • Comparative optimism:
    • A cognitive bias that leads individuals to believe they are less vulnerable than other people
    • A heuristic that helps people feel good about themselves, in spite of their behavior or circumstances

False consensus:

    • A heuristic that helps people maintain positive self-esteem by convincing themselves that many others engage in the same undesirable behaviors that they do
  • False polarization:
    • The tendency to perceive the views of those on the opposing side of a partisan debate as more extreme than they really are
  • Framing effects:
    • Are induced when the same information is structured in different waysDECISION MAKING & HEURISTICS ACTIVITY

Rank in order the following hazards according to your perception of the health risk each poses:

    • Radiation
    • Persistent organic pollutants
    • Pesticides
    • Global warming
    • Hazardous waste sites
    • Population growth

Professional risk assessment:

    • Population growth
    • Global warming
    • Persistent organic pollutants
    • Pesticides, hazardous waste, and radiation