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What is the big picture?. Why study cognitive psychology? A lot of this stuff you’ve already seen – eg Freud went on and on about memory & forgetting What makes cognitive psychology worth studying? What is cognitive psychology, anyway? ‘psychology that thinks people are computers’ …. ?.

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what is the big picture
What is the big picture?
  • Why study cognitive psychology?
    • A lot of this stuff you’ve already seen – eg Freud went on and on about memory & forgetting
    • What makes cognitive psychology worth studying?
  • What is cognitive psychology, anyway?
    • ‘psychology that thinks people are computers’ …. ?
cognitivism a big deal
Cognitivism – a big deal
  • In the computer age, ‘thinking’ is no longer a big deal
    • Computers do maths, search for stuff, sort our email…
    • Your microwave decides how to cook your chicken
  • Before 1935 or so, thought was something only humans did
    • World War 2 changed that
  • The philosophy that thought can considered as independent of a thinker is called cognitivism
a brief history of thought
A brief history of thought
  • In ancient times, thought was associated with divinity
    • ‘created man in his image’
  • The idea that thought is ‘special’ or ‘magical’ continued into mainstream psychology in the 20th century
    • Freud: the mind is mysterious, bound to human biology
    • Maslow: thought is bound to the human condition
Skinner: the mind is an inscrutable ‘black box’ which causes stuff to happen
  • Around 1935, mathematicians looked mathematical functions which can evaluate other functions
    • Alan Turing and Alonzo Church worked on this problem
    • Resulted in Turing Machines, which can follow a set of instructions
thinking machines what
Thinking machines? What?
  • Philosophically, caused an outrage
    • Surely this wasn’t real thought the way people do it?
  • The debate was halted by World War 2
          • German engineers developed the Enigma Machine, a machine to encode messages
      • Allied mathematicians were tasked with breaking the code – had to perfect computers to do it
after the war
After the war
  • Once the war was over, thinking machines were all over the place
    • IBM calculators
    • Cannon aiming computers
    • Each capable of a specific task
  • The search was on for a general purpose computer
    • A good solution was provided by John von Neumann
    • ‘the von Neumann architecture’
enter don broadbent
Enter Don Broadbent
  • Broadbent asks the question: “what if we imagine that the mind is like a computing machine?”
    • He applies von Neumann‘s architecture to human psychology
    • Important moment in psychology: thought loses its magic; it can now be understood completely, from a mathematical and engineering point of view
    • Not saying the mind is a computer – just asking, what if it were?

1950’s cog. psych mind

  • Limited STM capacity
  • Limited central executive
  • Narrow attention channel for moving information from STM to cent. Exec.

1950’s computer

  • Limited memory
  • Limited processing capacity
  • Narrow pipe for moving information from memory to the processor

Kinda similar, huh?

quite a useful way to think
Quite a useful way to think
  • You can get quite far by asking that question
    • “if the mind were like a computer, then it should….”
  • Slowly, piece by piece, you can imagine a computer that works just like the mind does
    • Shows the same strengths, makes the same mistakes
    • This type of imaginary computer is called a model
    • Modelling is one of the main jobs of cognitive psychologists
notice the change
Notice the change
  • We have gone from Freud:
    • “The mind is made of three parts, and it has an energy called libido”
  • To the cognitive psychologist
    • “The mind works as if it had a central processor that were connected to a central store by a limited size bus”
  • Not concerned about how it is as much as how it works
criticisms of cognitive psychology
Criticisms of cognitive psychology
  • “Cognitive theory is too cold and inhuman – it cannot take into account emotion”
    • Not that it cannot rather than it does not
    • Some people research only the role of emotion on cognition
      • Anxiety and attention
      • Depression and cognition
      • ‘Mood congruence’
      • Wide clinical application (e.g. catastrophic thinking)
“Cognitive psychology is too pessimistic about humans; it presents us a machines or zombies”
    • Since when is pessimism/optimism a measure of a good theory?
      • Would you like a ‘nice’ theory or a useful one?
    • Thinking as if humans were machines is very useful
      • You can predict human behaviour (to an extent)
      • You can then apply your knowledge
      • Better computers, can help people from forgetting stuff, etc
“Cognitive psychology presents us as machines, and thus denies the importance of free will”
    • No cognitive psychologist would deny that free will is an aspect of human psychology
    • Not that it is denied – haven’t figured out how it fits in yet
    • Any theory which is completely deterministic would be hard for most cognitive psychologists to swallow
“Cognitive psychology does take into account effects of ideology on human psychology, and ignores power differences between researcher and subject”
    • No theory can take everything into account – marxist theory doesn’t take people’s expectations into account either!
    • Cognitive psychology works at a different level of analysis – wrong to declare a theory wrong because it doesn’t work like your favorite (fallacy of misplaced essentials)
the next step cognitive science
The next step:Cognitive Science
  • During the 1980s, a new discipline started appearing
    • Computer science, artificial intelligence, neuroscience & cognitive psychology teamed up
    • Study thinking machines as separate from the implementation
    • Application: improve knowledge about humans, and leads to better computers