Unit VIIB - Cognition
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Notes (p. 298-302)

  • Thinking, or cognition,refers to all the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, remembering, and communicating.
    • o Cognitive psychologists study these activities, including the logical and sometimes illogical ways in which we create concepts, solve problems, make decisions, and form judgments.
  • Conceptsare simplified mental groupings of similar objects, event, ideas, and people.
    • o To further simplify things, we organize concepts into category hierarchies
    • Some concepts are formed by definition
      • o Completed through development of prototypes: a mental image or best example of a category. Matching new items to a prototype provides a quick and easy method for sorting items into categories
Solving Problems:
  • Some problems are solved through trial and error
  • Others are solved by algorithms, step-by-step procedures that guarantee a solution.
    • o Can be laborious and time consuming
    • Simpler strategy: heuristics: a simple thinking strategy that often allows us to make judgments and solve problems efficiently; usually speedier but also more error-prone than algorithms.
    • Sometimes, no problem-solving strategy seems to be at work at all, and we arrive at a solution to a problem with insight
      • o Insight: a sudden and often novel realization of the solution to a problem; it contrasts with strategy-based solutions
  1. 1. Creativity is the ability to create ideas that are novel and valuable.
    1. 1. Creativity and intelligence are not entirely the same:
  • § Intelligence tests demand a single correct answer, and require convergent thinking.
  • § Creativity tests require divergent thinking.
    • Injury to the left parietal lobe damages the convergent thinking required by intelligence test scores and for school success. Injury to certain areas of the frontal lobes can leave reading, writing, and arithmetic skills intact but destroy imagination
  1. 2. Robert Sternberg and his colleagues have identified five components of creativity:
    1. 1. Expertise, a well-developed base of knowledge, furnishes the ideas, images, and phrases we use as mental building blocks.
    2. 2. Imaginative thinking skills provide the ability to see things in novel ways, to recognize patterns, and to make connections.Having mastered a problem's basic elements, we redefine or explore it in a new way.
    3. 3. A venturesome personality seeks new experiences, tolerates ambiguity and risk, and perseveres in overcoming obstacles.
    4. 4. Intrinsic motivation is being driven more by interest,satisfaction, and challenge than by external pressures
    5. 5. A creative environment sparks, supports, and refines creative ideas

Notes: (p. 302- 307)
Obstacles to Problem Solving:
  • Inventive as we can be in solving problems, the correct answer may elude us. Two cognitive tendencies—confirmation bias and fixation—often lead us astray.
    • o Confirmation Bias: the tendency to search for information that supports our preconceptions and to ignore or distort contradictory evidence.
    • o Fixation: the inability to see a problem from a new perspective, by employing a different mental set.
      • § Mental set:a tendency to approach a problem in one particular way, often a way that has been successful in the past.
        • Sometimes, however, a mental set based on what worked in the past precludes our finding a new solution to a new problem. Our mental set from our past experiences with matchsticks predisposes our arranging them in two dimensions.
    • § Functional fixedness: the tendency to think of things only in terms of their usual functions; an impediment to problem solving.
Making Decisions and Forming Judgments:
  • Many of the decisions we make are based on our intuition. We seldom take the time and effort to reason systematically. This is called heuristics, and sometimes, it has a favorable outcome, and other times, we are wrong.
    • o Representativeness heuristic: judging the likelihood of things in terms of how well they seem to represent, or match, particular prototypes; may lead us to ignore other relevant information.
      • § Influences most of our daily decisions. To judge the likelihood of something, we intuitively compare it with our mental representation of that category—of, say, what truck drivers are like. If the two match, that fact usually overrides other considerations of statistics or logic.
  • o Availability heuristic: estimating the likelihood of events based on their availability in memory; if instances come readily to mind (perhaps because of their vividness), we presume such events are common.
    • § We reason emotionally and neglect probabilities.
    • Our use of intuitive heuristics when forming judgments, our eagerness to confirm the beliefs we already hold, and our knack for explaining away failures combine to create overconfidence, a tendency to overestimate the accuracy of our knowledge and judgments.
      • o Failing to appreciate our potential for error can have serious consequences, but overconfidence does have adaptive value. People who err on the side of overconfidence live more happily, find it easier to make tough decisions, and seem more credible than those who lack self-confidence
      • Belief perseverance: clinging to one’s initial conceptions after the basis on which they were formed has been discredited.
        • o The more we come to appreciate why our beliefs might be true, the more tightly we cling to them.

Notes: (p.308-312)

The Perils and Powers of Intuition:
  • Intuition can feed our gut fears and prejudices. These perils of intuition appear even when people are offered extra pay for thinking smart, even when they are asked to justify their answers, and even when they are expert physicians or clinicians.
    • o Intuition: an effortless, immediate, automatic feeling or thought, as contrasted with explicit, conscious reasoning.
    • o Our cognition's instant, intuitive reactions enable us to react quickly and usually adaptively.
      • § EX: to intuitively assume that fuzzy-looking objects are far away, which they usually are (except on foggy mornings).
  • o Intuition is huge à more than we realize, thinking occurs off-screen, with the results occasionally displayed on-screen.
  • o Intuition is adaptive à feeds our expertise, our creativity, our love, and our spirituality
  • o Intuition, smart intuition, is spawns from experience.
    • § So, intuition—fast, automatic, unreasoned feeling and thought—harvests our experience and guides our lives. Intuition is powerful, often wise, but sometimes perilous, and especially so when we overfeel and underthink, as we do when judging risks.
The Effects of Framing:
  • Framing is the way in which something is presented, and can sometimes be striking.
    • o How an issue is framed can significantly affect decisions and judgments.
      • § Can be seen in frame risks in numbers, not percentages to scare people.
      • § Can also be influential in political and business decisions.
  • o Framing research also finds a powerful application in the definition of options, which can be posed in ways that nudge people toward better decisions
    • § Preferred portion size depends on framing.
    • § Why choosing to be an organ donor depends on where you live.
    • § How to help employees decide to save for their retirement.
      • The point to remember: Those who understand the power of framing can use it to influence our decisions.

Notes (p.313-318):

  • Language: our spoken, written, or signed words and the ways we combine them to communicate meaning.
Language Structure:
  • Basic sounds called phonemes, the smallest distinctive sound unit, compose of one aspect of language.
    • o There are 869 different phonemes in the human language, the English language uses about 40.
    • Within a language, changes in phonemes produce changes in meaning.
      • o In English, varying the vowel sound between b and t creates 12 different meanings: bait, bat, beat/beet, bet, bit, bite, boat, boot, bought, bout, and but
      • o People who grow up learning one set of phonemes usually have difficulty pronouncing those of another language.
  • The second building block of language is morpheme, the smallest unit of language that carries meaning.
    • o In English, a few morphemes are also phonemes—the personal pronoun I, for instance, or the s that indicates plural.
      • § But most morphemes are combinations of two or more phonemes. Some, like bat, are words, but others are only parts of words. Morphemes include prefixes and suffixes, such as the pre- in preview or the –ed that shows past tense.
  • Language must also consist of grammar, a system of rules (semantics and syntax) in a given language that enables us to communicate with and understand others.
    • o Semantics: the set of rules by which we derive meaning from morphemes, words, and sentences in a given language; also, the study of meaning.
    • o Syntax: the rules for combining words into grammatically sensible sentences in a given language.
Language Development:
  • During the years between your first birthday and your high school graduation, you learn about 60,000 words.
    • o Averages out to 3500 each year, or 10 each day.
    • Humans have an astonishing facility for language.
When Do We Learn Language?
Receptive Language:
  • Children's language development moves from simplicity to complexity. Infants start without language. Yet by 4 months of age, babies can discriminate speech.
    • o Marks the beginning of the development of babies’ receptive language, their ability to comprehend speech.
      • § At seven months and beyond, babies can segment spoken sounds into individual words. Their adeptness at this task, as judged by their listening patterns, predicts their language abilities at ages 2 and 5
Productive Language:
  • Babies' productive language, their ability to produce words, matures after their receptive language.
    • o Around 4 months of age, babies enter the babbling stage, in which they spontaneously utter a variety of sounds
      • § Can’t identify the infant as French, Korean, etc.
      • § Before nurture molds our speech, nature enables a wide range of possible sounds, many of which are constant vowel pairings.
  • o By the time infants are 10 months old, their babbling has changed so that a trained ear can identify the language of the household.
    • § Sound and intonations outside that language begin to disappear.
    • § Without their exposure to other languages, babies become functionally deaf to speech sounds outside their native language.
      • Explains why adults who speak English cannot discriminate certain Japanese sounds within speech.
      • Around their first birthday (the exact age varies from child to child), most children enter the one-word stage.
        • o One-word stage: the stage in speech development, from about age 1 to 2, during which a child speaks mostly in single words.
        • o They have already learned that sounds carry meaning.
        • At about 18 months, a child’s word learning increases from a word week to a word a day.
        • By their second birthday, children enter the two-word stage:
          • o two-word stage: beginning about age 2, the stage in speech development during which a child speaks mostly two-word statements.
          • o They start uttering two-word sentences in telegraphic speech.
            • § Telegraphic speech: early speech stage in which a child speaks like a telegram—“go car”—using mostly nouns and verbs.
Explaining Language Development:
  • Skinner: Operant Learning:
    • o Behaviorist B. F. Skinner (1957) believed we can explain language development with familiar learning principles, such as:
      • § association (of the sights of things with the sounds of words)
      • § imitation (of the words and syntax modeled by others)
      • § reinforcement (with smiles and hugs when the child says something right).
        • Thus, Skinner (1985) argued, babies learn to talk in many of the same ways that animals learn to peck keys and press bars: "Verbal behavior evidently came into existence when, through a critical step in the evolution of the human species, the vocal musculature became susceptible to operant conditioning."
        • Chomsky: Inborn Universal Grammar:
          • o Chomsky instead views language development much like "helping a flower to grow in its own way."
            • § Given adequate nurture, language will naturally occur. It just "happens to the child." And the reason it happens is that we come prewired with a sort of switch box—a language acquisition device.
  • o Chomsky says that underlying human language is a universal grammar: All human languages therefore have the same grammatical building blocks, such as nouns and verbs, subjects and objects, negations and questions.
Statistical Learning and Critical Periods:
  • Human infants display a remarkable ability to learn statistical aspects of human speech.
  • Other research offers further testimony to infants' surprising knack for soaking up language.
    • o Ex: 7-month-old infants can learn simple sentence structures. After repeatedly hearing syllable sequences that follow one rule, such as ga-ti-ga and li-na-li (an ABA pattern), they listen longer to syllables in a different sequence, such as wo-fe-fe (an ABB pattern) rather than wo-fe-wo.
    • Childhood seems to represent a critical (or "sensitive") period for mastering certain aspects of language
    • After the window for learning language closes, learning a second language seems more difficult.
      • o People who learn a second language as adults usually speak it with the accent of their first. Grammar learning is similarly more difficult.

Notes (p. 319 – 323):

Thinking and Language:
  • Thinking and Language intricately intertwine.
Language influences Thinking:
  • According to Whorf's (1956) linguistic determinism hypothesis, different languages impose different conceptions of reality: "Language itself shapes a man's basic ideas."
    • o Linguistic determinism: Whorf’s hypothesis that language determines the way we think.
    • o To say that language determines the way we think is much too strong. But to those who speak two dissimilar languages, such as English and Japanese, it seems obvious that a person may think differently in different languages
      • § Languages may even reveal different personality profiles when taking the same test in their two languages
        • Many bilinguals report that they have different senses of self, depending on which language they are using
  • o Words may not determine what we think, but they do influence our thinking.
    • § We use our language in forming categories.
  • o Words also influence our thinking about colors.
    • § Perceived differences grow when we assign different names to colors. On the color spectrum, blue blends into green—until we draw a dividing line between the portions we call "blue" and "green."
  • o Increased word power helps explain the “bilingual advantage”.
    • § Bilingual children, who learn to inhibit one language while using the other, are also better able to inhibit their attention to irrelevant information.
Thinking in Images:
  • We often think in images, with implicit (nondeclarative, procedural) memory, creating a mental picture of how we do something.
    • o Artists, as well as composers, poets, mathematicians, athletes, and scientists think in images.
    • o For someone who has learned a skill, such as ballet dancing, even watching the activity will activate the brain's internal simulation of it.
    • o Mental rehearsal can also help you achieve an academic goal.
      • § It's better to spend your fantasy time planning how to get somewhere than to dwell on the imagined destination.
  • o The human mind is simultaneously capable of striking intellectual failures and of striking intellectual power.