Cognitive Psychology

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the study of the higher mental processes including, thinking, language, memory, problem solving, knowing, reasoning, judging and decision making. The main focus of cognitive psychology is on how people acquire, process and store information. The term ‘cognitive psychology’ was first used by Psychologist Ulric Neisser in 1967 in his book Cognitive Psychology. According to research conducted, it has been shown that cognitive ability is the best predictors of job and education performance. Many company and schools held cognitive ability test in order to analysts their employees and students ability to learn, adapt, solve problems and understand instructions. The questions often include mathematics, language, analogies, abstract reasoning and etc.
Thinking is the manipulation of mental representations of information. A representation may take the form of a word, visual image, a sound, or data in any other sensory modality stores in memory. Thinking transform a particular representation of information into new and different forms, allowing us to answer question, solve problems or reach goals.


Mental image is a representation in the mind of an object or event. It assembled in the mind from information real and imagined, mixtures of sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, opinion and mood combined with associative memories either conscious or unconscious. Mental rotation is the ability to rotate mental representations of two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects. Mental imaginary is very useful to improve many skills. 

Many sportsmen use mental imagery in their training. Basketball players may try to produce vivid and detailed images of the court, the basket, the ball and the noisy crowd. They may visualize themselves taking a foul shot, watching the ball and hearing the swish as it goes through the net. Mental image is not just visual representation, as ability to hear tunes in our head also rely on mental image. For instance, piano players who simply mentally rehearse an exercise show brain activity that is virtually identical to that people who actually practice the exercise manually. Apparently, carrying out the task involved the same network of brain cells as the network used in mentally rehearsing.

Mental image have many of the properties of the actual stimuli they represent. We are able to manipulate and rotate mental images of objects just as we are able to manipulate and rotate them in the real world.

1.2        CONCEPTS
Concepts are mental grouping of similar objects, events or people. It focused on those clearly defined by unique set of properties or features. Concept helps us classify new encountered object on the basis of past experience and enable us to organize complex phenomena into simpler and easily usable, cognitive categories. Concept can influence behavior. For instance, we would assume that it might be appropriate to pet an animal after determining that it is a cat, whereas we would behave differently after classifying the animal as wolf.

For more ambiguous concept, we usually think in terms of examples called prototypes as prototype is a typical, highly representative example of concept. For instance, although a robin and ostrich are both a bird, the robin is an example that comes to most people’s mind. Consequently, robin is a prototype of the concept ‘bird’. However, high agreement exists within a culture about which examples of concept are prototypes.

1.3        REASONING

Cognitive psychologists have begun to investigate how people reasons and make decisions and they have contribute d to our understanding of formal reasoning processes as well as the cognitive shortcuts we routinely use. There are three types of reasoning which is syllogistic, algorithms and heuristic reasoning.

1.3.1                SYLLOGISTIC REASONING

It is a formal reasoning in which people draw a conclusion from a set of assumptions. If the assumption is true, the conclusion must also be true. For example,
Premise 1        All professors are mortal
Premise 2        Dr. Rivera is a professor
Conclusion      Therefore, Dr. Rivera is mortal
However, if the premises are correct, people may apply logic incorrectly. For example:
Premise 1        All professors are mortal
Premise 2        Dr. Rivera is a professor
Conclusion      Therefore, all professors are Dr. Rivera.

1.3.2                ALGORITHM

Algorithm reasoning is a rule that if applied appropriately, guarantees a solution to a problem even if we cannot understand how it works. For example, we can find the length of the third side of a right triangle by using the formula a2+b2=c2.


1.3.3                HEURISTICS

A Thinking strategy that may lead us to the solution to a problem or decisions but unlike algorithms may sometimes lead to errors. For example, some students follow the heuristics of preparing for a test by ignoring the assigned textbook reading and only studying their lecture notes, a strategy that may or may not pay off.
There are two types of heuristics;
Ø  Representativeness heuristics – a rule we apply when we judge people by the degree to which they represent certain category or group of people.
Ø  Availability heuristics – judging the probability of an event on the basis of how easily the event can be recalled from memory.


According to the experts who study artificial intelligence, the field that examines how to use technology to imitate the outcome of human thinking, problem solving and creative activities, computers can show rudiments of human like thinking because of their knowledge of where to look and where not to look for an answer to a problem. Computer’s thinking ability comes from the capacity of computer’s programs to evaluate potential moves and ignore unimportant possibilities.

David Cope from University of California managed to fool expert musicologist by using artificial intelligence software to mimic compositions of prolific German composer Johann Sebastian Bach who was born in the 15th century. After a variety actual Bach pieces had been scanned into a memory of computer named “EMI”, EMI was able to produce the music so similar to Bach by employing the composer “signature” that reflects patterns, sequences and combinations of notes.

Notes: This is a part of my paperwork for Psychology class taken last semester.  And as usual a quote before I ended this post.

“Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain”
Santiago Ramón y Cajal