Evolution of Cognitive Psychology Essay

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Evolution of Cognitive Psychology

Cognition is a term that means "the process of thought." It has been at the very basis for science, philosophy, and cultural debate since societies came together to form groups that differentiated individuals and allowed some to ponder the eternal questions: how do humans think? Is what we think reality? How do we gather information? Cognitive thought then, refers to a link of the mind with groups, organizations, the ability to conceptualize the unknowable, and the desire and ability to form groups based on what is possible, not what is reality. In a sense, then, cognition is a way to understand and make sense of the world (Van Wagner, 2008).

Cognition occurs in various levels naturally -- it is not something that is processed, it is simply a function of the evolved human brain, trained through experience, and stimulated to recognize culturally predisposed objects. For instance, humans are able to rapidly and accurately categorize, define, and explain natural scenes -- a forest, mountain, and meadow -- all part of the ability to survive. However, we do not understanding how this representational mediating factor is done; we know what areas of the brain are active during this type of cognition, we know what neurochemicals may be present, but the science of understanding how subject A versus subject B. perceives an object is still relatively unknown (Green and Gelman, 2009).

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Further, when the human mind engages in active questioning, restructuring, or countering what it hears or sees (e.g. listening to a speech or lecture and questioning the validity or veracity of some of the parts), a different type of cognition develops; a multilayered, fascinating tour of infinite varieties of what ifs, the probable, possible, and an amalgamation of unique experiences that are individual and evolving at the same time (Campbell and Mayer, 2008).

Essay on Evolution of Cognitive Psychology Assignment

Thus we have the discipline within psychology that is concerned with the investigation of internal mental processes of thought -- visual processing, problem solving, language use and development, memory, and the development of intrinsic and unique thought, the ability to project into the abstract, and the entire realm of the imagination. Strict, contemporary cognitive theory posits that solutions to problems of this nature take the form of algorithms -- or rules that are not always completely understood, but appear to be true or propose a solution; or heuristics -- rules that are understood but do not guarantee a universal solution that can be replicated. Cognitive science, then, differs from cognitive psychology in the utilization of algorithms that are intended to simulate human behavior form the basis of the research (e.g. imprinting artificial intelligence onto computers) (Balota and Marsh, 2004).Cognitive psychology is more concerned with the way solutions are found in the human brain, whether that be forethought, insight, learned behavior, or a sudden awareness of unique and interwoven relationships. It also helps focus on the way in which cultural and historical differences in human populations show so many similarities in median thought patterns, structures, and ideas (Rhodes, et.al., 2009).

One fascinating construct of cognitive psychology is that it is part of the human experience, done without pressure or preconception, everyday of our lives. It is also interdisciplinary in approach, and not just to various subdisciplines of psychology. Cognitive psychology also helps to explain the way cultures act or acted (anthropology); the various ways society and culture form and the normative behaviors therein (sociology); how humans choose to think about themselves and their individuality and unique problems like existence (philosophy), truth, knowledge, and the future; the manner in which humans lived, what they wrote, and how they thought (history); the description and analysis of humans as a political animal -- who gets what, when and how (political science); and more. Within the discipline of psychology, the study of cognition is central to almost every branch and subdiscipline, since by definition, psychology is the systematic study of the mind -- perception, cognition, motivation, behavior, and more (Goldstein, 2007).

While philosophers and psychologists (and other scholars) had been utilizing what we would call tools of the cognitive sciences for centuries, it was not until 1967 that the term "cognitive psychology" was formally defined. Uric Neisser coined the term when he characterized people as dynamic information-processing systems whose mental processes were complex, evolving, and able to emphasize a point-of-view

(Neisser,, 1999). The discipline became specific due to Noam Chomsky's 1959 generalized critique of behaviorism and empiricism. Chomsky found Skinner's basic premise not necessarily to be at fault, but limiting. For instance, Chomsky observed that there are an infinite number of communication tools in any language -- the combination of words into sentences would be impossible to learn only through imitation. Children, too, acquire language quickly and effortlessly, and at more or less identical stages cross-culturally. Chomsky then pushed forward the idea of cognition rather than Skinnerian behaviorism by focusing on linguistic behavior - children learn languages, make up words, and unlike Skinner, not just specific responses to parental and community stimuli (Chomsky, 1967).

Similarly, Donald Broadbent's work in the late 1950s and early 1960s, focused a way of thinking about mental knowledge and processes -- more like software running a computer (the brain), and extended into different modes of explanation about conceiving mental processes (Reed, 2009). Continuing on with that mode of reasoning, one of the first self-identified "cognitive psychologists," George Miller, focused his career on developing WordNet, a lexical database for the English language, that also helps scholars understand how the human mind makes relationships between words, objects, and how something as simple as a poetic verse can evoke multiple (but valid) images in each different reader ("About WordNet," 2009).

In essence, thinking about cognitive psychology, or arguing the merits of behaviorism, structuralism, etc. is analogous to artistic deconstructionism. If, for example, one analyzes a Bach Fugue or Shakespearean Sonnet, one can approach the analysis by taking minute measures of the tactical and observable portions of the work -- how many notes, phrases, words; used in what order how many times; key progressions, tone, timbre and voice. Both of these interpretations are valid, and do contribute to our view of the work. However, by examining one part or one notion of the essence of the piece, one misses the overall process and evocation of the artistic beauty (Hayes, et.al. 2001). One can analyze the mathematical probability of the fugue, or assign tangible values and quantitatively address the sonnet -- but would that really help an appreciation of that work, or is it the manner in which the human mind can fathom imaginative ways of communication, or expressing emotion, of evoking artistic pictures, that provides the real nature of human thought? This, in essence, is why the study of cognitive psychology has encapsulated so many other disciplines -- it is synergistic in its approach, and allows for the micro analysis as well as attempting to understand the macro as well -- the how and why, as well as the what, when, and why it matters.

Continued research in cognitive psychology focuses on numerous ways the human mind defines its world -- a chair, for instance, evokes a particular object -- but there are infinite varieties of chair, yet the human mind is able to extrapolate the idea of a chair and share its meaning universally. General Perception and Pattern Recognition theory are thus part of the subdisciplines of cognitive psychology taking advantage of new technology to uncover older questions. Informational process psychology, psychophysics, attention and filter theories, time sensation, and numerous aspects of memory are also part of this revolution. Clearly, the subject is vast -- untapped, and although textbooks and tomes of literature have been produced in the last 4-5 decades, our understanding of the actual mechanism of cognition, while certainly deeper than ever before, still leaves much… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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