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Cog Psy Ch 1
Vicky Wilsonon 2 October 2014
Transcript of Cog Psy Ch 1
What is cognitive psychology?
The science of how the mind is organized to produce intelligent thought and how it is realized in the brain.
Why would a psychologist be interested in studying the brain? We're going to ask and answer that question throughout this course.
Researchers have had some notable successes developing artificial intelligence, but still cannot match the wonder of the human brain.
Why do you suppose the human brain cannot be replicated?
Great feats of intelligence, such as scientific discovery are the result of basic cognitive processes.
Implications for Other Fields
Basic mechanisms governing human thought are important in understanding the types of behavior studied by other social sciences.
why certain thought malfunctions occur (
how people behave with other individuals or in groups (
how persuasion works (
how economic decisions are made (
why certain ways of organizing groups are more effective and stable than others (
why natural languages have certain features (
Cognitive psychology is the foundation for many other areas of social science.
If we could really understand how people acquire knowledge and intellectual skills and how they perform feats of intelligence, then we would be able to improve intellectual training and performance.
So....the better we understand learning, the better we can learn.
Do you know your learning style?
Many of our problems derive from an inability to deal with the overload of cognitive demands.
Do you try to multitask? Is it effective?
Cognitive psychology is also making important contributions to our understanding of brain disorders that reflect abnormal functioning, such as schizophrenia.
We will also be discussing brain injury later in this course.
The study of cognitive psychology has practical implications for our daily lives.
Information Processing Approach
How do we study information processing? One way was developed by Saul Sternberg in the 1960's.
Participants were shown a small number of digits, such as "3 9 7" to keep in mind.
Then they were shown a "probe digit" and asked whether it was in the memory set. They were to answer as quickly as possible.
Ex. 9 would be a positive probe. 6 would be a negative probe.
Sternberg found a nearly linear relationship between judgment time and the size of the memory set.
(A memory set could contain between 1 and 6 digits).
Sternberg compared his memory theory of information processing to how a computer does high-speed scanning.
He believed information is processed in abstract steps.
Cognitive psychologists have gradually broadened their approach as they have dealt with more complex phenomena and as they began to pay more attention to the nature of processing in the brain.
This is comparable to how textbooks are updated and improved when new information becomes available.
Biology of the Brain
The brain is just one part of the nervous system.
The full nervous system includes the various sensory systems that gather information from parts of the body and the motor systems that control movement.
The most important components of the nervous system are the neurons.
A neuron is a cell that accumulates and transmits electrical activity.
Exceptions to the norm:
Comprehending the strengths and weaknesses of the human nervous system is a major goal in understanding the nature of human cognition.
See handout for vocabulary terms.
potential changes accumulate on a cell body
reach a threshold, and
cause an action potential to propogate down an axon.
this pulse in turn causes neurotransitters to be sent from the axon terminal to the body of a different neuron, causing changes in that neuron's membrane potential.
Intelligence arises from this simple system of interactions.
Human cognition is achieved through large patterns of neural activity.
It is thought that memories are encoded by changes in the synaptic connections among neurons.
Although there is not a great deal of growth of new neurons or new synapses in the adult, the effectiveness of synapses can change in response to experience.
that includes trying new things and
studying new areas
Organization of the Brain
The brain is organized into a number of distinct areas, which serve different types of functions.
Localization of Function
As you know, the brain is divided into two hemispheres.
Our understanding at this time is that the two hemispheres are somewhat specialized for different types of proceessing.
See handout on Broca's area and Wernicke's area.
Different specific areas of the brain support different cognitive functions.
Methods in Cognitive Neuroscience
Much of our past research has been done on animals, with considerable uncertainty about how well the results can be generalized to humans.
Technology is changing that.
There have been recent advances in non-invasive methods of imaging the functioning of the brains of normal patients engaged in various cognitive activities.
Records the electric potentials that are present on the scalp.
When large populations of neurons are active, this activity will result in distinctive patterns.
When EEG is used to study cognition, the participant is asked to respond to some stimulus.
Researchers are interested in discovering how processing this stimulus impacts general activity on the recordings.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)
Both of these are relatively good in terms of their ability to localize neural activity but poor in their ability to trace out the time course of that activity.
They look for blood
flow in specific areas.
PET and fMRI scans are very expensive due to the expense of the machines.
A less expensive alternative being used is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). It generates powerful magnetic pulse that induce a temporary current in a small area on the surface of
The negative is that it
can impede memory.
Technology is allowing researchers to study the neural basis of human cognition with a precision starting to approach that available in animal studies.
single photon emission computerized tomography.
It is a sophisticated nuclear medicine study that looks directly at cerebral blood flow and indirectly at brain
It takes about 15 minutes to
do the scan.
The left and right hemispheres are connected by a broad band of fibers called the
: have had the corpus callosum severed to prevent epileptic seizures.
Much of what we know about the hemispheres has come from studying these patients.
Cerebral cortex has four lobes: