Cognitive Psychology Brian Shrum Psy/360 April 11, 2013 Dr. Turner Cognitive Psychology Hermann Ebbinghaus said, “Psychology has a long past, yet its real history is short” (Goodwin, 2008, p. 28). He was referring to the belief that while the study of human thought, emotion, and behavior is firmly entrenched in philosophy, psychology as its own discipline has only been around a short time. During this short time, different branches of psychology have come out, one of them is cognitive psychology, which is only roughly 50 years old.
Cognitive psychology expands upon other fields of psychology to further reveal why human beings act in the way they do. This paper will define cognitive psychology, explore key milestones in its development, and discuss the importance of observation as it relates to cognitive psychology. While human behavior has been observed since the beginnings of psychology, the different fields focused only on observable behaviors. In contrast to that, cognitive psychology is a perspective that looks at the mental processes involved with human intelligence and behavior.
These processes include thinking, speaking, perceiving, memory, and problem-solving (Willingham, 2007). This field of psychology researches the unobservable nature of these processes, and uses abstract constructs to better understand these processes (Willingham, 2007). Cognitive psychology has evolved from other fields of psychology, one of which is behaviorism. Behaviorism was a very popular field of study during the early part of the 20th century.
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Many well-known psychologists like Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner made their mark during this behaviorist revolution. The behaviorist movement was firmly rooted in the scientific method and relied heavily on the observable actions. While behaviorism was a useful tool in explaining behaviors based on instinct and drives, it had several large hold-ups in being useful for humans. First, most of the experiments were done using non-human animals such as Pavlov’s dogs, which had no real usefulness in explaining the aspects of human intelligence.
The second, and most destructive shortcoming for behaviorism, was that it did not observe, nor could it explain, human language, or intrinsic drives (Willingham, 2007). From these short comings, it became evident that parts of the human psyche had to be studied, which is where cognitive psychology began to form. However, this shortcoming has not been the only development to help cognitive psychology become what it is. The metaphor comparing the human mind to a computer was a big leap for cognitive psychology.
It allowed new abstract ideas to formulate on how the human brain works like an information processing center (Willingham, 2007). The basic break down of this is sensory input gives way to processing, and from processing a behavior is chosen and performed. This behavior could be internal or external dependant on what the input necessitates. For instance the computer currently being used to write this paper is receiving input from the keyboard. This information is translated as a bunch of zeroes and ones, which are then output to the monitor in the form of the letters being typed on the keyboard.
Combine this metaphorical approach with the onset of technology, specifically neuroscience, and cognitive psychology continues to evolve. Neuroscience has tremendously helped cognitive psychology evolve. With the development of brain studying equipment such EEGs, CT scans, and MRIs cognitive psychologists, and scientists, are better able to understand how the brain is used in receiving input. A patient can be hooked up to one of these machines and be asked to perform a task, either physical or mental, and the brain patterns can be observed.
While the direct process of the interaction between brain cells cannot be directly observed, the patterns can be. These observations can be used to determine if the inferences made by the observing cognitive specialist are accurate (Willingham, 2007). Observing how the brain reacts during these experiments can show links between the structure of the brain and the associated functions performed (Willingham, 2007). Even with technology playing a key role in cognitive psychology, behavioral observation does still play a key in cognitive psychology.
Behavioral observation is still vital in cognitive psychology. This is because it has shown that two different people may develop different ways to solve similar problems. Through these observations it has been suggested that how people solve problems helps to develop new cognitive skills. Also, without observation, the only tests that can be run are thinking tests, which entails a large amount of logic being applied to the results (Willingham, 2007). Observing how different people handle different situations allows for generalization to not become a problem.
The continued technology movement has fueled the cognitive psychology movement. Combing experiments with a machine that can view the brain functions while the behavior is also being observed has produced many new theories. This cognitive movement has been founded on the failures of the past, and is growing with the technology of the future. References Goodwin, J. C. (2008). A history of modern psychology (3rd ed. ). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Willingham, D. T. (2007). CognitionL The thinking animal (3rd ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
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