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COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY AND THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION

Cognitive psychology is a challenging discipline which is interested in human thinking. The


root word from whence the word emerged is known as Cognoscere. This word entails
thinking, reasoning and problem solving. Cognitive psychology emerged during the cognitive
revolution. One of the triggers that ignited the cognitive revolution was the famous debate
between noted behaviourist B.F. Skinner and language theorist Noam Chomsky. The means
by which humans acquire language was a subject upon which behaviourists, who were the
dominant school of psychology at the time, theorised extensively. Skinner suggested that
language was acquired through the process of operant conditioning in which parents
reinforced their babies with attention for using language or para-linguistic devices. Over time,
babies eventually speak using words they have learned. Chomsky strongly disagreed, claiming
that toddlers are capable of original production of words which they had never used before
because they acquire the rules of the language. He also suggested the existence of a Language
Acquisition Device (LAD), to account for the speed with which humans acquired language and
were thus able to produce uniquely original combination of words. The time required to learn
every single word in a language would make language acquisition prohibitive. Chomskys
argument revealed the flaws in the behaviourists insistence that mind and consciousness
were outside the purview of psychology.
The cognitive revolution was also helped by Edward Tolman who studied Latent learning. He
observed that even when rats were not rewarded with food for running through a maze, their
performance when rewarded showed that they were learning the maze in spite of
themselves. In other words, they were developing a cognitive map of the maze which became

manifest when they tried to run the maze. This showed that classical behaviourism could not
account for the learning that occurred in these rats.
Another contributor to this revolution was Wolfgang Kohler who advanced the concept of
Insightful learning. This he observed when studying how a chimpanzee discovered how to
reach some bananas on a ceiling far above its reach. After jumping several times to no avail,
the chimpanzee sat for a while considering the problem. Taking a cursory look around its
environment, it noticed some empty crates and a pole. It then stacked the crates one on top
of another, and used the pole to reach the bananas. Kohler was intrigued by the fact that the
chimpanzee had never been confronted with such a problem before and yet had devised a
means to solve it. Intelligent species could then be said to have an innate predisposition to
solve problems after giving it some thought. Cognitive psychology will want to know how and
why this happens.
The nature-nurture debate has drawn psychology into its fervour and theorists have had to
take sides depending on the school to which they belonged. Cognitive psychologists have
generally toed a middle ground with some leaning in one direction or another. For example,
developmentalists like Jean Piaget emphasised stages which every individual must experience
thereby endorsing the nature position. Lev Vygotsky however favoured a theory which
recognised the contribution of social factors in cognitive development. His case was more in
favour of nurture. Their conceptions on cognitive development have helped us understand
more about how we come to know what we know.
Cognitive psychology today is a lot more than what obtained almost a century ago. There
now exist modern ways of looking at cognitive processes. These ways have opened up the
study of the mind to several disciplines. Let us consider what cognitive psychology entails.

COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY AND THE FOUR APPROACHES


Any attempt to define cognitive psychology must always return to Ulrich Neissers definition.
He defined it as all mental processes by which information is transformed, reduced,
elaborated, stored, recovered and used. Cognitive psychology studies the processes of
attention, perception, learning, memory, language, creativity, problem solving, judgment and
decision making. The strategies used to study these phenomena are a blend of theoretical
and empirical methods. There have being four general approaches to the problem. These
four approaches will be explained below.
As an established discipline in the field of psychology championed by Neisser (1982-2012),
there has been a multiplicity of debates as to the nature of mental processes and how it
should be studied to propel optimization. This has led to the consideration of the effect of
nature and nurture to Cognitive Psychology. Many like Micheal Gazzaniga, Michael Posner,
and Elizabeth Spelke are of the opinion that neurological processes should be germane in
studying cognitive process. Others like Ken Nakayama believe in the application of cognitive
activities in computer processes. Experimental Cognitive Psychologists also help in the study
of the cause and effect relationships of mental processes in overt behaviour. The multiphasic
nature of these opinions unanimously forms the approaches and perspectives to the study of
cognitive psychology. Evaluating the evolutionary Imperatives poses the following questions;
how do neurological networks connect electrical and chemical impulses to propel cognitive
processes? (Cognitive Neuroscience), what solutions is required to resolve maladaptive
neurological and physiological systems involved in cognitive processes? (Cognitive
Neuropsychology), what methods are best in identifying cause an effect relationships of
cognitive processes? (Experimental Cognitive Psychology) and how and cognitive processes

be quantifiably expressed into models that aids it application into computers and artificial
intelligence? (Computational Cognitive Science)
As an ingenious and distinct novel field in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Cognitive
Neuroscience stands out with the purpose of scientifically evaluating the structure,
morphology and function of the nervous system to specific cognitive processes. It evaluates
the cortical regions of the central nervous system and highlights their roles in mental process.
A good example is the case study of a person who makes rational decisions devoid of stringent
emotional bias would be in effect using his pre-frontal cortex to enable this happen. Issues
like the example presented above are issues cognitive neuroscientists explore. It finds the
relationships between developments of the neo cortex in primates and man and explores
how this relationship enhances understanding of covert behaviour. The perspectives in
Cognitive Neuroscience began its evolution form the mind-body debate that inspired the
creation of physiological psychology. Its evolution from reendowed philosophers like
Aristolte, Plato, Rene Decartes created a foundation for consolidating the belief that the mind
served as an entity to direct physiological activities. Staining procedures for the establishment
of the neurons specificity in cognitive processes by Camilo Gogi (1873) cannot be over
emphasised as it has aided in the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
techniques in comprehension of specialized neurons in cognitive processes. Cognitive
Neuroscience has influenced the novel existence on nomothetic ideals or standard for
behavioural tests to measure cognition quantitatively. These tests help to access memory
functions, thoughts patterns and intellectual capacities of individuals. The field of Cognitive
Neuroscience is novel and still growing with the help of prominent scientists like Michael
Gazzaniga. But how can therapeutic and neuropsychological solutions be provided for
impaired cognitive abilities? This leads us to understanding Neuropsychology

In effective research for neural networks and their influence in behaviour, Cognitive
Neuropsychology appears to be similar to Cognitive Neuroscience. But Cognitive
Neuropsychology is distinct form the latter due to its central role in discovering impairments
in cognition and seeking out neurological and medical solutions to the impairment. Its
personifies an approach to cognitive psychology that not only seeks to understand
neurological and physiological processes but to understand the neurological bases for
dysfunctional and maladaptive behaviours like anxiety, schizophrenia, major cognitive deficit
and many others, with a view to solving the problem. It is an approach to cognitive psychology
that is a blend of Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience and Psychiatry making it a large
discipline in the area of psychology. It utilizes tools like electrical stimulation of brain scanning
machines, brain lesion or evaluating of impaired or damaged brain for its study. Of course
brain study isnt the preponderant aspect of this approach but the brain has a great effect in
mental processes performed by existing cognitive architectures. A man, who just recovered
from a fatal accident, battles with distorted thinking, might need much than Cognitive
Behavioural Therapy. His condition may be as a result of cerebrum damage which has affected
his basic thought mental process. This represents the issues Cognitive Neuropsychology deals
with as it accesses the modular structure of the mind neurologically. In juxtaposing the
modularity of the mind, dissociation principle (single and double) makes it clear that when an
individual can perform one of two mutually independent tasks proficiently after brain
damage, then it suggest the inherent existence of two unique modules for the separate
function. It is from this a consolidation for problem identification is set to enable the Cognitive
Neuropsychologist find solutions to it. But in seeking solutions, how can we identify the cause
and effect relationship for cognitive processes? This ushers us into the Experimental
Approach to Cognitive Psychology.

In the optimization of scientific methods to research on covert mental processes, the


necessity to test, affirm and reaffirm hypothesis to identify causality is hinged on the
Experimental Cognitive Psychology. It involves the purposeful operationalization of variables
to enable proper manipulation and analysis. Experimental Cognitive Psychologists conduct
their studies in mental imperative areas like Perception, Memory, Pattern Recognition,
Attention and Thinking. The experimental cognitive psychologist is forced to the confines
majority of the times due to the fact that the discipline has immovable equipment and need
maximum control of extraneous variables so as not to affect analysis of the result. The
inauguration of experiments in the field of behavioural mental process started with the
introspective methods established in the structuralism school led by Wilhelm Wundt and T.B
Titichner. Their early efforts were immensely important as it led to the growth of
experimental cognitive psychology. The immergence of the Wurzburg School, focused on
mental processes and its potentials, reviling how it affects basic cognitive processes. A good
example of experimental methods in cognitive psychology is the Cocktail Party Effect
conducted by Cherry (1953). In this pragmatic experiment, Cherry proved that critical
evaluation of the single channel model theories of focused attention, that an individual on
hearing his would immediately switch channels despite the simultaneous use of his attention
before his name is called. Experimental Cognitive Psychology enables cognitive psychologists
effectively discover relationships between variables to foster research development. When
these discoveries are made, how it is then applied to meet global trends. This takes us to the
Computational Cognitive Science approach
In the creation of simulations that personifies quantitative or mathematical equations of
cogitative processes and the infusion of these simulations to development of computational
models, Computational Cognitive Science is the approach that makes this possible. It

represents an information processing area in psychology where higher cognitive processes


mathematically express for computational applications. It is an approach that looks at basic
mental processes like, decision making, problem solving, beliefs and memory and establishes
the computational nature of these processes in an algorithmic level of evaluation. One of the
best ways they approach cognition is by development of pragmatic theoretical framework
that creates computer models similar to mental processes. This gives them access to a variety
of ideas on how these processes internally work in man. It is the process by which this
computer models are formed that makes us hear about the creation of robots and man-like
computers facilitating the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Since it is essential to
understand the evolution of man, his language, his neurological structures and his
epistemological foundations before you comprehend the modalities for his computerized
replication, Computational Cognitive Psychology therefore stands out as a conundrum and
fusion of a multiplicity of disciplines like Philosophy, Linguistics Cognitive Neuroscience and
Anthropology. Before normal computers are created, a software that usually contain set of
rules and programs in mathematical and algorithmic form is created. The difference in each
set of rules is what makes a potable DVD player not work like a calculator. Therefore
Computational Cognitive Psychologists seek to understand the rules that guide mans
information processing techniques so as to inject these models in computers. Some of these
techniques include mans use of logic, analogies, concepts, patterns and stored images. This
enables them prepare algorithms and software that have similar problem solving abilities of
man and impeccable ratiocinations in dealing with issues. Computational Cognitive
Psychology also infuses experimental methods in their process of inquiry utilizing tools like
the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) and others to understand the processes

in cognition. It also represents an approach that highlights the evolutionary and ontogenetic
imperatives of cognitive psychology and its applications to ease the lives of man.

REFERENCES
Eysenck, M. W. & Keane, M. T. (2010). Cognitive Psychology: A Students Handbook. (6th
ed.). East Sussex: Psychology Press.
Sternberg, R. J. & Sternberg, K. (2012). Cognitive Psychology. (6th ed.). Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth Cengage Learning.