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• Cognition- refers to al the mental activities associated with processing, understanding, remembering

and communicating
• Concept- refers to the mental grouping of similar objects, events and people.
• Prototype- the mental image or best example that incorporates all the features we associate with a
• Algorithm- step-by-step procedures that will guarantee a solution. Usually long.
• Heuristic- a speedier, more error prone version of algorithms. By reducing the number of options and
then applying trial and error, the result may be found.
• Insights -flashes of inspiration.
• Confirmation bias- the tendency to search for information that confirms one’s perceptions. Peter
Watson revealed this principle when he gave university students wrong formulas to work with and found
that the students tended to research examples to defend these theories.
• Fixation- the inability to see a problem from a new perspective, it impedes our process to problem
solve. Influenced by mental sets and functional fixedness.
• A mental set - predisposes how we think. It refers to our tendency to approach a problem from a
particular way that we have been successful in the past.
• Functional fixedness- the tendency to think of things only in terms of their usual functions.
Stereotypes also limit our thinking.
• Representativeness heuristic -demands you to use rapid judgment, while leaving out certain
relevant information. By judging the likelihood of things in terms of how well they seem to represent, or
math prototypes. Overrides the usage of logic and statistics.
• The availability heuristic -states that anything that increases the ease of our retrieving information
can increase its perceived availability. If it comes more easily to our mind, we tend to think that it is
more common.
• Overconfidence -the tendency to overestimate the accuracy of our knowledge and judgments.
• Framing - the way we present an issue. Just like how something is “framed” as in framing of a
picture. If the picture is of fruits and the frame looks like an interwoven wooden thread, then the picture
looks very natural. If the picture is placed around a frame that is grey and metallic-like, the effect is very
different. Just like if I “frame” the statement: there is a 70% chance of winning as opposed to 30%
chance of losing.
• Belief Bias-It is the tendency for our beliefs to distort our logic.
• Belief perseverance -our tendency to hold onto beliefs even when we are presented with
contradicting evidence. Considering evidence supporting the opposite position is a remedy for this type
of bias.
• Language - Our spoken, written or signed words and the ways we combine them to communicate
• Phonemes - the smallest sound units in language.
• Morphemes -the smallest units of language that carries meaning. Includes prefixes and suffixes.
• Grammar: Rules in a language that allows us to properly understand it.
• Semantics: How we get meaning from morphemes, words, and sentences.
• Syntax: How to combine words into meaningful sentences.
• Babbling Stage: (3-4 months after birth) A stage in speech development where the infant utters
sounds unlike the family language.
• One-word stage: (1-2 years old) A stage in speech development where the infant speaks single
• Two-word stage: (2 years old) Infants speak in two-word phrases that resemble Telegraphic speech
– speech like a “telegram” I.e. Want candy, me play, no eat…etc
• Linguistic determinism- states language determines how we think.

Our cognitive system receives, perceives, and retrieves information, which we then use to think and
communicate, sometimes wisely, sometimes foolishly. This chapter has explores how we form
concepts, solve problems, and make judgments and decisions.

Concepts simplify and order the world by organizing it into a hierarchy of categories. Concepts often
form around prototypes, or best examples of a category. Matching objects and ideas with prototypes is
an efficient way of making snap judgments about what belongs in a specific category.

Solving Problems
When faced with a novel situation for which no well-learned response will do, we may use such
strategies as algorithms and heuristics. Sometimes the solution comes in a flash of insight. We do,
however, face obstacles to successful problem solving. The confirmation bias predisposes us to verify
rather than challenge our hypotheses. And fixations, such as mental set and functional fixedness, may
prevent our taking a needed fresh perspective on a problem.

Making Decisions and Forming Judgments

Our use of heuristics, such as representativeness and availability, provides highly efficient but
occasionally misleading guides for making quick decisions and forming intuitive judgments. Our
tendencies to seek confirmation of our hypotheses and to use quick and easy heuristics can blind us to
our vulnerability to error, a phenomenon known as overconfidence. And the way someone poses, or
frames, a question affects our responses.

Belief Bias
We tend to show a belief bias in our reasoning, accepting as more logical those conclusions that agree
with our beliefs. We also exhibit belief perseverance, clinging to our ideas because the explanation we
accepted as valid lingers in the mind even after the basis for the ideas has been discredited. Yet
despite our capacity for error and our susceptibility to bias, human cognition is remarkably efficient and
adaptive. As we gain expertise in a field, we grow adept at making quick, shrewd judgments.


Language Structure
Language is built of phonemes (basic speech sounds), morphemes (elementary units of meaning), and
the semantics (rules for deriving meaning) and syntax (rules for word order) that make up grammar.

Language Development
Among the marvels of nature is a child’s ability to acquire language. The ease with which children
progress from the babbling stage through the one-word stage to the telegraphic speech of the two-word
stage and beyond has sparked a lively debate concerning how they do it. Behaviorist B. F. Skinner
proposed that we learn language by the familiar principles of association, reinforcement, and imitation.
Challenging this claim, linguist Noam Chomsky argued that children are biologically prepared to learn
words and use grammar. Cognitive neuroscientists emphasize that for mastery of grammar, the
learning that occurs during life’s first few years, when the brain is building a dense network of neuronal
connections, is critical.

Thinking and Language

We consider thinking and language in the same chapter, for they are hard to separate.

Language Influences Thinking

Words convey ideas, and different languages embody different ways of thinking. Although the linguistic
relativity hypothesis suggested that language determines thought, it is more accurate to say that
language influences thought. Studies of the effects of the generic pronoun he and the ability of
vocabulary enrichment to enhance thinking reveal the influence of words.

Thinking in Images
We sometimes think in images rather than in words, and we invent new words or new combinations of
old words to describe new ideas. So we might say that our thinking affects our language, which then
affects our thought.

Animal Thinking and Language

Do Animals Think?
Evidence accumulates that primates at some level form concepts, display insight, create and use tools,
and transmit cultural innovations. Many researchers feel that great apes’ mental accomplishments rival
those of a 2-year-old human.

Do Animals Exhibit Language?

Another vigorously debated issue is whether language is uniquely human. Animals obviously
communicate. Bees, for example, communicate the location of food through an intricate combination of
dance and sound. But can this form of communication be considered language?

The Case of the Apes

Our closest genetic relatives are the chimpanzees. Several teams of psychologists have taught various
species of apes, including a number of chimpanzees, to communicate with humans by signing or by
pushing buttons wired to a computer. Apes have developed considerable vocabularies. They string
words together to express meaning and to make and follow requests. Skeptics point out important
differences between apes’ and humans’ facilities with language, especially in their respective abilities to
order words using proper syntax. Nevertheless, these studies reveal that apes have considerable
cognitive ability.

Thinking and Language

I. Thinking
A. Also called cognition-involves processing, understanding and communicating information.
B. Cognitive psychologists interested in problem solving, making decisions, and forming
C. Prototypes--mental groupings of similar events and things sometimes interferes with our
ability to see things clearly.)
D. Concepts- used to help us simplify thoughts
1. Mental groupings of similar events, things, etc.
2. Tend to form prototypes about all sorts of things (symptoms of illness, etc.)
a. sometimes our prototypes interfere with our ability to see things clearly
II. Problem Solving
A. Process of overcoming obstacles that interfere with reaching a desired goal. Involves
restructuring concepts or prototypes to arrive at a solution. — (aha experience when it
happens suddenly; insight.)
1. Heuristics-“rules” that have worked in the past are applied to new problems-
e.g. Working backwards, creating sub goals, using metaphors or analogies.
2. Algorithms-long process involving problems that have mathematical origins;
step by step procedure-eliminates several possibilities at once.
B. Stages of Problem Solving (blind fold experiment)
1. Define the problem-must be specific enough to address it.
2. Develop solutions
3. Select and evaluate the best solution.
C. Types of Problems
1. convergent-closed end; only one solution-can lead to mental set-we all have
a tendency to try and solve problems as we did in the past and it might not
2. Divergent-don’t necessarily have one solution because they are vaguely
defined.-e.g. possible senior privileges-need creativity to solve but must also
answer queries like is it safe? Legal? etc.
a. Creativity-what is it?-uniqueness plus it is practical and has utility.
b. Obstacles in solving either type of problem:
1.) Confirmation bias-tendency to search for information that
confirms what we already believe even if it doesn’t work-e.g.
teaching the old way in block.
2.) Functional fixedness-tendency to think of things only in
terms of their usual function-e.g. using a screwdriver when a
dime will do.
D. Formation of Problem Solving Skills
1. learn how to learn-most important thing
2. don’t have to know the answer if you know how to GET the answer
III. Language
A. symbols, gestures, etc. used for communicating-can be open ended, meanings change
and tends to vary form culture to culture
1. instinctive-pain, sorrow, etc. (facial expressions; moans, laughter)
2. arbitrary-facial expressions, hand gestures, etc. that may vary with a culture
3. written-signed expression with complex grammar rules
B. Cognitive psychologists view language as crucial in thinking process and innate in our
capabilities-acquisition of language can be attached to specific age achievements-6mos. /
one year/ two years/ etc.
1. Chomsky-language “wiring” is innate and if networked, neural connections
develop at a rapid speed. Language acquisition is a combination of
biological predispositions and experiences. (case of Genie)
2. cognitive psychologists see language as crucial in the thinking process and
innate in out capabilities- acquisition of language can be attached to specific
age of achievements
3. This is disputed by the cognitive approach because (Evidence that cognitive
approach is valid)
a. Occurs too quickly and consistently across cultures
b. Critical period to learn- after that, its extremely difficult
c. Learning a 2 nd
language is more difficult as you get older
C. Conversely, learning theorists would view language as a trial and error process-learn it
based on reward or no reward. seeing and saying (imitation and reinforcement)
IV. Language Development
A. stages
1.) babbling (including deaf children)
2.) one word stage-1 yr
3.) two work stage-2
4.) words grouped together that follow syntax rules of the
native language (syntax rules vary with language)
B. Behaviorist v. cognitive approach to language acquisition
1. skinner (behaviorists) believe language development can be explained with
familiar learning principles of association (seeing and saying, imitation and
2. Chomsky (cognitive approach) believe that language abilities are innate if
networked begins to develop at rapid seems. Seems to be a combo of
biological predispositions and experiences
V. Language and Thinking
A. Whorf-the linguistic relativity theory: different languages impose different conceptions
B. Studies on the generic “he” “she” pronouns-pronouns seem to conjure up preconceived
notions-chairwoman vs. chairman
C. Language expansion is linked to the ability to think. Studies show:
1. Bilingual advantage-better on standardized tests
2. Language includes symbolic types-music; signing
3. Early readers have bigger vocabularies-tend to be better testers.
D. Know the def. of phonemes, morphemes, syntax, and semantics.

II. Cognitive Perspective Expansion Notes

E. Cognitive psychologists are interested in all aspects of thinking but are most interested in
the fact the there are meditational processes involved that underline any behavior.
F. Social Cognition-how people perceive a situation or other people and adjust their reactions
or estimations based on these notions; can lead to prejudices (social attribution).
G. Cognitive Dissonance (Leon Festinger-coined this term)-happens when you experience the
tension associated with an attitude that you should have and something you want to do or
an attitude you know you shouldn’t have.
1. e.g. Direction of no premarital sex vs. the pressures of the times.
2. Sometimes adjust our thinking to fit our actions.
3. Experiment done by Festinger: engaged participants in really dull tasks. The
ones he paid $10 thought it was awful; the ones he didn’t pay said it wasn’t so
bad (experienced dissonance so they rationalized in their minds that it wasn’t
a waste of time).

H. Attribution Theory and Emotions

1. Attribution theory-the way we interpret the causes of behavior; includes our
own and that of others. E.g. teacher is in a bad mood-you decide they are
mean-actually having a bad time dealing with something unrelated to you.
2. We tend to take credit for the good things we do but blame others or
circumstances for our failures.
3. Emotions-studies show that if we think we are emotionally charged-scared or
aroused—we will be. If we don’t think we are, we won’t be. Conclusion?
Emotions are both biological and cognitive. E.g. patients dealing with pain or
injuries (memories of past experiences can be a factor.)
C. Artificial Intelligence-computer science-attempts to build machines that can
function intelligently—(are you sure you want to delete this?) and the use of
computers to test our understanding of human intelligence. Problem with that?
Comparing the brain and mental processes to a computer is limiting-discounts
that people forget, ignore some info, etc.
D. Limitations of cognitive approach-
1. Methodologies are varied and sometimes, not replicatible.
2. Descriptions of problem solving, cognitive dissonance, and emotions all
involve thinking processes but can vary in definition and by culture.