History of Cognition

A definition of cognitive psychology: the representation and processing of knowledge in the mind.

Representation is the “noun” aspect of cognition (the things in the mind). How is knowledge represented? More than one way (verbally or visually)? Does representation change over time (does six month old represent world same way as a 25 year old)?

Processing is the verb aspect of the cognition. It’s where all the action is. How is knowledge processed? Does everyone process the same way (individual differences)? What kinds of processing are there?

Aristotle's idea of perception

Ancient and very new

The questions asked are ancient. The way that it is studied is new.

Many such questions were discussed by Greek philosophers 2,500 years ago. (Aristotle’s description of memory. Memory is a big bird cage full of birds. Trying to remember something but failing to do so would be trying ot get bird out of bird cage and grabbing thin air. Sometimes you might remember something wrongly and grab the wrong bird. Memory is fallible.

Cognitive Psychology

only about 50 years old.

Until scientific psychology, questions about the mind and behavior were the subject matter of philosophy. Philosophers debated cognitive issues, and drew conclusions based on their beliefs about cognitive processes. (John Locke and his tabula rasa idea, 1690. A child is born with a blank slate at birth).

In contrast to classical philosophy, modern cognitive psychology is an empirical science. Questions about the mind are answered on the basis of evidence, carefully collected through experimentation. (Figuring out what infants prefer to look at. Infants prefer looking at people who are more attractive to adults than unattractive people).