Cognitive psychology involves the study of mental processes, including perception, attention, language comprehension and production, memory, and problem solving. Researchers in the field of cognitive psychology are sometimes called cognitivists. They rely on an information processing model of mental functioning. Cognitivist research is informed by functionalism and experimental psychology.
Baddeley’s model of working memory
Starting in the 1950s, the experimental techniques developed by Wundt, James, Ebbinghaus, and others re-emerged as experimental psychology became increasingly cognitivist and, eventually, constituted a part of the wider, interdisciplinary cognitive science. Some called this development the cognitive revolution because it rejected the anti-mentalist dogma of behaviorism as well as the strictures of psychoanalysis.
Albert Bandura helped along the transition in psychology from behaviorism to cognitive psychology. Bandura and other social learning theorists advanced the idea of vicarious learning. In other words, they advanced the view that a child can learn by observing his or her social environment and not necessarily from having been reinforced for enacting a behavior, although they did not rule out the influence of reinforcement on learning a behavior.
The Müller–Lyer illusion. Psychologists make inferences about mental processes from shared phenomena such as optical illusions.
Technological advances also renewed interest in mental states and mental representations. English neuroscientist Charles Sherrington and Canadian psychologist Donald O. Hebb used experimental methods to link psychological phenomena to the structure and function of the brain. The rise of computer science, cybernetics, and artificial intelligence underlined the value of comparing information processing in humans and machines.
A popular and representative topic in this area is cognitive bias, or irrational thought. Psychologists (and economists) have classified and described a sizeable catalogue of biases which recur frequently in human thought. The availability heuristic, for example, is the tendency to overestimate the importance of something which happens to come readily to mind.
Elements of behaviorism and cognitive psychology were synthesized to form cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy modified from techniques developed by American psychologist Albert Ellis and American psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck.
On a broader level, cognitive science is an interdisciplinary enterprise involving cognitive psychologists, cognitive neuroscientists, linguists, and researchers in artificial intelligence, human–computer interaction, and computational neuroscience. The discipline of cognitive science covers cognitive psychology as well as philosophy of mind, computer science, and neuroscience. Computer simulations are sometimes used to model phenomena of interest.
Social psychology is concerned with how behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and the social environment influence human interactions. Social psychologists study such topics as the influence of others on an individual’s behavior (e.g. conformity, persuasion) and the formation of beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes about other people. Social cognition fuses elements of social and cognitive psychology for the purpose of understanding how people process, remember, or distort social information. The study of group dynamics involves research on the nature of leadership, organizational communication, and related phenomena. In recent years, social psychologists have become interested in implicit measures, mediational models, and the interaction of person and social factors in accounting for behavior. Some concepts that sociologists have applied to the study of psychiatric disorders, concepts such as the social role, sick role, social class, life events, culture, migration, and total institution, have influenced social psychologists.
Main article: Cognitive neuroscience
False-color representations of cerebral fiber pathways affected, per Van Horn et al.[V]: 3
Psychologists generally consider biology the substrate of thought and feeling, and therefore an important area of study. Behaviorial neuroscience, also known as biological psychology, involves the application of biological principles to the study of physiological and genetic mechanisms underlying behavior in humans and other animals. The allied field of comparative psychology is the scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of non-human animals. A leading question in behavioral neuroscience has been whether and how mental functions are localized in the brain. From Phineas Gage to H.M. and Clive Wearing, individual people with mental deficits traceable to physical brain damage have inspired new discoveries in this area. Modern behavioral neuroscience could be said to originate in the 1870s, when in France Paul Broca traced production of speech to the left frontal gyrus, thereby also demonstrating hemispheric lateralization of brain function. Soon after, Carl Wernicke identified a related area necessary for the understanding of speech.
The contemporary field of behavioral neuroscience focuses on the physical basis of behavior. Behaviorial neuroscientists use animal models, often relying on rats, to study the neural, genetic, and cellular mechanisms that underlie behaviors involved in learning, memory, and fear responses. Cognitive neuroscientists, by using neural imaging tools, investigate the neural correlates of psychological processes in humans. Neuropsychologists conduct psychological assessments to determine how an individual’s behavior and cognition are related to the brain. The biopsychosocial model is a cross-disciplinary, holistic model that concerns the ways in which interrelationships of biological, psychological, and socio-environmental factors affect health and behavior.
Evolutionary psychology approaches thought and behavior from a modern evolutionary perspective. This perspective suggests that psychological adaptations evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments. Evolutionary psychologists attempt to find out how human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, the results of natural selection or sexual selection over the course of human evolution.
The history of the biological foundations of psychology includes evidence of racism. The idea of white supremacy and indeed the modern concept of race itself arose during the process of world conquest by Europeans. Carl von Linnaeus’s four-fold classification of humans classifies Europeans as intelligent and severe, Americans as contented and free, Asians as ritualistic, and Africans as lazy and capricious. Race was also used to justify the construction of socially specific mental disorders such as drapetomania and dysaesthesia aethiopica—the behavior of uncooperative African slaves. After the creation of experimental psychology, “ethnical psychology” emerged as a subdiscipline, based on the assumption that studying primitive races would provide an important link between animal behavior and the psychology of more evolved humans.
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