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Ch 6: Cognition Theories & Processes

About This Chapter

Learn how to improve your memory and why you speak foreign languages with an accent. Cognitive psychology is a broad field that explores how we think and remember.

About This Chapter

Cognition is one of the most difficult psychological topics to study directly. Psychologists can't see into our minds to discover how our thoughts are processed; instead, they develop experiments to reveal the kinds of fine-grained differences in behavior that can be linked to patterns of thought. In this topic, we'll take a look at some of the key areas of research within cognition in order to understand the techniques used and the concepts developed to investigate how we think.

Our first five lessons address questions of intelligence and creativity. We'll lay out some of the key terms in our introduction, then jump into the problematic history of intelligence testing to go over the problems psychologists have run into when trying to assess and measure intelligence. Our lessons on the biological bases of intelligence and multiple intelligences outline some main approaches taken to defining and understanding intelligence. A lesson on creativity and divergent thinking rounds out our intelligence module by introducing some of the theories on how creativity is fostered.

Next we'll devote two lessons to the thorny subjects of language and its acquisition. Language and thought are closely tied, so separating and attempting to define language on its own is a difficult problem pursued intently by many psychologists. Language acquisition in infants can help answer some of the most important questions about language, particularly whether we're biologically primed to learn it.

The last seven lessons address issues of information organization and memory. We'll cover information processing, attention and heuristics to get a sense of how the brain organizes the information it receives. Then we'll look at categorizing memory, improving short- and long-term memory and the problem of memory distortion. These lessons address the unreliable and limited nature of memory, and how we can use these observations to understand memory's processes.

Cognition is a diverse subfield of psychology, dealing with issues of intelligence, language and memory, among others. After viewing these lessons, we hope you'll come away with an understanding of the field's breadth as well as its unique problems and considerations.

14 Lessons in Chapter 6: Cognition Theories & Processes
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Studying Intelligence: History, Psychologists & Theories

1. Studying Intelligence: History, Psychologists & Theories

Intelligence is one of the most studied concepts in psychology, and yet there is no consensus on its definition or ways to measure it. Learn about some prominent psychologists who studied intelligence and take a closer look at their theories.

History of Intelligence Testing in Psychology

2. History of Intelligence Testing in Psychology

Throughout the history of psychology, tools have been developed to measure people's intelligence, and for a variety of sometimes nefarious purposes. Explore the history of intelligence testing and the controversies surrounding it, such as the evolution of the eugenics movement that targeted immigrants in the early 20th century.

Studying Intelligence: Biological vs. Environmental Factors

3. Studying Intelligence: Biological vs. Environmental Factors

People's intelligence isn't entirely dependent on biological factors; environmental factors play a key role in intelligence it as well. Explore how researchers use measurable biological and environmental factors in studying intelligence.

What is Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences?

4. What is Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences?

Howard Gardner, an American psychologist, theorized that a person can have up to eight different types of intelligence. Learn about Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences and explore the eight types of intelligence: visual, linguistic, logical, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic.

Analytical Intelligence, Divergent Thinking & Creativity

5. Analytical Intelligence, Divergent Thinking & Creativity

Different types of problems require different solutions, and solving them may involve more analytical or more out-of-the-box approaches. Explore the definitions of analytical intelligence and divergent thinking, and discover how they relate to creativity.

What Is Language?

6. What Is Language?

A system of written, oral, and gesticulated communication is one way to define a language, but many other definitions also apply. Learn ways to define types of languagea, explore the combinability of words, and discover the importance of grammar and semantics combining to form phonemes and morphemes.

Language Acquisition: Definition, Theories & Stages

7. Language Acquisition: Definition, Theories & Stages

Language acquisition has long been debated among psychologists who argue about whether language is learned or is an innate part of people's brains. Learn more about this debate and explore the definition, stages, and theories about language acquisition.

Information Processing: Encoding, Storage & Retrieval

8. Information Processing: Encoding, Storage & Retrieval

The brain processes our sensory information and stores it using three processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Explore each of these mechanisms in detail to understand how memory functions allow us to learn, store, and recall information.

Categories of Memory: Sensory & Long-Term

9. Categories of Memory: Sensory & Long-Term

Sensory memory and long-term memory are the two main categories of memory. Learn about memory categorization and explore the types and examples of sensory memory and long-term memory.

Attention and Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Processing

10. Attention and Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Processing

There are two ways people can decide what to focus on and how to analyze it when going through their daily lives. Explore how attention works and discover how the top-down and bottom-up processing methods determine where people place their attention.

George Miller's Psychological Study to Improve Short-Term Memory

11. George Miller's Psychological Study to Improve Short-Term Memory

Psychologist George Miller theorized that people can store and recall an average of seven new elements in the short-term memory. Explore more about Miller's Magical Number 7 and see how his finding can help to create ways to improve short-term memory, such as chunking numbers and letters.

Using Psychology to Improve Long-Term Memory

12. Using Psychology to Improve Long-Term Memory

There are different methods through which people can improve their retention skills and improve their memory. Learn psychological techniques to improve long-term memory, including mnemonic devices, self-referencing, rehearsal, and spaced repetition.

Memory Distortion: Source Amnesia, Misinformation Effect & Choice-Supportive Bias

13. Memory Distortion: Source Amnesia, Misinformation Effect & Choice-Supportive Bias

In psychology, a schema defines the way people organize information so that everything makes sense. Explore how schemas function and discover how schemas are affected by different types of memory distortion, including source amnesia, the misinformation effect, and choice-supportive bias.

Types of Heuristics: Availability, Representativeness & Base-Rate

14. Types of Heuristics: Availability, Representativeness & Base-Rate

Heuristics are techniques that allow the human brain to make efficient decisions in everyday life. Explore the different types of heuristics, including availability, representativeness, and base-rate.

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