Cognitive Psychology, Computers, and the Cognitive Revolution

Cognitive psychology is the study of the brain and its processes. It focuses on how we process and store information. It is also a class that I did not enjoy taking. Cognitive psychology was not psychoanalysis because it focused on scientific research.

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It is no accident that Cognitivism became popular around the time that computers came about.

Cognitivists believe that the brain is like a computer. The software is the mind while the hardware is the brain. They believed that the brain was a machine that stored and processed information.

There are two assumptions of cognitive psychology.

  1. Scientific method can recognize and allow us to understand individual parts of mental processes.
  2. Algorithms and rules in information processing models can be used to describe internal mental processes.

There are four types of attention.

Attention is how an individual actively processes information specifically present in their environment.

  1. Focused attention- This is a short term response to a specific stimuli. For example a clock chiming.
  2. Sustained attention- This will produce consistent results over time. This is a task that is continuous and repetitive.
  3. Divided attention- This type of attention impacts how much information will get processed. It is when you are paying attention to multiple things at once.
  4. Selective attention- This is paying attention to specific things while filtering out others. For example you can still read even in a crowded classroom.

When a person is overloaded with stimuli you get inattentional blindness.

The Invisible Gorilla Test shows this in action.

Participants were asked to watch a video with two groups of people in it. One group of people wore white shirts while the other group of people wore black shirts. The two groups were passing a basketball around withing their respective groups. The participants were asked to count how many times the ball was passed.

While the two groups were passing the balls around a person in a gorilla suit walks into the middle, beats their chest, and walks off screen. When the participants were asked if they noticed anything unusual in the video about 50% said no they did not see the gorilla.

Would you have seen the gorilla? Let me know in the comments.

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