Antecedents of Cognitive Psychology

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Cognitive Psychology

Definition and Subject Matter

“Cognitive psychology is a modern approach to the study of [processes by which people come to understand the world- such processes as memory, learning, comprehending language, problem solving, and creativity. Cognitive psychology has been influenced by developments in language, computer science, and of course, earlier work in philosophy and psychology” – Hayes (cited by Lundin)

This definition of Hayes emphasizes the notion that cognitive psychology gives significance to the study of higher mental processes. According to Lichtenstein, among the appealing aspects of cognitive psychology is that it corresponds quite well to the common sense psychology of the layperson. If a student is asked to give definition to psychology without prior introductory course about the course, a statement of “psychology is the study of the mind” will be usually given. As what Neisser said, “Cognitive psychology refers to all the processes by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered and used.”

Antecedents of Cognitive Psychology

British Empiricism: Locke, Berkeley, and Hume

John Locke (1632-1704)

He proposed the theory of knowledge in which he suggested an explanation of how we came to know the world. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, he attacked the notion of innate ideas, but rather claimed that all the ideas of human came from experience. He is convinced that human mind can execute two things and that are to receive experiences from the outside world (through sensation) and to reflect upon them (reflection). These two, sensation and reflection, are the fountain of knowledge, from where ideas do spring. His notion for reflection was his attempt to explain higher mental processes, such as thinking and reasoning. The source of all idea is sensation, yet these ideas gathered through sensation can be acted on and rearranged by the operations of the mind, they could be transformed into an almost endless variety of ideas through reflection. Also, he claimed that through association, experiences combine together to form complex ideas.

George Berkeley (1685 - 1753)

Meanwhile, George Berkeley agreed with Locke that human knowledge is based only in ideas but vehemently disagreed with Locke’s contention that all ideas are derived from the interactions with the empirical world. He maintained a position that there is no physical world, and contended that familiar objects such as tables and chairs are only ideas in the minds of the perceiver, and as a result cannot exist without being perceived. As he famously put it, to be is to be perceived. All things come into existence when they are perceived, and therefore reality consists of our perceptions and nothing more. He believes that God is the source of our perception and everything we see.

David Hume (1711-1776)

He maintained that cognition is consisted only of impressions (all our more lively perceptions when we hear or see or feel or love or hate or desire or will), ideas (the fainter perceptions of which we are conscious when we reflect on our impressions.), and combinations of these arranged by the laws of association. He claimed that ideas could be associated by resemblance (similarity), contiguity in time or place (togetherness), and cause and effect, which later on was reduced to contiguity (one thing follows another). The law or resemblance states that one’s thoughts run easily from one idea to other similar ideas, such as when thinking of one friend stimulates the recollection of other friends. The law of contiguity states that when one thinks of an object, there is a tendency to recall other objects that were experienced at the same time and place as the object being pondered, such as when remembering a gift stimulates thoughts of the giver. The law of cause and effect states that when we think of an outcome (effect), we tend to also think of the events that...
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