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A 5 Pages Term Paper on Cognitive Psychology

    Psychology is the science of behavior. Cognitive Psychology is concerned with mental processes and their effects on human behavior and focuses on phenomena such as: sensation, perception, motor control, attention, memory, learning, language, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Cognitive Psychology is an empirical science and depends on careful experimental procedures and paradigms to test theories about these mental processes. This program is especially geared towards the application of formal and computational modeling and neuroscience methods to these basic questions. The term "cognitive psychology" encompasses most topics in human experimental psychology. Cognitive Psychology is concerned with advances in the study of memory, language processing, perception, problem solving, and thinking.

Evidence for Mental Images as a Form of Cognitive Representation

    Many psychologists hold the view that the objects of our cognitions are internal mental representations (Medlow, 2000). Medlow (2000) was of the view that widely held belief that cognition is a process, which is internal to the organism, could be one reason for the acceptance of representations in psychology. According to this position, to cognize something requires incorporation of that thing, or a substitute for that thing, within the body. 

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     Stapp (Sarfatti, 1993) proposes the Heisenberg/James model, which asserts that brain processes are causally influenced by subjective conscious experience.  William James, many years ago, wrote "We can form no positive image of the modus operandi of a volition or other thought affecting the cerebral molecules.” Stapp (p. 10) adds "This seeming impossibility of even imagining how an idea, or a thought, could influence the motions of molecules in the brain is certainly a main support for the highly counterintuitive notion that mind cannot influence matter. If there were a simple model showing how such an influence could occur in a completely natural way, and within the framework of the established laws of physics, then the notion that our thoughts cannot effect our actions would undoubtedly lose much of its appeal."

     Van Brakel cites Nersessian who finds it necessary to use as tools not only "propositional" representations, but also "mental models" (structural analogs of real-world or imagined situations) and "images" (a mental model from a specific perspective), and when both Nersessian and Darden (as cited by van Brakel) stress the importance of analogical reasoning, thought experiments, abductive reasoning and other "nonalgorithmic" methods.  Stapp says (p.13) that William James "recognized that the problem of the connection of conscious process to brain process was irresolvable within the framework of the classical physics of his day."

    "James’s principle claim, at the fundamental level, is the wholeness, or unity of each conscious thought. Each thought has components, but the whole is, he claims, more than just a simple collection of its components… It is these whole thoughts that are the proper fundamental elements of psychological theory, not some collection of ‘elementary components’ out of which our thoughts are assumed to be formed by simple aggregation." p.11 (Sarfatti, 1993)

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     Stapp cites James as saying "the whole brain must act together if certain conscious thoughts are to occur". Another key property of consciousness is its power of selection. Stapp cites James, "consciousness is at all times primarily a selecting agency". In 1.8 "The Cognitive Revolution", Stapp mentions "cognitive", i.e., thought like processes implemented in computers "using internal representations of things external … The brain could thus be imagined to be analogous to a computer … But the connection between cognition and consciousness was left unresolved-and ‘mental’ came to mean cognitive rather than conscious … However, our concern is with consciousness." (p.21) (Sarfatti, 1993)

Stapp’s Brain Dynamics:

    “.. in the brain a huge number of separate patterns of neural excitations can be present at one time. These patterns can become correlated to stimuli and responses, and can mediate the behavior of the organism … the structure of of these neural patterns can form representations of the body and its environment, with a history of the occurring representations becoming stored in memory." (p.25)

Stapp continues with his brain model:

    "The main postulate of the model is that every conscious event is the psychological counterpart of a certain special kind of Heisenberg event in the brain, namely an event that actualizes a pattern of neuronal activity that constitutes a representation of this general kind." (p.25) (Sarfatti, 1993)

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Rittschof, Chambers, & Griffin (2001) use cognitive methods to study their results. 

     One of the important reasons for examining mental representations that can result from studying thematic maps is to know how salient the symbolized theme information can become for subsequent processing as students (adults or children) attempt to draw inferences and solve problems. A recent text for teachers on developing thematic instructional units discussed the process approach to learning as “one that provides students with an abundance of projects, activities and instructional designs that stimulate them to make decisions and solve problems (Fredericks, Meinback, & Rothlein, 1993, p. 24). Mental representations of thematic maps are therefore a starting point for such processing. Thus, for example, examining relative “accuracy” of resulting representations is useful for estimating how students can cognitively reference meaningful patterns of data while considering or studying some additional material.
One investigation studied “experts” (college geography majors) versus “novices” (high school seniors) with regard to their map drawings and their ‘think-aloud’ verbal protocols as they studied a thematic map (Kulhavy, Pridemore, & Stock, 1992). The map depicted four distinct themes using dots, icons, and arrows as symbols. The experienced students tended to represent theme information rather then geography, displayed wider visual scanning of the map, and constructed more inferences about the mapped themes than the novices did. Thus, the level of cartographic experience can be used to predict what will be learned from thematic maps and how they will be used.

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     In six experiments conducted with pre-service teachers, participants were typically asked to study a thematic map for understanding and subsequent use (Rittschof, Kulhavy, Stock, & Hatcher, 1993). In some experiments they were also asked to read additional map-related information. Measurements were taken from participants' recollections of the map, their gist recollections of the related text, their map drawings, and/or their responses to questions that required them to make inferences. These types of measurements were taken to get indications of the representations formed by participants while learning, and indications of their understanding and ability to make use of the representation for subsequent learning of related information. In essence, these studies documented adult students’ constructions of mental representations and meaning-making that occurred using thematic maps and related information. Though thematic maps are created in part to help people avoid having to memorize information depicted on them, mental representations of thematic maps are considered here as one important aspect the maps’ salience and possible benefits for some types of subsequent uses. That is, thematic map uses can be seen on a continuum ranging from exploration and visualization on one end, to communication and synthesis on the other end (MacEachren, 1994). These studies relate to this entire continuum, with emphasis on the communication and synthesis end. Conclusions drawn within the subsequent sections are based upon the combined results of the six experiments cited above. (Rittschof, Chambers, & Griffin, 2001)

Stapp’s "representation" is in the neural pattern "the representation must be constructed by unconscious brain activity…"

"The final patterns are essentially global, relative to the brain." (p.26)

"A conscious event actualizes only a fully constructed and coherent representation of the ‘evolving self-and suroundings’, after it has been formed by unconscious processes." (Sarfatti, 1993)

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Stapp pictures "the conscious event" as "the image in a psychological realm of a special kind of Heisenberg event in the brain". Stapp keeps having to introduced new metaphoric ideas like "sensing event" to explain his elusive theory which is not a good sign. (Sarfatti, 1993)

"The associated experience is an image of this representation."

Stapp then describes Grey Walter’s "precognitive carousal" brain experiment, which is really a variation on Libet’s time-reversal experiment.

"The subjects reported that just as they were about to push the button, but before they had actually decided to do so, the projector would advance the slide’." (p.27) (Sarfatti, 1993)

     One more evidence is of child cognitive development.  Piaget states that during the close interplay between motor activity and perception in infants, he designed the first two years as a sensorimotor stage.  During this period, infants are busy discovering the relationships between their actions and the consequences of these actions.  Infants begin to develop a concept of themselves as separate from the external world.  An important discovery during this stage is the concept of object permanence: an awareness that an object continues to exist even when it is not present to the senses.  Although 3- and 4-year-olds can think in symbolic terms, their words and images are not yet organized in a very logical way.  Piaget calls the 2- to 7-year stage of cognitive development preoperational, because the child does not yet comprehend certain rules or operations. An operation is a mental routine for transposing information and it is reversible; every operation has its logical opposite.  Between the ages of 7 and 12, the concrete operational stage, children mater the various conservation concepts and begin to perform still other, logical manipulations.  For example, they can order objects on the basis of a dimension, such as height or weight.  They can also form a mental representation of a series of actions.  5-year-olds can find their way to friend’s house but cannot direct you there or trace the route with paper and pencil.  They can find the way because they know they have to turn at certain places, but they have no overall picture of the route.  In contrast, 8-year-olds can really draw a map of the route.  Piaget calls this period the concrete operational stage although children are using abstract term; they are doing so only in relation to concrete objects.  Not until final stage of cognitive development, the formal operational stage, which begins around age 11 or 12, are youngsters able to reason in purely symbolic terms. Piaget theory provides broad overview of cognitive development. It is the most comprehensive theory to date and has influenced much of the research on the way children think about the world and solve problems. Most studies support Piaget’s observations on the sequences in cognitive development, although the ages at which children reach different levels vary considerably, depending on such factors as intelligence and experience. For example, children from middle-class homes develop concepts of conservation earlier than children from poor families. In formal operational stage a child can think logically about abstract propositions and test hypotheses systematically.  Becomes concerned with the hypothetical, the future, and ideological problems.

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     Holley in his study of cognition in the Art of Perfumes suggest that perception, attention, memory, learning, mental imagery, language, categorization, innovation and creation, all traditional fields of cognition are represented in the complex processes leading to creating perfumes. The purpose of the Round Table is to identify specific lines of investigations that could lead to a better understanding of the process of perfume creation in particular and, thereby, to a better appreciation of the cognitive involvements of olfaction in general.  Regarding perception, one may ask whether perfumers adopt behavioral or mental procedures different from those used by naive subjects for improving their sensory analysis of complex mixtures; several notions utilized for describing fragrance-evoked sensations (for example " volume ", "volatility "...) may be suspected to refer more to sensory qualities than to physical attributes, despite the physical meaning of the terms that are used

     Stapp attempts an explanation based upon the common sense principle of retarded causality, which says that causes are always in the past of their effects. Thus, Stapp wrote about himself and Penrose:

"The central theme of both works is that the emergence of consciousness in association with brain processes is closely tied up with the quantum character of physical reality." (p.28) (Sarfatti, 1993)

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     Rittschof, Chambers, & Griffin (2001) findings from their analysis contribute additional understanding to some of the many representational issues involving thematic maps. The field independence/dependence cognitive style was shown to be modestly related to the preferences for representation type, such that field-independence was generally associated with a slightly less favorable rating of the representations. Yet, the relative weakness of this relationship suggests that field-independence/dependence is not likely to serve as a strong predictor of the preferences that students may have, or vice versa. Preferences and cognitive style appear to affect learning in substantially different ways.

     Cognitive style was related to theme locating, but controlling for cognitive style did not lead to differential performance among map groups on theme locating. Participants apparently encoded and decoded the mapped symbols equally well across symbolizations. This outcome provides additional support that the representation types were similarly salient and memorable with regard to theme information.

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Works Cited

Fredericks, A. D., Meinbach, A. M., & Rothlein, L. (1993). Thematic units: An integrated approach to teaching science and social studies. New York: HarperCollins.

Holley, A.  Cognition in the Art of Perfumes.  Neurosciences & Systèmes Sensoriels, CNRS - UCB Lyon I

Kulhavy, R.W., Pridemore, D.R., & Stock, W.A. (1992). Cartographic experience and thinking aloud about thematic maps. Cartographica, 29(1), 1-9.

MacEachren, A. M. (1994). Some truth with maps: A primer on symbolization and design. Washington, DC: Association of American Geographers.

Melow, S. (2000). Representationism in psychology: Origins and issues.  Abstract.  Psychology Postgraduate Conference.  Nov. 28, 2001 <>

Jack Sarfatti’s Sketchy Notes on Stapp’s Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics, Springer-Verlag 1993 Nov. 28, 2001 <>

Van Brake, J.  Cognitive Scientism of Science.  Commentary on Giere on Science-Cognition. Volume: 5 Issue: 07 Article: 3.  Nov. 28, 2001 <>

Rittschof, K. A., Chambers, W. L., & Griffin, B. W. (2001).  A Foundation for Encouraging Research and Use of Thematic Maps for Integrated Classroom Curricula.  Presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Seattle, April 10, 2001, Session 3.02.  Nov. 28, 2001 <>

Rittschof, K. A., Kulhavy, R. W., Stock, W. A., & Hatcher, J. W. (1993). Thematic maps and text: An analysis of "what happened there?" Cartographica, 30, 87-93.


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