Cognitive processes

Cognitive processes refer to activities which occur within the human mind that are responsible for our thought and judgements. These processes include memory, perception and thinking (reasoning). The studies by Loftus and Palmer, Deregowski, and Gould each focused on one of these three areas. The eyewitness testimony study conducted by Loftus and Palmer focused on memory. Human memory is relied upon by human society. It is called upon to at all times during the human lifespan. As human beings we would like to think that our memory is totally reliable.

In order to remember we first attend to information, which is encoded, stored and then retrieved. The eyewitness testimony study demonstrated problems that can occur because of the method humans choose to recall information. Often times we are called upon to retrieve information after a period of time has elapsed. In order to recollect we rely upon memory cues such as pictures, words or even smell to aid our memory. These cues even though they aid our memory may cause our recollection to be tainted. We may genuinely believe that what we are remembering is accurate but in truth we fail to recall the information, as it actually occurred.

The manipulation of words in the study demonstrated how easily our recollection of information can be affected. We have learnt from it that memory is not totally reliable, despite seeming so. Deregowski’s study dealt with perception. Every human being perceives information. The important question is, do we perceive information in the same way? The answer from the Deregowski study is an emphatic no! We do not perceive information in the same way. It is true to say that perception is universal, but inaccurate to say that we perceive is universal.

Simply put different people will perceive different things. Deregowki’s study looked at perception according to culture and he found that different cultures can perceive information differently. In this instance pictorial perception was different. Differences in perception doesn’t have to be inter-cultural, it can be intra-cultural all you need is different experiences. These experiences impact upon how individuals perceive the world. The persons who were referred to in Deregowski’s study were not from a Western culture so they had different experiences than Western persons.

The persons who had started to be influenced by Western culture and therefore have Western experiences perceived the pictorial information like Westerners. Similarly persons within western culture (intra-cultural), will perceive information differently, for example rich and poor persons, may perceive information based on their experiences. So the study has shown us that experiences affect human perception Gould’s study deals with the ability to think and its expression. In other words it deals with intelligence, specifically how intelligence is measured.

It tells us how diificult it is to record thinking ability. Human beings thinking processes are not standard, they are not the same from one person to the next. If this is so, how can we seek to comprehend and understand human thinking ability. Gould’s study outlined this difficulty. It cast serious doubts on intelligence tests which are supposed to measure thinking ability. Educational levels and culture all played a role in the scores that persons achieved on the intelligence tests. This means that the intelligence test was not an accurate measure of human thinking ability.

It demonstrates the problems, not only in measuring but also in understanding human thinking ability. What problems do psychologists have when they try to investigate Cognitive processes? Psychologists when trying to investigate Cognitive processes encounter problems in designing studies that are methodologically sound, ecologically valid and ultimately benefit humanity. Loftus and Palmer designed a study that sought to look at the memory process. Their study had methodological problems, in that they used a homogenous group of students, and they presented information via film.

The subjects being students and being in a classroom environment are more likely to depend on cues such as words. Students do that all the time when learning and trying to remember information. Designing a study, which used words to influence (cue) memory fits into the students natural scheme of things. Consequently the study could be said to have an ingrained bias which would bring forth the outcome that researchers wanted. Loftus and Palmer’s study was conducted in a laboratory environment, therefore it may have not discovered anything that would be applicable in the real world.

The lab is a controlled environment, the real world is not and therefore the results had it been conducted in a real life situation may have been very different. Additionally the medium used to present the information was television, had they witnessed the accident first hand the subjects may not have relied as heavily upon words (cues) to spark their memory. The lab environment could have affected the outcome of the study. If the study lacks ecological validity and has methodological problems, how then can the researcher hope to use it to benefit human society.

Researchers always have to keep this in mind when they speak of how their study can impact upon human society. Based on the problems encountered with this study Loftus and Palmer had to be careful in how they sought to generalize to wider society based on their study. Deregowski commented on a classification system, that was used to determine if the subjects were two or three-dimensional perceivers. This was based on whether the subjects were able to perceive depth as the researcher intended. Emphasis on the word intended.

This means the researcher is basing his study on depth perception and depth cues which may or may not have existed. So for the researcher to do so means, he maybe designing a study whose methodology is based on a false concept. The tests given to the subjects were to place them into either of these categories, but they may have been placed in categories that were irrelevant. There is a danger in research of basing your methodology on irrelevant concepts. Ecological validity deals with how realistic the information the researcher is putting forward is.

In this study concepts such as over lap cue, familiar size and perspective may not have been relevant to classifying persons as either two or three dimensional perceivers. If these two concepts were irrelevant then the information they provided may not have accurately covered perception. This would bring into question the ecological validity of the results obtained. If the ecological validity is the main problem with a study how can the researcher then seek to generalize about the process being studied to general human society.

This is problematic, as generalizations may be totally inaccurate, and have no bearing as to how the process works. Consequently the benefits of the study would be highly questionable. The Gould study looked at intelligence (thinking ability). Gould reviewed the original study conducted by Yerkes. Yerkes according to Gould had found that the average American had below average IQ, recent immigrants had lower IQ’s and Blacks had very low IQ’s. The methodology used by Yerkes consisted of tests that were not fair to the participants.

Persons had to engage in tests that as consequence of their educational levels they were incapable of doing. To include data from this test is faulty. This problem comes about because of the difficulties associated with coming up with tests that can accurately measure thinking ability. The ecological validity was also problematic in this study. Gould commented that Yerkes’ test showed that the average American had below average intelligence, recent immigrants had lower IQ’s and Black persons had very low IQ’s.

These results could have come because the ecological validity of the test was questionable. Instead of measuring thinking ability (intelligence), the tests seemed to be measuring educational levels and cultural knowledge. This poses a serious problems as genuine measures of thinking ability are hard to design. If tests do not really measure thinking ability then it is hard for the researcher to make accurate and informed judgements about thinking ability since his collected information is faulty. Do you think psychologists will be able to explain all behaviour

And experience in terms of cognitive processes? The Cognitive process approach starts with the basic assumption that human beings are logical creatures. It assumes that we think and then make informed judgements that impact upon our behaviour and experience of the world. Our behaviour is therefore limited to what we thinks. This approach cannot possibly account for all our behaviour. Human action cannot be totally accounted for by cognitive processes. They do provide an explanation but, this explanation is far from being all encompassing.

The three studies looked at perception, memory and thinking. Did perception account totally for how the persons studied in the Deregowski study experienced pictures. It was stated by Deregowski that we will perceive according to our culture. This was one possible explanation, but it wasn’t the only possible explanation. What if the persons felt the desire to conform. What if part of their society, is to always agree with the chief, and what if the Chief did not pick up on depth cues. The others would all be forced to conform. This would be the social process of conformity, at play.

It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a cognitive process. The presence of the chief wouldn’t even have been necessary, just hearing the answers that other persons gave would have been enough to sway persons to the most popular answers. Loftus and Palmer looked at memory, and the influence of words on the subjects recollection. Sure problems with memory might have accounted for their faulty recollection, however there is another possible explanation. The subjects were students, and as such might have been influenced by authority, as well as the desire to see the experiment be successful.

They may have caught on that the experiment was about eyewitness recollection and so inadvertently sought to make it successful. Being students they could also have been somewhat awed or intimidated by the researcher and did not want their experiment to fail and as such acted accordingly. Aside from this study, If memory could account for all our behaviour why would people consistently make the same mistakes despite past experiences. Gould commented on intelligence and how Yerkes test sought to classify Americans. The American performance on the test may have had nothing to do with intelligence.

Cultural knowledge and lack of language ability, as well as unfamiliarity with testing instruments and tests could all have impacted upon the participants. None of these have anything to do with intelligence. Aside from this intelligence cannot account for all that people behave, why then would persons with high IQ’s do stupid things. The three studies sought to use cognition to explain human behaviour. The other possible explanations demonstrate that cognitive processes do not provide the only possible account of behaviour. Outside of this Cognitive processes just simply cannot possibly hope to account for all human behaviour.

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