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1. Cognitive Approach Cognitive psychology studies mental processes such as memory, perception, language, and problem-solving. We cannot see these processes, we can only…
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  • 1. Cognitive Approach Cognitive psychology studies mental processes such as memory, perception, language, and problem-solving. We cannot see these processes, we can only see the end results in the way people behave. It is a mechanistic approach:  People are like machines  Human cognitive processes are like a computer, for example:  Respond to the environment  Calculate  Store/retrieve information Assumptions: Behaviour is explained in terms of how the mind works. The mind works like a computer: we input, store and retrieve data. Strengths and Weaknesses of Cognitive Psychology Strengths Weaknesses High level of control in laboratory Some research has low ecological conditions (e.g. Loftus and Palmer) – can validity (e.g. Loftus and Palmer) show cause and effect. Contributes to our understanding of the Tends to use quantitative rather than nature-nurture debate, for example, qualitative data (e.g. Baron-Cohen, through cross-cultural studies. Leslie and Frith) May help understand those with It can be guessing about how people cognitive problems and may lead to think as you cannot directly observe practical applications for teaching/ thinking in the way that you can observe treatment (e.g. Baron-Cohen, Leslie and behaviour. Frith) Increased our understanding of the It can be reductionist (e.g. Loftus and cognitive abilities of other species (e.g. Palmer) Savage-Rumbaugh) It has helped us learn more about how It doesn’t take account of emotional the brain processes information [and the factors influencing our behaviour. It is limitations of that processing]. more about how we think than how we feel. It is important that you learn these strengths and weaknesses of the Cognitive Approach for Section C of the exam. Remember to find examples from the studies to illustrate each strength and weakness.
  • 2. Loftus and palmer (1974): Reconstruction of automobile destruction What factors affect our memory? • Expectations/stereotypes; • Motivation; • Prevention of consolidation; • Interference; • Information received ‘after the event’ Aim: to see if questions asked after an event can cause a reconstruction in one’s memory of that event. Method: Laboratory Experiment Procedure: Loftus and Palmer did two different experiments in one study. Study 1 Participants: 45 students divided into five groups Procedure: o Participants shown 7 clips of traffic accidents; o After each clip the participants were given a questionnaire about the clip; o One question, the critical question, was different on each questionnaire. It asked about the speed of the vehicle; o One word was changed for each group - smashed, collided, bumped, hit, contacted. Results: o Smashed- 40.8mph o Collided- 39.3mph o Bumped- 38.1mph o Hit- 34.0mph o Contacted- 31.8mph Conclusions: Either the participants consciously biased their answers in the direction of the verb used i.e. they gave the answers they thought the researchers wanted (demand characteristics) OR the question causes an actual distortion in the participant’s memory of the event. If the second conclusion was correct Loftus and Palmer proposed that participants would be likely to ‘remember’ events that did not occur to ‘fit’ with the ‘memory’ of the high speed collision. They did a second study to test this. Study 2 Participants: 150 students in 3 groups Procedure: o Saw a one minute film containing a 4 second scene of a multiple car crash; o Participants questioned about how fast the cars were going when they hit/smashed into each other. The control group was not asked about the speed of the car;
  • 3. o 1 week later the participants were asked about the film again, critical question - did you see any broken glass? There was no broken glass in the film o Results: o Smashed- 16/50 ‘saw’ broken glass; o Hit- 7/50 ‘saw’ broken glass; o Control- 6/50 ‘saw’ broken glass. Conclusions: This supports the argument that leading questions may cause an actual distortion in someone’s memory of an event. Loftus and Palmer argued that the verb ‘smashed’ meant the event was remembered as more severe and so participants were more likely to report seeing broken glass as this fits with their modified image of the event. Evaluation of the Study Strengths: o Quantitative data was collected which made it easy to make comparisons between groups. o It has a number of practical applications. If leading questions affect the memory of an event then this has important implications for interviewing witnesses. The police should avoid asking leading questions and make sure they do not word questions in such a way as to suggest the answer. Weaknesses: o It is not ecologically valid - seeing a film is different to seeing a real crash- in an experiment you are likely to be paying attention to what is going on, a film is less distressing. o The sample was not representative and so the results may not be generalisable to the general population - students are young and their memories might be better, students are used to taking in a lot of info and being questioned about it, the general population might not be so good, students may be less experienced drivers than the general population and so less good at estimating speed, students may be subject to demand characteristics especially if they are the students of the researchers. Strengths and Weaknesses of the Research Method Strengths Weaknesses High levels of control over extraneous Low ecological validity variables Cause and effect relationships can be Participants may be subject to demand established characteristics They are easy to replicate Sample may not be representative Remember to find examples from the study to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses. You might get an exam question on the strengths and weaknesses of the laboratory experimental method. Remember to look for examples from the study to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the Cognitive Approach to psychology.
  • 4. Key Themes: Ecological validity, IVs/DVs, quantitative data, usefulness. Baron-Cohen, Joliffe, Mortimore and Robertson (1997): Another advanced test of theory of mind: evidence from very high functioning adults with autism or Asperger Syndrome Autism is a severe developmental disorder characterised by a triad of impairments: o Impairments in social interaction; o Impairments in communication; o Repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour It is thought these are caused by a lack of theory of mind - the ability to infer what other people believe about a situation, or ‘read minds’. Aim: to test the hypothesis that autistic adults lack advanced theory of mind skills: the ability to predict the thoughts and behaviour of another person [a cognitive explanation for autism]. Method: Natural Experiment Participants: 3 groups of participants o 16 adults [13 male and 3 female] with high functioning autism (4) or Asperger’s Syndrome (12); o 50 normal age-matched adults 25 male and 25 female; o 10 adult patients with Tourette’s Syndrome (8 male and 2 female), also age- matched. Independent and dependent variables:  IV = Normal, Autistic, Tourette’s syndrome  DV = performance on eye task (maximum score = 25) The ‘eyes task’ procedure:  25 photos of eyes  each 15 x 10cm black and white  each photo shown for 3 seconds  forced choice question – target or foil  tested individually in quiet room Validity: A panel of 8 adults – 100% agreement with target Clinical groups tested on Happe’s strange stories Control tasks: Gender recognition task Basic emotion recognition task
  • 5. Results: - Tourette’s and normal control groups performed significantly better on the eyes task than the group with autism or Asperger’s. - Tourette’s group made no errors on the strange stories but autism and Asperger’s did. - There were no differences between the groups on the control tasks. Conclusions: The core deficit involved in autism is the lack of an advanced theory of mind. Poor performance by the autism/Asperger’s group could not have been due to low intelligence as they had normal/high IQs. Poor performance by the autism/Asperger’s group could not have been due to developmental neuropsychiatric disability as Tourette’s group performed well. Within the normal population, females have more advanced theory of mind skills than males. Evaluation: Strengths and Weaknesses of the Study Strengths: o Quasi-experiment (natural experiment) o Using quantitative data made the data easy to analyse. o The eyes task is a valid way of measuring advanced theory of mind, link with responses to Happe’s strange stories. o The study is useful – it established a link between autism and lack of theory of mind, which means that it will be possible to develop new teaching methods to encourage theory of mind skills in people with autism/Asperger’s. Weaknesses: o The task may be considered low in ecological validity: people do not usually see only the eyes; laboratories can be disorientating for those with autism; photos are static. o The study may have caused stress. o The experimental group did get some of the responses correct, which weakens the conclusion that all autistic/Asperger’s people lack an advanced theory of mind. An analysis of which they got right/wrong might be helpful. Strengths and Weaknesses of the Research Method Strengths Weaknesses High levels of control over extraneous Low ecological validity variables Cause and effect relationships can be Participants may be subject to demand established characteristics It is easy to replicate Sample may not be representative Remember to find examples from the study to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses. You might get an exam question on the strengths and weaknesses of the laboratory/natural/quasi-experimental method. Remember to look for examples from the study to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the Cognitive Approach to psychology.
  • 6. Key Themes: Ecological validity, validity, usefulness, quasi-experiment. Savage-Rumbaugh, McDonald, Sevcik, Hopkins and Rupert (1986): Spontaneous symbol acquisition and communicative use by pygmy chimpanzees Language is made of symbols (sounds and words) which we learn can have meanings, and which we can combine in infinite ways to produce an infinite number of sentences. Learning Language: o Learning Theory (B.F. Skinner): when children produce sounds that are like language they are rewarded. The sounds are shaped by the rewards being given, and by the parents repeating the word correctly. o Language Acquisition Device (Chomsky): children have an innate ability to learn language because we are born with an understanding of the rules of language. Aitchison’s criteria for language:  Arbitrariness of the symbols – the symbol is not like the object or action it is describing  Semanticity – the use of symbols to mean objects or actions  Displacement – refers to things that are distant in time and space  It is used spontaneously  It involves turn-taking  It is structure dependent – the symbols are combined according to the rules of grammar Aim: To study the language acquisition of two pygmy chimpanzees compared with two common chimpanzees; and to describe the first instance in which a non-human species has acquired symbols without specific training towards that goal. • Research question: Can Kanzi learn symbolic language without training in the same way children do? Participants: Pygmy chimpanzees: Kanzi and Mulika Common chimpanzees: Austin and Sherman Method: Report of a longitudinal case study Quasi-experiment: IV – species; DV – language acquisition Procedure: The visual symbol system • Indoors: battery powered keyboard with geometric symbols that brighten when touched, then speech synthesiser ‘speaks’ the word • Outdoors: copy of keyboard as laminated pointing board • each symbol called a lexigram Data collection • records kept of Kanzi’s language development (symbol use) for 17 months • from the age of 2 1/2 • computerised records from keyboard
  • 7. • notes from observers when outside two observers – checks for inter-rater reliability • The data (assessing Kanzi’s symbol use): correct or incorrect; spontaneous; imitation; structured (e.g. responds to question). Also behavioural concordance (agreement) e.g. if request to ‘go to treehouse’ and led a person to the treehouse. Results: - Pygmy chimpanzees began to use gestures spontaneously at a younger age than the common chimpanzees; and their gestures were more explicit. - Pygmy chimpanzees did better on formal tests; understood the lexigrams more easily; understood more spoken English. - Kanzi was able to refer to requests involving others. Conclusions: • Kanzi learned to use the symbols spontaneously • Compared to other species of chimps pygmy chimpanzees appear to be able to learn and use language more like a human child • Kanzi & the language universals? • semanticity - YES; creativity - YES; structure dependence - YES; generalisation - YES; displacement - YES Strengths and Weaknesses of the Study Strengths o The researchers implemented many controls. o The data gathered from formal tests is more likely to be valid and reliable. o Longitudinal study – in-depth data gathered over time. o High ecological validity. Weaknesses: o Ethical issues relating to research on animals and this particular study (diet, evidence of frustration). o The rearing environments of the two species were not controlled. o The sample was small. o Some features of language were not displayed. Strengths and Weaknesses of the Research Method Strengths Weaknesses It produced highly detailed data Results cannot be generalised to the wider population Development over time can be studied It cannot be replicated Inter-rater reliability The researcher may be biased Remember to find examples from the study to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the research method. You might get an exam question on this. Remember to think of examples from this study to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the Cognitive Approach to psychology. Key Themes: longitudinal study, inter-rater reliability, validity, reliability, ethics.
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