Biological Psychology - High Level Cognition

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Psychology can be seen as the science of human behaviour and experience. Behaviour and experience, while being separate concepts, are interlinked. In general, behaviour is easier to study as it is described as anything that others can observe, such as walking or talking. Experience, however, is rather harder to study as it is defined as anything that we alone are aware of and can observe, such as our thoughts and perceptions. The only way in which we can study the experience of others is by relating it to our own experience.

Psychological studies of behaviour:

In psychology, we have tools with which we can study behaviour. These tools allow us to measure behaviour and record our observations with as much objectivity as possible. Tools may include: fMRI, EEG and eye trackers. While fMRI and EEG tools may be used in studying psychological behaviour, it may be argued that they cannot be studying "behaviour", as the results of these tools are not directly observable. However, what they are measuring are psychological processes.

Psychological studies of experience:

Experience is harder to study than behaviour as the only experience we can study directly are our own. In this way, it is hard to remain detached and objective.

It is very hard, if not impossible, to study behaviour or experience alone. We can examine behaviour which will produce measurable and objective data. The data produced is concrete and objective with statistical analyses applied. However, experience is rather more subjective and abstract, and as such we are only able to study the resulting behaviour of experience.

Mental Representations:

Representations form the bulk of our thoughts. The things which we think of are signifiers of reality and they may be analogical or symbolic.


Analogical representations depict reality directly, such as pictures or animated memories. These representations may be strict or lenient. Strict representations maintain a close relationship with what they are depicting. Lenient representations are approximate representations with details missing or simplified representations. Ref. Icon, high vs. low motivation.


Symbolic representations do not depict reality directly, but rather are agreed representations. Words or signs may be symbolic representations. These representations are agreed by our culture, and tend to be abstract.

Korslyn et al. (1978):

Korslyn et al. conducted an experiment into whether mental images and reality could be distinguished from one another. Participants were presented with a picture, such as a map. They were then asked to navigate through the picture when it was taken away from them. If the participants were asked to navigate towards an object which was further away from their starting position in the imagination, they took much longer to respond. If there was…


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