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  • Created by: Lou
  • Created on: 12-12-11 17:42

Cognitive Psychology

is all about how we think. Cognitive psychologists try to explain behaviour by looking at perception, language, attention and memory.

Some criticise that it does not take into account individual differences.

Four main research methods

1/ Laboratory experiments - scientific and reliable and has great control. However does not show us how the real world works so argued results are artificial, it has low ecological validity.   

2/ Field experiments - take place in a natural situation. The participants are often unaware of their involvement and the independent variable is manipulated by the researcher and has less control. So has more ecological validity.

3/ Natural experiments - involves observing and making notes on a natural occurrence. The experiment has little control and participants cannot be randomly assigned to the conditions. Therefore have high ecological validity, but are not massively reliable as of uncontrolled variables affecting the results.

4/ Brain imaging - carried out during a cognitive task. Such as MRI scans are used to show the blood flow in different areas of the brain for different types of memory tasks.

Support for cognitive approach

Milner et al (1957) - case study of HM

Diagnosis - HM was a severe sufferer of epilepsy. His sezieures were based in a brain structure called the hippocampus. In 1953 doctors surgically removed this part of the brain around the hippocampus area.

Results - Through his epilepsy fits reduced he then suffered from memory loss. He was still able to form short-term memories but unable to create any new long-term memories. So he could read a sentance over and over again forgetting that he has already read it, aswell as forgetting the route to his new house. Though he still was able to talk and show previous skills (procedual memory). From tests we can see that HM's episodic memory (for past events) and semantic memory (for knowledge e.g word meanings) was affected more than his procedual memory.

Cognitive psychologists apply animal research to humans

Gardner and Gardner (1969) - teaching ASL to a chimp

Method - Washoe, a chimpanzee was raised like a human child and taught American Sign Language (ASL).

Results - At the end of the 22nd month in the project Washoe had learnt at least 34 signs.

Conclusion - The development of language in the chimpanzee apeared to follow the same patterns as language development as children (both speaking and those using ASL). Washoe learnt language at similar rates to children of the same age. Additionally language acquistition seemed to require interaction with caregivers and communication in everyday situations. However she did not learn grammar. 

Evaluation - There are ethical considerations, in what Washoe was taken from the wild and depried of other chimpanzees for companionship. There are also issues of external validity - it is not possible to accurately generalise results from a chimp to human children.  

Q1 Why are laboratory experiments more reliable than field experiments?

Q2 Explain how the study of HM provided support for cognitive psychology thinking  


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