Lectures 17 and 18: Control of Cognition

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What are executive control mechanisms?
Mind has specialised modules for categorising. Many processes not automatic or always in same way, must be control mechanisms that select and activate processes to accomplish task. Other functions: inhibit inappropriate actions, manage LTM retrieval.
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What do we know about selection/activation of a single 'task set'?
Each object we encounter we can do many tasks with. Tomato can be thrown, named, picked up, eaten, sliced, squashed. Task-set = appropriate organisation of perceptual, cognitive and motor resources for task.
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How can we investigate control processes?
History of control = failures of control in everyday life, pathological failures after brain damage. Behavioural experiments= engage control processes so we can isolate and study contribution to performance. Measure brain activity (EEG, PET, fMRI)
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What does brain damage tell us about control problems?
Phineas Gage - balance of intellect destroyed following damage to prefrontal cortex. PFC important for behaviour organisation. Testing revealed several control problems not always associated with dissociations.
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What are some examples of impairments due to PFC damage?
PFC damage = utilisation behaviour, difficulty in decision making, disordered planning
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What is strategy application disorder?
Shallice and Burgess, 1991 - Multiple Errands Test - pps given money and instruction sheet: items to buy, info to find, rules etc, performance of patient with frontal lobe damage showed disorganised performance - tasks not completed, rules broken
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What are some observed dissociation among impairments of executive control after brain damage?
Think there is not central executive but distributed network of control mechanisms in different parts of PFC, basal ganglia and parietal cortex.
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hat are some observed dissociation among impairments of executive control after brain damage? - How can we experiment on this in the lab?
Need to examine situations where: difficulty suppressing info source or task=set. Inhibit actions, thoughts memories.
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What is the Flanker Effect?
Response conflict triggered by application of current task rules to irrelevant objects.
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What do we know about comparing task switches and repeats with task-cueing experiments?
Each trial = coloured shape, with digit in centre. Pink background = odd/even, blue = high/low. Task changed predictably every four trials. Task-switch cost = extra processing when task changes. Response congruence effect = "cross talk"
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Is brain activity associated with task-set reconfiguration?
Task-switching experiments: provide measures of top-down control of task-set, and limits of it. Allow us to explore brain activity associated with task-set reconfiguration.
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What does neuroimaging show about response conflict and task-set preparation?
Anterior Cingulate Cortex activated more after incongruent than congruent stimuli "conflict detector". Left prefrontal cortex activated by preparation for colour-naming more than preparation for word naming.
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What does fMRI show about task-sets?
Stimulus: word on face: word by number of syllables, face by gender. IN separate blocks, localiser task established word and face selective regions of activation (Fusiform Gyrus and Inferior Temporal Gyrus) If switch task, activation predicts cost
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What are problems of consciousness?
Explaining phenomenal awareness: thoughts/feelings. Correlates of consciousness: processes. Self-consciousness: representation of self. Observations of self-conscious: disorder = Anarchic hand syndrome/auditory hallucination.
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Which cognitive functions are associated with awareness?
Many. Bargh et al (1996) - Priming to behaviour - pps believe in language exp. assembling sentences associated with age or control words. Walking speed down corridor slower after priming with age words. Publication bias tho.
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What is the Naive model of voluntary reaction to a stimulus?
Sensory process ---> conscious ---> motor processes. Implies you have to consciously see a visual stimulus and intend to act to perform a voluntary action.
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What is blindsight?
Area of blindness in visual field due to V1 damage - no conscious awareness of stimuli in blind region.
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When does awareness of intention happen relative to initiation of action?
Libet (1983) ERP: P raises finger when feel like it, and judges the moment at which they consciously initiated action (by looking at clock). Readiness-potential = onset precedes judged moment to intention of act.
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What are the implications of awareness of action?
None of causal chain seems to require awareness. Consciously seeing stimulus not essential to semantic/emotional activation and initiation of action.
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What do we know about decision making and problem solving?
Choice blindness - P shown 2 faces and asked to pick preferred and explain why. 80% not notice manipulation and gave reasons for choice they didn't make
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Why do we think decision making and reasoning may be done by two routes?
Step-by-step logical reasoning. Intuition. But sudden insight and unconscious problem solving can be slow, but effective and creative.
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What is the unconscious thought advantage?
P chose among 4 cars on basis of description of attributes. Unconscious thought condition made better decisions.
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How can any mental process give rise to awareness?
Dualism: C immaterial, not dependent on substrate. Materialism: C dependent on physical substrate. Physicalism: C requires properties, types or activities of neurons. Functionalism: C requires types, organisation or complexity of computation.
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What is the global workspace theory?
Representation and sharing via 'global workspace' of activity originating in non-conscious specialist processors. But specialist processors generate number of kinds of representation (phonological, V-S, olfactory)
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What do we know about selection/activation of a single 'task set'?

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Each object we encounter we can do many tasks with. Tomato can be thrown, named, picked up, eaten, sliced, squashed. Task-set = appropriate organisation of perceptual, cognitive and motor resources for task.

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How can we investigate control processes?

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What does brain damage tell us about control problems?

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What are some examples of impairments due to PFC damage?

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