P335 Cognitive Psychology, Prof. John K. Kruschke


Empirical Themes:
  • Information is ambiguous and comes from many sources.

  • The mind selectively attends to information, integrates information from different sources, and applies previous knowledge, to infer reality.

  • Numerous in-class demonstrations have illustrated this ambiguity and inference in
    • perception (e.g., the card trick),
    • memory (e.g., false memory for items never presented),
    • language (e.g., unintentionally humorous newspaper headlines),
    • reasoning (e.g., framing effects in decision making), etc.

Theoretical Principles:
  • Theories specify what information is used and how it is used; i.e., theories specify the representation of information and the processing applied to it.

  • The homework exercises gave you hands-on experience with various models, including generation of your own experimental data and model predictions.

  • Cognition pervades every moment of our lives. We must
    • "look before we leap" (perception and attention),
    • "learn from our mistakes" (learning and memory),
    • "say what we mean" (language and semantic organization),
    • "prefer a bird in the hand over two in the bush" (decision making).

  • The textbook, Cognition in Action, emphasized the relevance and applicability of cognitive psychology to our everyday lives.

Implications of Cognitive Science:
  • Specification of the limits of human cognition:
    • Tolerance for what is human.
    • Better adjudication of what is mere carelessness.

  • Applications:
    • Better and faster training.
    • Better user-interface design for machines.
    • Automated decision aids.
    • Rehabilitation for brain damage.
    • Artificial intelligence.

A Personal Postscript:

Our mental life is a grand hallucination, an elaborate fabrication, constructed from the ambiguous stimuli provided by the world, by our senses, and by our memory.

All information is imprecise, uncertain, prone to error in transmission, reception and reconstruction.

The beauty of cognition is that it is exquisitely evolved so that its hallucination is close enough to reality for most purposes most of the time.

The essence of being human is pursuing knowledge despite uncertainty, tolerating human error, yet struggling to overcome it.

This is why we study cognitive psychology: to be human.