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An Introduction
Cognitive Psychology studies:
• how the human mind comes to
know things about the world
• how the mind uses its knowledge
Cognition = mental processes
of the mind
These mental processes include:
• Perception
• Attention
• Thinking
• Problem Solving
• Memory
• Language
LO: Outline the principles
that define the cognitive level
of analysis
Principles (assumptions) of the CLOA
1. Human beings are
information processors (our
minds work something like
computers) and mental
processes guide our behavior.
• Central to this information processing approach is
the computer metaphor.
• One of the difficulties facing cognitive
psychologists is that they were trying to study
processes that are not directly observable.
• Consequently the computer revolution of the
1950 provided the terminology and metaphor
they needed.
Mind as a Computer
• Bottom-Up Processing: Information comes to
the mind via bottom-up processing (from the
• Top-Down Processing: Information comes from
pre-stored information and processed in the mind
based on experiences
• Output=behavior
Info. Processing Model
is concerned with
what goes on in
Short-term /
Long-term Memory
2. The mind can be
studied scientifically by
using theories and
scientific research
2. The mind can be studied scientifically by using
theories and scientific research methods.
• Cognitive processes are difficult to study.
• They often occur rapidly, and inside the mind so
they cannot be observed directly.
• It is only the responses that participants make
when given some cognitive task to perform that
can tell us about cognitive processes.
• These tasks usually take place under tightly
controlled lab experiments where the main aim is
to isolate a particular component of the cognitive
process for the study.
3.Cognitive processes are influenced by social
and cultural factors.
• Cognitive processes can be influenced by
our culture
• Bartlett found that schemas ( past
knowledge) can affect our memories –
• Cole and Scribner found that non-schooled
children in parts of Africa struggled with
aspects of memorization.
LO: Evaluate schema
theory with reference to
research studies.
• a mental representation of knowledge that
affects the way we interpret events and
store knowledge in our memory. In other
words, networks of knowledge, beliefs and
expectations about particular aspects of the
What is this?
Picnic Schema
Cognitive Schemas:
• organize information about the world with
fixed and variable slots; if a slot is left out or
empty it is filled by a “best guess”.
• can be related to form systems.
• are pattern recognition devices.
• help to predict future events based on what
has happened before.
• represent general knowledge rather than
Schema Theory:
A cognitive theory about
information processing.
Schema Theory and Memory Processes
• Schema theory has been used to
explain memory processes.
The process of memory has been divided
into three stages:
encoding: transforming sensory info
into a meaningful memory.
storage: creating a biological trace of
the encoded info in memory
retrieval: using the stored info
Schema Processing Study (Anderson and
• AIM: to determine whether
schema processing influences
both memory encoding and
Participants heard a story about two boys who skipped
school and went to an empty home. The story contained
details rated important to home buyers and then other
details important to a burglar. Half of the participants were
asked to read the story from the point of view of a home
buyer (home buyer schema) and half from the point of
view of a burglar (burglar schema). After reading, both
groups completed a distracting task for 12 minutes and
then their recall was tested. After another 5 minute delay,
half were then asked to switch to the other schema and
both groups were tested for recall once again.
• Participants in the changed schema group
recalled 7% more on the second test. Recall of
points that were directly linked to the new schema
increased by 10% and details important to the
previous schema decreased. The group that
continued with the same schema decreased on
the second test.
This result shows two things:
1.) The information that was irrelevant to
their original perspective (schema) was
actually learned ( encoded ) and
2.) This information was not accessible
unless a relevant perspective (schema)
was activated.
Strengths of Schema Theory
• Lots of research has supported the idea of
schemas as affecting memory and other cognitive
• This theory is useful in understanding how people
categorize information, interpret stories, make
• This theory helps explain certain issues like
memory distortion and social schemas like
Limitations of Schema Theory
• How schemas are created and
how they influence cognition is not
entirely clear.
• Schema theory has been called
too vague to be useful.