Lecture: Memory & Forgetting
Reading Assignment 16:
Thought [and Language] (pp. 226-242)
Click for Objectives for Reading Assignment 16


The sixteenth reading assignment introduces students to Cognition, Problem Solving, and the Decision Making process. Cognition is a very broad aspect of Psychology that entails many areas; all of which cannot be covered in this reading assignment. Thought is a primary component of Cognition, which might also be considered to be synonymous with one another. Categorization is extremely pervasive throughout the entire thought process. As a matter of fact, some forms of Categorization are thought to be a form of automatic processing and occur at the unconscious level. It is for this reason, that many aspects of racism will likely always be a part of human nature; as many Stereotypes occur automatically (Discrimination, however, can more easily be regulated; Devine, 1989 need citation). The initial step of thinking is often thought to be the act of classifying objects into groups, Categorization. If a person attends to the way a person dresses, they may immediately identify them as a residing from a particular neighborhood; that assumption may be correct or incorrect, but they were placed into a Category. The act of Categorization can be broken down into three basic levels: Basic Level, Subordinate Level, and the Superordinate Level. Research in neural imaging has found that the categorization at different levels activates different cognitive processes and neural networks. Superordinate Level Categorization activates the left pre- Frontal Lobe, while Subordinate Level Categorization activates the right pre- Frontal Lobe along with circuits involved in paying visual attention to objects (need citation).

Types of Reasoning

Reasoning is another very important aspect of Cognition; three types of Reasoning are discussed in this reading assignment. The first two types of Reasoning, Inductive Reasoning and Deductive Reasoning, will be discussed together. These two different types of Reasoning differ in their starting point and their end point; that is, whether they start or end with a Theory or Facts.
Inductive Reasoning takes specific observation (i.e., a Fact or Facts) and applies them to an assumption that has a probabilistic chance of being true (i.e., a Theory). A person that is using Inductive Reasoning may draw a conclusion (i.e., Theory) based on one or more observations (i.e., Facts) that occurred in their environment. An example of Inductive Reasoning would be if the humanities instructor has seen that Chris Styles and three other aspiring rap artist in her class glamorizes negativity (i.e., Facts 1, 2, 3, and 4), that instructor might conclude that all aspiring rap artist glamorize negativity (i.e., Theory).
Deductive Reasoning, on the other hand, begins with an assumption, statement, or conclusion (i.e. Theory). Deductive Reasoning is derived by taking a conclusion and applying it to a set of observations (i.e., Facts). Deductive Reasoning contains two premises or Syllogisms that lead to a logical conclusion. All albums are assumed to have a lead single (i.e., Theory) and Chris Styles has an album coming out (i.e., Fact), then Chris Styles must have a lead single (i.e., the new Fact). As a result of this logic, it would be reasonable to assume the fact that Chris Styles has a lead single. These methods of reasoning are central to human comprehension.
Finally, Analogical Reasoning helps people to understand situations in terms of a familiar one. An example of Analogical Reasoning would be how I often explain the firing of a Neuron to the awkward tension trying to get into a packed club. The parallels are sometimes useful for students to understand how the electrons behave throughout the process.

Problem Solving

Problem Solving is a process of transforming a situation from one state to another. Depending on the problem, the transformation may be easy and tedious or difficult and cumbersome. The goal of problem solving is to move from an Initial State to a state where the problem no longer exists, the Goal State. To reach the Goal State, the individual must use mental and behavioral processes called Operators. The process of Problem Solving can be broken down into a four steps. First, the individual must 1) determine the differences between the Initial State and the Goal State (i.e., to assess the situation). Second, the individual must 2) identify the possible Operators and select the one deemed most likely to reduce the difference between the Initial State and Goal State. Third, the individual must 3) apply the operators and establish sub goals. Fourth, the individual must 4) repeat the process until no state discrepancy exist. The instructor has developed a very convenient Anagram to assist in the remembering of these four steps, which can be seen here.

When we encounter problems in our everyday lives, we do not always solve problems as we ought to. The four-steps of problem solving mentioned above are the ideal processes that will inevitably lead an individual to the solution to any problem. However, we do not always behave as we should and instead use Heuristics or strategies. Although not always bad, Heuristics can cause problems in problem solving. They are extremely probable when faced with a problem to solve, as humans are believed to operate under the notion of Bounded Rationality. We constantly find ourselves solving problems with limited time, information, and resources to solve them with. Two examples of Heuristics are the Representativeness Heuristic and the Availability Heuristic. Other strategies or factors that impeded effective problem solving include: Algorithms, Confirmation Bias, or Functional Fixedness. Both Confirmation Bias and Functional Fixedness are common errors that can lead to the individual trying to solve the problem overlooking the obvious solution. Finally, problems in the real-world will either be best described as a Well-Defined Problem or an Ill-Defined Problem. Schools, especially those that have adopted the use of rubrics, might provide you with Well-Defined Problems, while the real world is much more likely to present us with Ill-Defined Problems. It could be argued that excessive use of rubrics can be detrimental to students, as it might not prepare them to excel in the workplace. In the workforce, a supervisor might assign you a task to complete. This task is not likely to be accompanied with a rubric and if dependent on such a tool to succeed, you are not likely to excel in that situation.

Decision Making

Although much of the concepts discussed thus far are relevant to Decision Making, there are several aspects of the process that have yet to be discussed. Sometimes situations arise that are not problems to solve, per se, but require a decision nonetheless. For example, identifying the college to attend is an example of such a situation. When people make decisions such as these, they tend to consider one of two things: Weighted Utility Value and Expected Utility (or Probability Utility). Perhaps even more important that what they weigh is how they weigh it. Actively thinking about and weighing out options is a form of Explicit Cognition. Another possibility is that these options might be weighed through Implicit Problem Solving. Implicit Problem Solving facilitates learning things about one’s environment and also aids in learning how to behave in that environment. Therefore, after attending one or more colleges, your decision might be more consistent with how you comfortable you felt navigating on that campus. As a result, one’s implicit solution might very well contrast with one’s explicit solution; which is likely why so many people struggle with that question as they enter adulthood. Emotions, reasoning, and thought all play a critical role in decision making. Research has shown that maturity, emotional processes, and thinking have all been shown to interfere with logical decision making (need citation). No wonder parents often struggle with the desire to step in and resolve the solution of which college their child should attend, as their maturity, emotions, and one’s ability to make decisions is often questioned.


Draft of Summary

Bell, P. (2012, Fall). Assignment 2.3. Draft of summary submitted in partial fulfillment of Introduction to Experimental (RPS 410).


A. Lefton, L.A. & Brannon, L. (2003). Psychology (8th Ed.). Allyn & Bacon: Pearson Education, Inc.

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