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An Analysis of Hermann Ebbinghaus’s Introduction to Cognitive Psychology

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Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus was the pioneer of Cognitive Psychology, which has a long past with a very short history. The part of human thinking has always been an elemental focus of interest. An Even ancient philosopher such as Aristotle was interested in understanding the mechanics of how our minds work. Psychology can be generally defined as the study of mental processing as well as behavior. Cognitive Psychology is defined the same, just without the behavior. This is why behaviorism is a study set apart on its own, which can be compared and contrasted with Cognitive Psychology. Although Cognitive Psychology will observe some behavior, it is only as a segway to understanding the mental processing that goes on “under the hood”. These intricate processes include attention, remembering, understanding language, and even solving problems. Even though these processes require a complex amount of thinking, we rarely stop to “think” about us actually thinking. Psychologist John B. Watson suggested that we separate psychology from consciousness to be able to focus solely on the behavioral perspective. Many experimental methods researching measurements, observations, and repeatability, which Cognitive Psychology is unable to use. These methods are some of the most instrumental in developing research conclusions that have led to some of the most important breakthroughs in history.

Watson’s approach was later termed, Behaviorism, this dismissed the scientific aspects of psychology while emphasizing the study of observable stimuli with observable responses. This has led to Behaviorism also being called S-R Psychology. In many instances, you cannot observe the same experimental methods and arrive at the same conclusions as you could with Cognitive Psychology, even though Cognitive Psychology does observe little behavior explain why the brain processes the way it does. Behaviorist does not discard the need for consciousness, they do however reject the idea that it is meaningfully studied. In both psychologists, their intent is to fully understand the mind and all it inhabits. Cognitive Psychologist just believes that studying the actual processing of the mind is how you can arrive at the answer. Behaviorist believes that human behavior is the key element in fully understand the way our brains work and function. They both do agree, however, that without either the consciousness or the behaviors they would come to a “standstill” in their research. Most of our research that has been conducted in regards to attention is characterized by the terms of pre-attentive and post-attentive processing. Pre-attentive processing is generally characterized as happening quite quickly, mainly before the attention has been focused on the stimuli. One could say that it refers to arriving at the conclusion before one starts thinking. Thoughts that occur pre-attentively are also considered as synesthetic experiences. Pre-attentive and post-attentive processes contrast in the way that we think about objects. With post-attentive processing, we may actually count objects if there are more than a small amount, or focus on something longer than if we thought about it pre-attentively. In the example of counting sheep pre-attentively, if you see two, chances are that you did not count in your head, one and two. You automatically just saw the two sheep and your brain processed them as the number two. Post-attentively you would most likely have this occur if there were seven sheep, counting each until you reached the number seven.

These processes of counting are referred to as Subitizing, which means quick and effortless. You can see this example when you are counting the two sheep, which seemed quite easy compared to counting numerous sheep. Subitizing is actually faster than counting and if the items are less than three, it is virtually unaffected over time. (Schwartze) The process where we strategically direct our attention in response to situational demands is executive attention. Many describe the nature of executive attention as becoming an object in direct focus recently with many researchers struggling to specify what we might call “cognitive control”. For example, when you are simply doing homework you may be reading research while typing, along with having music playing in the background. We are able to direct our attention to many different things depending on the relevance or the importance of the subject. The Stroop effect is present when we see a colors word printed out in a different color than the word printed. For example, the word blue printed out in pink ink, this would make it very hard for us to say the word pink when we look at it since we tend to read the word. We must slow down and pronounce the word as the color of the ink instead of the word printed, this is relevant to executive attention because we must focus on the color instead of mindlessly reading the word. In regards to the measure of our control on where we focus this attention, this is referred to as the operation span. The operation span can assess a person’s ability to keep track of multiple forms of information. This can go hand in hand with the inhibition effect that inhibits you from processing certain information. The inability to control your attention or to focus it on our homework instead of listening to the background music that was previously stated. (Fernandez-Duque) One original example of a perception of agency is when people visit a hypnotist. They believe their actions are not from their own choice but rather from being hypnotized to do so. This has actually been proven to be a hoax, so the person unknowingly decides to do those actions. People have this feeling that they are not in control and in the case of a hypnotist telling you to do something your metacognition of agency is quite poor. Your metacognition of agency might be quite high if you are doing an activity such as painting. You know you are making strokes with the paintbrush and what colors you are painting with. Knowingly you choose where to paint and even the subject you are going to paint. This is an example of being in complete control of what you are doing while consciously knowing that you are the one doing it. (Carr)

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