Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cognition and Language



Cognition can be defined as those intellectual processes (such as perception, memory, thinking, and language) through which information is obtained, transformed, stored, retrieved, and used.




Concepts are the basic units of thinking.

Concepts are mental categories for objects, events, experiences, or ideas that are similar to one another in some respect. They help us understand the world by helping us represent it mentally. They may be represented in the mind in several ways such as through visual images.


Natural Concepts


Eleanor Rosch (1973) has suggested that some concepts are easier for humans to learn than other; some are more natural than others. Natural concepts have two primary characteristics; they are basic and prototypical.




Thinking frequently involves relating one concept to another. Propositions are sentences that relate one concept to another and can stand as a separate assertion.




Reasoning is simply drawing conclusions from available information.


Formal reasoning derives conclusions from specific premises.

Everyday reasoning is less formal. It does not work on clear premises.


Errors in Reasoning


There are a number of things that can cloud our reasoning such as our emotions and beliefs. The confirmation bias is our tendency to focus heavily on evidence that confirms our initial preconceptions. For example, if you are in favor of experiential learning you may read only those reports supporting your belief. If you are in favor of text-book based learning you may read only those things that support that view. When you are exposed to the opposing viewpoint you may discount it.

Reasoning Effectively - Some suggestions to reason more effectively are:


 (1) Examine and test all premises. In other words, don't accept a premise until you have tested it, it may be flawed.

(2) Guard against the confirmation bias. Recognize that you don't know everything and that there are other points of view. Actively seek out opposing points of view.

(3) Recognize the role of emotions. Try not to make decisions when you are highly emotional.




Language is an agreement among those who speak the same language that certain sounds, put together according to rules that all of them know and use, convey meaningful messages intended by the speaker and understood by the listener (Kagan and Segal, 1992).


Theories of language development


1. Reinforcement Model - In 1957 Skinner published a book entitled "Verbal Behavior" in which he argued that children learn to speak appropriately because they are reinforced for grammatical speech. Specifically, adults shape a child's language by selectively reinforcing those aspects of babbling that are most like adult speech, thereby increasing the likelihood that those sounds will be repeated. Once they have shaped sounds into words, they shape words into sentences, and then longer sentences.

2. Brown, Cazden, & Bellugi (1969) - They examined reinforcement theory. If reinforcement theory is plausible, to improve grammar of children, parents should reinforce grammatical speech while discouraging ungrammatical utterances. They recorded conversations between mothers and their young children and found that in most cases found that mother's approval or disapproval depended on the truth value of the child's statement rather than on correct grammar. It appears parents pay little attention to their child's early grammar and that may be a reason for poor grammar of children.

3. Imitation - This would be consistent with a behavioral perspective. They hear someone else say something and receive reinforcement so they are more likely to repeat it. It has been shown that children do learn the names for things by hearing others use those names. Problem comes with grammar. Bloom et al report that children do not readily imitate a grammatical rule until they have already used that principle at least once in spontaneous speech. Imitation may therefore help the child apply rules but not acquire them.





Experts and Expertise


Glaser and Chi (1988) summarized the major characteristics of human experts:

Experts excel in a limited number of areas.

Experts are fast

Experts spend enough time analyzing a problem

Experts recognize more “patterns” than novices.

Experts use their memory more effectively

Experts use a deeper level of analysis

Experts use self monitoring


How does a person become an expert – hours and hours and hours of practice (Ericsson, Krampe, & Teschmer, 1993). Any professional athlete or musician can tell you that regardless of natural talent, you can’t achieve success without putting in the time.




Jerome Kagan and Julius Segal (1992), Psychology: An Introduction, 7th Edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Fort Worth, USA.



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