Cognitive Psychology and Research Programs

Abstract

These are some of the foundational questions that cognitive psychology examines. They are foundational partly because each concerns the nature of basic psychological ability, abilities that we often take for granted, yet which are vital to our normal, healthy functioning and are key to our understanding of what it means to

be human. And they are foundational partly because they are important for psychology as a whole, and not just cognitive psychology. For instance, how can we hope to understand completely the behavior of employees in an organization unless

we first understand their perceptions and memories, and how they reason and attempt to solve problems? How can we understand the way in which people interact to shape one another’s opinions if we do not understand how people understand and process language?

Cognitive psychology

Is the branch of psychology that studies mental processes including how people think, perceive, remember, and learn. As part of the larger field of cognitive science, this branch of psychology is related to other disciplines including neuroscience, philosophy, and linguistics.

The core focus of cognitive psychology is on how people acquire, process, and store information. There are numerous practical applications for cognitive research, such as ways to improve memory, how to increase decision-making accuracy, and how to structure educational curriculums to enhance learning.

Until the 1950s, behaviorism was the dominant school of thought in psychology. Between 1950 and 1970, the tide began to shift against behavioral psychology to focus on topics such as attention, memory, and problem-solving. Often referred to as the cognitive revolution, this period generated considerable research including processing models, cognitive research methods, and the first use of the term “cognitive psychology.”

cognitive psychology touches on many other disciplines, people in a number of different disciplines often study this branch of psychology. Who should study cognitive psychology? The following are just a few of those who may benefit from studying cognitive psychology.

  • Students are interested in behavioral neuroscience, linguistics, industrial-organizational psychology, artificial intelligence, and other related areas.
  • Teachers, educators, and curriculum designers can benefit by learning more about how people process, learn and remember information.
  • Engineers, scientists, artists, architects, and designers can all benefit from understanding internal mental states and processes.

the role of cognitive psychology in science/mathematics curriculum development and teacher education. Areas discussed include:

  1. science education is a national concern.
  2. how rapid advances in scientific knowledge and cognitive psychological knowledge have created a sense of urgency about developing a modern “science of science education”.
  3. the impact of cognitive psychology on science and mathematics education.

Considered in the latter area are a framework for a science of science education, advances in cognitive psychology important for a science of science education, findings from cognitive psychology of interest to curriculum developers and teacher educators (including the development of alternative conceptions), and likely concerns of cognitive psychology, such as research on the organization of the mind, which may have a profound impact on the science of science education.

The research program in Developmental Cognitive Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Psychobiology develops and supports research that identifies linkages among developing brain, behavior, and genes. Of particular interest are studies that focus on developmental pathways leading to normal and atypical brain development and behaviors and their underlying developmental mechanisms at the molecular, genetic, cellular, and network levels.

In addition, the program supports research that identifies biological and behavioral indices of individual differences predictive of performance in sensory, motor, linguistic, cognitive, and social-behavioral domains at different points of development. This program also supports research training in developmental psychobiology, behavioral genetics, and developmental cognitive neuroscience. Areas of emphasis include both human and animal model studies assessing neuroanatomical, neurofunctional, electrophysiological, and neurochemical correlates of attention and attention deficits, perception, sensation, sensorimotor function, memory, learning, problem-solving, and socio-emotional behavior.

Research examining the influence of genetic-environmental interaction factors on temperament, learning, cognition, and social and group behavior in the developing organism is encouraged. Also of importance is research investigating the effect of hormonal influences on behavioral development. In this domain, the emphasis is on the development of gender-specific behaviors, the role of endocrines in social, emotional, and cognitive development, and the interaction of hormones and stress-related behaviors during development.

Cognitive Development

Areas of focus include attention, memory, conceptual knowledge, and its formation, learning, reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving, executive functioning, principles, and mechanisms of development, intelligence, action, and motor control. Social cognition, including culturally based beliefs and social schemata and representations, is another area of investigative interest.

Developmental-Behavioral Neuroscience

Studies focus on brain/behavior relationships in the developing organism. Populations of interest include both human and animal models but exclude populations with mental retardation, autism, fragile X, Rett Syndrome, or head trauma-induced impairment. Studies assessing neuroanatomical, neurofunctional, electrophysiological, and neurochemical correlates of attention and attention deficits, perception, sensation, sensorimotor, memory, learning, problem-solving, and socio-emotional relations and genetic bases of brain/behavior relations are of particular interest.

Developmental-Behavioral Genetics

Studies of the interrelation of genetics, environment, and behavior and its implications for health and normal human development are supported. Examples include examination of the influence of genetic-environmental interaction factors on temperament, learning, cognition, and social and group behavior in the developing organism. Studies of populations with mental retardation, specific developmental disabilities (e.g., fragile X syndrome, Rett Syndrome), or autism are not included in this program. Comparative experimental analyses of differences both within and between species in adaptive behaviors are of interest.

Developmental-Behavioral Endocrinology

Studies include the effect of hormonal influences on behavioral development. Emphasis is on the development of gender-specific behaviors, the role of endocrines in social, emotional, and cognitive development, and the interaction of hormones and stress-related behaviors during development. The Endocrinology, Nutrition, & Growth Branch of the NICHD also has interests in these research areas, behavior is supported. Studies investigating fetal behavior and learning as well as studies investigating hormonal influences on brain/behavior.

References

Costall, A. and Still, (1987) Cognitive Psychology in Question. Brighton: Harvester Press Ltd.

Glaser, Robert & Bassok, Miriam (1989). Learning theory and the study of instruction. Annual Reviews Psychology.

Tyler, L.K. and Moss, H.E. (2001) ‘Towards a distributed account of conceptual knowledge’, Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Von Eckardt, B. (1993) What Is Cognitive Science.

Gick, M. L., & Holyoak, K. J. (1980). Cognitive Psychology Analogical problem solving.

Sweller, J. (1994). Cognitive load theory, learning difficulty and instructional design. Learning and Instruction.